Poetry uncovered, Fiction you never saw, All new writing delivered, Courtesy WINTER: 2019/2020 reading thread

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with the usual apologies to the antipodes, from whose firelands i have just returned.

Reinhardt's Garden by Mark Haber. Was really looking forward to this and I really disliked it! it's v much in the bernhard style, but that's a hell of hire wire act, and i'm not sure that bernhard isn't, like Nabokov, a dead end in terms of influence. It's largely set in South American jungle but as with Bernhard, the important environment is really the words of the narrator - the observations and misprisions of their relations with others around them - the sly mendacities, vulnerabilities and expressions of braggadocio. And it never quite works here, it's all a bit thin. Bernhard is able to work a line where the reader learns a sort of half trust in the narrator, their manners and mannerisms. The narrator is aware of some of these, and uses them duplicitously or in a self-serving fashion, and as a reader you gradually discover those and more of which the narrator is not aware. As a consequence you become aware of the authorial intelligence behind it all. In RG, the authorial presence never quite manages to detach itself from the narrator.

The frivolity reminds me of Pynchon a little, but it's not garlicky enough for Pynchon, it gives itself too much historical latitude. It's yet another unsuccessful example of literature without constraint imo.

[/i]Collected Short Stories[/i] and Border Districts - Gerald Murnane. This otoh i'm really enjoying. There's a slight element of Raymond Carver, who I'm not a huge fan of, in the plain suburbias and mundanity, but his prose is more allusive. there is an obsession with borderlands. i'm finding him extremely rewarding rn.
The Secret Commonwealth - Philip Pullman. Enjoyed this although there's always something about Pullman that makes me slightly uneasy. It's like he's an optimiser of the best of 20th century children's and adventure style. i'm not sure it matters, given what he's doing, which is writing v enjoyable stories. this isn't perhaps as unusual as the dawn treader/folk tale Belle Sauvage, but it's more generally successful and there are very notable sections, particularly in the Prague section:

The dark man who burned like a furnace stood with hands outstretched, palms upward, pleading. A row of little flames broke out from under the fingernails of his left hand, and he crushed them out in his right palm.

Fizzles, Saturday, 14 December 2019 08:45 (one month ago) link

FUCK you shouldn't do these things when you're hungover. the '2019' part is going to be quite short lived.

Fizzles, Saturday, 14 December 2019 08:47 (one month ago) link

Maybe we could cut and paste your OP back into the Autumn WAYR thread and wait until Jan 1 to start the winter 2020?

We could ask a mod to delete this one.

A is for (Aimless), Saturday, 14 December 2019 16:58 (one month ago) link

Garlicky?

the pinefox, Saturday, 14 December 2019 17:26 (one month ago) link

I've started May Sinclair: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF HARRIETT FREAN.

the pinefox, Saturday, 14 December 2019 17:26 (one month ago) link

Fleishman is in trouble
Boring and cliched but enjoyable

calstars, Saturday, 14 December 2019 18:17 (one month ago) link

I finished Kubler-Ross's "On Death and Dying". It's a good book if you're interested in the topic. Most of it is transcripts of interviews conducted with terminally ill patients for her college seminar during the late '60s. They don't really talk that much directly about dying -- unsurprisingly even the terminally ill don't really like to think about dying -- but it's kind of interesting just reading about their experiences of being in the hospital, being sick, etc. Now, on a lighter note, I'm reading "After Claude" by Iris Owens.

o. nate, Sunday, 15 December 2019 03:04 (one month ago) link

Just as "youth is wasted on the young", impending death is often wasted on the dying. They have no clue how to do what they are so clearly doing anyway.

A is for (Aimless), Sunday, 15 December 2019 03:46 (one month ago) link

finished rereading Wolf Hall. I feel like such a chump for being so enchanted with this book, and yet

Swilling Ambergris, Esq. (silby), Monday, 16 December 2019 19:40 (one month ago) link

Nick White's How to Survive a Summer and Jesmyn Ward's Sing, Buried, Sing. Y'all have read the latter, no?

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 16 December 2019 19:44 (one month ago) link

Reading Flight by Olga Tokarczuc. Much better than Primeval and Other Times. Yeah, it's Nobel worthy so far. It's really great.

Of course, I'm also reading up on Handke, so 'nobel worthy' is a low bar right now. 'A Sorrow Beyond Dreams'. It's quite good, but it's also the exact same style of his pro-genocide books, and it's so offputting. There's something wrong here! But oh well. He wrote some good scripts, I'll give him that.

Frederik B, Monday, 16 December 2019 20:03 (one month ago) link

I have affection for Short Letter, Long Farewell .

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 16 December 2019 20:05 (one month ago) link

The prose can try to be a bit cringily edgy at times but I'm into Nick Tosches "Dino" atm

The World According To.... (Michael B), Monday, 16 December 2019 23:23 (one month ago) link

(after a bazillion thraeds, we still can't for the life of us decide on either all caps or italics for a book title, can we?)

(Re)read THE SENSE OF AN ENDING by Julian Barnes. Strong start, very good middle part, disappointing and rather melodramatic, schmaltzy ending. When the focus shifted from the elusive Adrian - an interesting persona - to the I, nothing could deflect from how boring and trite - and, quite frankly, daft - the main character Tony is. I enjoyed a solid 2/3 of this, but how this won the Booker Prize is completely beyond me. Idk if it's reluctance on behalf of the editor, but the final third should really have been better, especially for Barnes.

Le Bateau Ivre, Monday, 16 December 2019 23:43 (one month ago) link

i'm about 70 pages into octavia butler - parable of the sower and totally in love with it.

i got through about 30 pages of stoner by john williams and it's beautifully written but i didn't want to get into the part about his parents disapproving of his new collegiate direction for whatever reason.

i tried borderlands for about 50 pages but it just wasn't doing much for me.

ingredience (map), Tuesday, 17 December 2019 01:14 (one month ago) link

sorry, border districts by murnane

ingredience (map), Tuesday, 17 December 2019 01:14 (one month ago) link

as i looked over my penultimate post i recalled fizzles' opening post and a trace of longing appeared in my thoughts as i remembered his positive response to the book, surely reminiscent of my own wish to be entranced by the author whose allusiveness i had seen described in an article, possibly in the los angeles review of books or the new york times review of books, i can't exactly recall, some months ago. as i finished that last sentence i scrolled upward on my computer screen to remind myself of fizzles' exact words describing his experience with the novel and realized i had mistitled it.

ingredience (map), Tuesday, 17 December 2019 01:23 (one month ago) link

hence explaining my apology and correction.

ingredience (map), Tuesday, 17 December 2019 01:25 (one month ago) link

my own asshole is a kaleidoscope

ingredience (map), Tuesday, 17 December 2019 01:26 (one month ago) link

brothers karamazov

started out extremely strong, but suddenly plunged into 20 pages of debates about 19th c Russian ecclesiastical courts

flopson, Tuesday, 17 December 2019 14:51 (one month ago) link

WOLF HALL is terrific.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 17 December 2019 15:08 (one month ago) link

also returned for a little bit to Martin Eve: LITERATURE AGAINST CRITICISM - a book about contemporary fiction.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 18 December 2019 10:45 (one month ago) link

I finished my first Eric Ambler novel,Judgment on Deltchev, and found it adequately entertaining, with a sufficiently dizzying set of plot twists to keep one off balance in regard to the outcome.

This particular novel may not be among his best, but I have no others to compare it to, yet. I thought the storyline required too much naivety on the part of the main character and too much credulity on the part of the reader. I supplied as much credulity as I could muster, but my incredulity kept popping up inconveniently and asking questions that interrupted my suspension of disbelief. Then I'd dismiss those questions as quickly as I could and read on, because for heaven's sake it was only designed as light entertainment.

A is for (Aimless), Wednesday, 18 December 2019 17:59 (one month ago) link

Dune, Frank Herbert

xmas respecter (jim in vancouver), Thursday, 19 December 2019 17:57 (one month ago) link

Garlicky?


by which i *obviously* meant an ability to create a salmagundi of factual history, terminology, jokes, playfulness, science and language that produces a sense of specific reference despite the ragbag qualities of it all, which make it exhilarating and well, *garlicky*, to read.

come on, shape up, pinefox.

and thanks to whichever mod it was who adjusted my clumsiness with the year. winter starts before christmas for me, and in my hungover stare, scrolling through the autumn thread, i said to myself oh come on it’s winter, nearly the longest day ffs.

The March of Folly - Barbara Tuchman. lots of side-eye at this despite people i like recommending it. but now i find myself quite happily flicking through the unsubstantiated summaries of key periods of “folly” in history. i think much of its thrust is what i might term RONG but am ion a pub and will need to elaborate tomorrow.

Fizzles, Thursday, 19 December 2019 18:12 (one month ago) link

what i like about ambler is his extraordinary compression. so much happens in the first two pages. it’s extraordinary.

Fizzles, Thursday, 19 December 2019 18:13 (one month ago) link

also it’s extraordinary.

Fizzles, Thursday, 19 December 2019 18:13 (one month ago) link

Baz Luhrmann's Gatsby is a bit of a go-to film at this time of year as it's vaguely literary and fits with stuff I teach on America in the 30s (via Steinbeck, naturally). I've grown to really quite like it but was concerned it was supplanting the text in my head so I've been re-reading it.

Things I've noticed this time around: it's in thrall to Joyce, mostly the Joyce of Dubliners; it feels modern in that it seems to reach out and encompass great swathes of stuff that have succeeded it; the child, jesus, the child - in a book of absences, this has to be the absence around which the others swirl (to stretch a metaphor, she's like Bertha, hidden away); I'd forgotten how expository big chunks are - sure, Carroway is the mariner's wedding guest, and is beholden to pass on the tale, but he sure spends a lot of time simply *telling*; Fitzgerald loves the adjective 'turbulent', which is I guess a kind of code-breaker for the text; I'm noticing more neologisms this time: unrestfully is the one that springs to mind, alongside the obvious orgastic.

I think I'm more suspicious of Fitzgerald's prose than I used to be (it slides past too often and he's a child of Emerson and Whitman in his reading of the American myth) but he still makes me catch my breath:

Through all he said, even through his appalling sentimentality, I was reminded of something - an elusive rhythm, a fragment of lost words, that I had heard a long time ago. For a moment a phrase would tried to take shape in my mouth and my lips parted like a dumb man's, as though there was more struggling upon them than a wisp of startled air. But they made no sound, and what I had almost remembered was uncommunicable forever.

Life is a meaningless nightmare of suffering...save string (Chinaski), Thursday, 19 December 2019 19:52 (one month ago) link

The March of Folly - Barbara Tuchman

This was a book where I also think she faltered badly. The concept was born straight out of an historian's desire to use her prestige to disseminate those infamous "lessons of Vietnam" and perhaps instruct the nation. The concept was too broad and too shallowly executed. The book fails in its stated objective.

A is for (Aimless), Friday, 20 December 2019 02:18 (one month ago) link

"Garlicky" reminds me of Martin Amis writing about Antony Burgess's "garlicky puns": the phrase seems vividly memorable but irritatingly opaque. I was never sure if that made it a success or a failure.

Recently more Maigret, The Abbess of Crewe (very characteristic of Spark in her more idiosyncratic mode but only partially successful) The Driver's Seat (coming from the same place but much better, quite brilliant).

Now reading The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead. Psychological it's wonderful but with self-indulgences that make it an occasionally stodgy read: given its length I'm not sure I'll stay with it to the end. It's a pity I didn't read it when younger when I'd have had much more tolerance for its weaknesses.

frankiemachine, Friday, 20 December 2019 14:00 (one month ago) link

that may even have been where i picked it up actually.

Fizzles, Friday, 20 December 2019 14:03 (one month ago) link

Fizzles: your description of Pynchon has reminded me of my dislike of him.

Chinaski: yes - agree on the prose and everything - but where exactly do you see the DUBLINERS element? Something about things unstated or understated?

the pinefox, Friday, 20 December 2019 14:05 (one month ago) link

I don't think I can think of one thing in Pynchon that is funny.

the pinefox, Friday, 20 December 2019 14:05 (one month ago) link

I'd say stick with the Stead. It is maddeningly self-indulgent in places, but it's part of the imitative function of the prose alongside Pollit's manic, wheeling character. And there's something almost Roth-like in the way it ends.

Pinefox - the Joyce thing is a more a feeling, really. I don't think Fitzgerald has Joyce's frigid intelligence and what remains unsaid is very much more foregrounded in Gatsby. Instead, I think it's in Fitzgerald's rhythms as much as anything. Joyce's voice isn't sui generis, exactly, but there's something new in Dubliners that seems to flower in Fitzgerald, albeit with more opulence. It's not an exact opinion by any means!

Life is a meaningless nightmare of suffering...save string (Chinaski), Friday, 20 December 2019 14:30 (one month ago) link

'Frigid intelligence' is like Amis' 'garlicky puns' in its opaqueness but it's the best I got.

Life is a meaningless nightmare of suffering...save string (Chinaski), Friday, 20 December 2019 14:32 (one month ago) link

Last night I picked up The Dog of the South, Charles Portis. I've been looking for lighter entertainment to shake off the after effects of imbibing too much information about the James Madison Administration. This fits the bill.

A is for (Aimless), Friday, 20 December 2019 16:39 (one month ago) link

Fizzles: your description of Pynchon has reminded me of my dislike of him.


ha! i always quite like it when criticisms of a thing remind me why i like it and i guess this is the reverse of that.

Fizzles, Friday, 20 December 2019 16:50 (one month ago) link

Last night I picked up /The Dog of the South/, Charles Portis. I've been looking for lighter entertainment to shake off the after effects of imbibing too much information about the James Madison Administration. This fits the bill.


karl malone put me on to portia, which was a great service. haven’t read this one, but it’s good to know there’s more there for me to read.

Fizzles, Friday, 20 December 2019 16:51 (one month ago) link

I don't think I can think of one thing in Pynchon that is funny.


i mean the image of you forcing your unsmiling way through pynchon’s ouevre made me laugh does that count?

Fizzles, Friday, 20 December 2019 16:55 (one month ago) link

_Last night I picked up /The Dog of the South/, Charles Portis. I've been looking for lighter entertainment to shake off the after effects of imbibing too much information about the James Madison Administration. This fits the bill._


karl malone put me on to portia, which was a great service. haven’t read this one, but it’s good to know there’s more there for me to read.


portis autocorrecting to portia is oddly literary of my phone.

Fizzles, Friday, 20 December 2019 16:56 (one month ago) link

I’ve been wanting to read Dog of the South for a while. Curious to hear how you like it.

o. nate, Friday, 20 December 2019 18:08 (one month ago) link

"Garlicky" reminds me of Martin Amis writing about Antony Burgess's "garlicky puns": the phrase seems vividly memorable but irritatingly opaque.

When JG Ballard died amis wrote an obit where he praised JB’s “creamy prose” which struck me at the time as a very rong and blaggy description

Baby yoda laid an egg (wins), Friday, 20 December 2019 21:02 (one month ago) link

ugh that’s awful.

Fizzles, Friday, 20 December 2019 21:05 (one month ago) link

Ballard's prose isn't creamy at all! It's machine tooled.

Life is a meaningless nightmare of suffering...save string (Chinaski), Friday, 20 December 2019 21:06 (one month ago) link

right??

Baby yoda laid an egg (wins), Friday, 20 December 2019 22:47 (one month ago) link

If it had been Kingsley Amis who wrote that about Ballard's "creamy prose" I'd just figure he was drunk and didn't give a flip. I've never paid any attention to Martin.

A is for (Aimless), Saturday, 21 December 2019 00:34 (one month ago) link

Now reading The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead. Psychological it's wonderful but with self-indulgences that make it an occasionally stodgy read: given its length I'm not sure I'll stay with it to the end. It's a pity I didn't read it when younger when I'd have had much more tolerance for its weaknesses.

― frankiemachine, Friday, December 20, 2019 9:00 AM

Stick with it! One of the few novels about which I'll say its weaknesses improve its verisimilitude.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 21 December 2019 00:41 (one month ago) link

Chinaski: I like this about Joycean rhythms. I'd like to read that analysis at convincing length, from someone.

Fizzles: yes I think I see the humour in that. Though not in Pynchon.

I agree also that 'creamy' sounds wrong though I suppose MA was trying to get at unflappable smoothness of some kind - which would go with motorways, airports, function, in its own way?

But who really is 'creamy'? Maybe Proust? We'd need to decide what on earth the adjective really meant re: language anyway.

the pinefox, Saturday, 21 December 2019 12:10 (one month ago) link

I finished After Claude. Kind of a strange book in that the first half and the second half, despite featuring the same narrator and following a continuous sequence of events, feel so different in tone as to almost be separate books. The first half is scabrous and funny, and although you begin to feel there's something a bit off about the narrator, she still has your trust. In the second half, the same self-destructive tendencies that were funny in the first half become alarming and ominous. Thematically, it reminded me a bit of My Year of Rest and Relaxation. Now I'm reading Dreams from My Father by Obama.

o. nate, Thursday, 26 December 2019 03:25 (four weeks ago) link

I started the Nick Lowe bio and Joseph Roth's The Hundred Days.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 26 December 2019 11:44 (four weeks ago) link

abanana - that's an intense start to 2020! I really liked both of those - I've seen criticism that Ghost Wall wimps out at the end, but I'm sort of glad it does. The Door resonated weirdly with an experience I had years ago in an old job, and really hit me hard.

JoeStork, Tuesday, 14 January 2020 05:33 (one week ago) link

I am bogged down in NORTHANGER ABBEY - need to crack on for a few hours and get it over with.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 14 January 2020 09:12 (one week ago) link

I've started the year with a bunch of poetry collections:

Christopher Marlowe - The Complete Poems and Translations
Omar Khayyam - The Rubayat
Alexander Pope - Selected
Osip Mandelstam - Selected
Anne Carson - If not, Winter
Fernando Pessoa - Poems in English

The Carson is its own thing, I think, a terrific collection of fragments - surely one of the great achievements in translation in the last 20 years. There is an alchemy at work here. Pope's Selected and Marlowe really bring it, especially with translations (of Homer and Lucan respectively, although I also loved Pope's own poetry which has quite a range from his Eloise to Abelard to Essay on Criticism, lots of learning on display). Mandelstam is my thing, always, no matter who translates it - and David McDuff's selection from his career is good curation. The whole thing has a flow, he makes Mandelstam over again and again, you just drink it in. Khayyam's poetry/games/philosophy is funny and, must be said, one for the wine drinker. Pessoa's poems originally written in English aren't that good (how does he order words holds its own fascination) however I like seeing how everything that he has ever written about comes out in this weird form.

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 14 January 2020 19:34 (one week ago) link

Moving along in Bros K in very short fits so far, an odd and intimidating and disorienting book.

Swilling Ambergris, Esq. (silby), Tuesday, 14 January 2020 19:37 (one week ago) link

One of the few grad school papers I can still read was a study of jingoism and country houses framed by Pope's Essay to Dr. Arbuthnot

first book of the year for me is jill by philip larkin. it's a nice read so far -- his prose reminds me a lot of his poetry, brisk and filled with rather melancholy observations.

― (The Other) J.D. (J.D.)

Larkin is such a sharp novelist! Seek A Girl in Winter.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 14 January 2020 19:38 (one week ago) link

Essay = Epistle

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 14 January 2020 19:39 (one week ago) link

I am bogged down in NORTHANGER ABBEY

I just read it over the weekend! Did you make it to book two yet? I get sidetracked so much reading Austen because I look up a lot of words and then spin off into linguistic reveries. I was so happy to see her refer to someone's address as a "direction" in Northanger Abbey, for example.

the girl from spirea x (f. hazel), Wednesday, 15 January 2020 04:19 (one week ago) link

Cognate to the Spanish “dirección” = address!

Swilling Ambergris, Esq. (silby), Wednesday, 15 January 2020 04:46 (one week ago) link

that's why I was delighted! the Spanish always seemed like such an exotic word to me, but... no!

the girl from spirea x (f. hazel), Wednesday, 15 January 2020 05:02 (one week ago) link

THe Mike Heron memoir You Know What You Could Be: Tuning into the 1960s
which was part of the 2 for £5 deal in FOPP.
He's just got as far as meeting Clive Palmer and Robin Williamson who were playing the folk club he's appearing at. He started off asa rock'n'roller but there was no platform for anybody doing original material in that area at the time.
INteresting so far so looking forward to reading the rest of this.

The Walker's Guide to Outdoor Clues and Signs Tristan Gooley
just coming to the end of this, not sure how much of it I'll retain next time I walk through nature.
BUt some interesting observations that it would be good to learn.

Keith Morris My Damage
turned up in the local 2nd hand/remainder bookshop so I grabbed it.
Got as far as him getting bored with Black Flag, leaving forming the Circle jerks and releasing Group Sex.
Also being housemate with jeffrey lee pierce and him leaving cos he's in love with Texacala.
Enjoying this too, knew little about him beyond him being in Black Flag and teh Circle Jerks whose material I don't know very well. Then being in a few bands later on that I know the names of but am not sure I've heard.

Stevolende, Wednesday, 15 January 2020 09:58 (one week ago) link

One of the many good things about Northanger Abbey is Isabella's overuse of 'amazingly', which I'm tempted to appropriate now and then.

"I really thought before, young men despised novels amazingly"

abcfsk, Wednesday, 15 January 2020 12:26 (one week ago) link

finished The Man Who Watched the Trains Go By enjoyed it a lot mostly because it was so funny which was not what i was expecting given that the blurb was about how this was Simenon's attempt at a big serious novel instead of another Maigret, but i found Kees Popinga hilarious.

started Jennifer Egan's A Visit From The Goon Squad which i had avoided up until now 'cos i hated the title, but i really like it so far.

oscar bravo, Wednesday, 15 January 2020 14:02 (one week ago) link

Finished NORTHANGER ABBEY yesterday.

As a text it has historical interest - lots of variant spellings; 'surprise' is usually (or always?) spelled 'surprize'; it uses words in ways we wouldn't, as has been noticed above. A very odd feature to modern eyes: it uses quotation marks around 3rd-person descriptions of speech, rather than just around the words characters say. You can, I would think, see fictional technique still being improvised here.

At times I found the story tiresome, too fixated on trivia (is it respectable for a man and a woman to ride in the same carriage? :O). On the other hand the obsession with money, legacies, dowries etc becomes really hard-headed by the end, sort of superseding the claims of romance.

I like the Bath material because I like Bath. And I think there is some really sharp social observation, comedy and satire. Isabella the greatest creation here - her 'amazingly', cited above, is prescient, as she seems to me a very modern, current figure, one who enthuses to X about how much she loves them, then neglects them; the kind of person who would now comment on every friend's social media post 'OMG love you you are AMAZING'. Austen really gets at something here. I thought Isabella might be redeemed by the end, but no.

Then there is the Gothic element, and the metafictional element, together. This is very strong - a novel partially predicated on a commentary on an extant genre and examples of it, playing off the protagonist's reading of these texts and how they affect her expectations (such preposterous scenes in the abbey where she keeps thinking that spooky things are happening!), and also often addressing the reader with talk of what we expect of a heroine. This whole aspect is cranked up really heavily in the last chapter or so, where the narrator refers to herself in the 1st person a lot. It's almost as metafictional a novel as I've read outside AT SWIM-TWO-BIRDS, and perhaps confirms the suspicion that C20 sorts of fictional self-consciousness are in a tradition with this earlier form of it.

Lots of interest, but I think it's a book to read quite fast, not get stuck on as I did.

the pinefox, Friday, 17 January 2020 09:41 (one week ago) link

I wanted to move on to Jennifer Egan's THE KEEP because I hear it's also a Gothic parody. But I don't have it so I've started on another Egan: LOOK AT ME (2001). I'm impressed so far.

the pinefox, Friday, 17 January 2020 09:42 (one week ago) link

A very odd feature to modern eyes: it uses quotation marks around 3rd-person descriptions of speech

If you go back another couple of hundred years you begin to see all kinds of bespoke approaches to handling dialog in text - reading contemporary transcripts of witch trials from the 17th century (which is going about as far back from Austen's time as Austen is to us) they would enclose speech in quotes but also switch all the pronouns to third person, which really throws you until you get used to it (not to mention the free-form spelling, where people aren't even troubled to spell a word the same way consistently within a single text).

Austen uses uncontracted forms of tag questions in a way modern English speakers don't ("this attic is amazingly gloomy, is not it?" vs "isn't it?" or "is it not?"). But what I wonder is if Austen is employing them in a marked way or not... was that just the usual form tag questions took in conversation during her time, or was she employing those uncontracted forms as an affect for the purposes of characterization (the way we might have a character today say "it's hot out today, is it not?" vs "isn't it?")?

the girl from spirea x (f. hazel), Friday, 17 January 2020 17:10 (one week ago) link

I finished Iceland's Bell last night, making it the first book I've read in 2020. At this pace I'll read (quickly calculates on fingers) about half as many books as I read in 2019. Part of the difficulty I had getting through this one was not the book's fault. I've been disinterested in reading most evenings and diverting myself with crosswords often as not. But some of the problem was with the book.

It lacked fully developed characters or any true center to the plot, but instead was a historical novel that relied for much of its interest from a desultory overview of the history of Iceland, circa 1680 - 1710 AD. No doubt this period and place in history holds more fascination for Icelanders than for non-Icelanders like me. Laxness did the best he could; he was a very talented author. I just wasn't his ideal audience.

A is for (Aimless), Friday, 17 January 2020 20:25 (one week ago) link

i've tried to read 'independent people' several times and never gotten very far

mookieproof, Friday, 17 January 2020 21:00 (one week ago) link

My reading pace has been slow this year so far, on account of having a miserable cold and mostly being too tired or miserable to read.

o. nate, Saturday, 18 January 2020 02:25 (six days ago) link

I've finally gotten around to Chronicles, having had it for the best part of 15 years. I like it, broadly, but I'm a little underwhelmed overall. He's great company and the early stages are magical but there's something about his aphoristic style that starts to wear thin in the Oh Mercy section. I'll stick with it.

Life is a meaningless nightmare of suffering...save string (Chinaski), Saturday, 18 January 2020 22:44 (six days ago) link

I also thought the "Oh Mercy" section was the weakest. I still liked it overall.

o. nate, Sunday, 19 January 2020 02:13 (five days ago) link

Great points F. Hazel about how diverse the conventions of English writing were, the further you go back.

It all makes me wonder when it was that things finally became more codified - I suspect around the late 19th century - which ironically is also the same time that we tend to think of a new wave of literary rule-breaking starting. In other words maybe 'modernism' only appears iconoclastic because language had finally just been settled.

the pinefox, Sunday, 19 January 2020 14:25 (five days ago) link

Reading Five Children and It, which from the get-go left A Wrinkle In Time far behind, with Nesbit's super-concentrated, occasionally feverish, empathetic, yet firm, young-auntie voice vs. L'Engle's slobbery Granny Jesus kisses (although I'm told that some of hers, incl. in this same series, are a lot better).
Looking toward my first Sebald---ILB seems to favor Austerlitz over Saturn's Rings, amIright? Those are the ones at hand.

dow, Monday, 20 January 2020 01:20 (four days ago) link

ILB seems to favor Austerlitz over Saturn's Rings, amIright?

Poll it? (NB: I've read neither - thought I own one of them - and would not be able to vote in such a poll.)

A is for (Aimless), Monday, 20 January 2020 04:00 (four days ago) link

Great points F. Hazel about how diverse the conventions of English writing were, the further you go back.

It all makes me wonder when it was that things finally became more codified - I suspect around the late 19th century - which ironically is also the same time that we tend to think of a new wave of literary rule-breaking starting. In other words maybe 'modernism' only appears iconoclastic because language had finally just been settled.

This is really interesting.

We Jam von Economo (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 20 January 2020 04:24 (four days ago) link

Looking toward my first Sebald---ILB seems to favor Austerlitz over Saturn's Rings, amIright? Those are the ones at hand.

― dow, Monday, January 20, 2020 2:20 AM (six hours ago) bookmarkflaglink

I don't know if ILB really does? In any case, while pure and uniquely Sebaldian, they wildly differ. Austerlitz is an all-encompassing single story: all the deviations, everything covered, is what makes up the story arch and the history we learn. 'The Rings of Saturn' is much more meandering and takes you into even more unexpected terrain, the leads not necessarily all connected to each other (I mean of course it's all connected Sebald-style, but).

I couldn't choose between the two, really (and I'm - right now - reading 'The Immigrants' for the first time, which was his debut and seems like the best introduction to him as a writer, too). 'Austerlitz' is immensely impressive - well they all are - but perhaps start with 'The Rings of Saturn', which isn't as top heavy as Austerlitz is? But then idk, Austerlitz is a masterpiece, too.

Le Bateau Ivre, Monday, 20 January 2020 08:24 (four days ago) link

I think Austerlitz is much better. Rings of Saturn is very good, but also feels a bit like a bunch of small essays loosely connected. In Austerlitz, it all takes one shape, and is immensely emotionally powerful.

Frederik B, Monday, 20 January 2020 08:43 (four days ago) link

VERTIGO precedes THE IMMIGRANTS.

THE RINGS OF SATURN is always the one for me. Tremendous exhibition about it at Norwich Castle last year.

Lots of his pictures for AUSTERLITZ were also on display at UEA.

the pinefox, Monday, 20 January 2020 09:17 (four days ago) link

I've started reading Maria Edgeworth's CASTLE RACKRENT.

I had better not read too many books at once.

the pinefox, Monday, 20 January 2020 09:17 (four days ago) link

VERTIGO precedes THE IMMIGRANTS.

You are right, of course.

Le Bateau Ivre, Monday, 20 January 2020 09:42 (four days ago) link

Except for some reason I wrote THE IMMIGRANTS instead of the correct title: THE EMIGRANTS.

the pinefox, Monday, 20 January 2020 10:24 (four days ago) link

In descending order:

Austerlitz
The Emigrants
The Rings of Saturn
Vertigo

They're all good, though.`

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 20 January 2020 12:40 (four days ago) link

I echo Alfred's list. Austerlitz is extraordinary but, given the emotional weight of it, I don't know that I could read it again.

I'm in that delicious/enervating phase of being between books and not knowing what the hell to read.

Ngolo Cantwell (Chinaski), Monday, 20 January 2020 14:02 (four days ago) link

In anticipation of a trip to the southwestern US next May I've started reading the sensationally named Blood and Thunder: The Epic Story of Kit Carson and the Conquest of the American West, Hampton Sides.

So far, it is a competent narrative history aimed at a popular audience. The style is workmanlike and just readable enough not to be irritating. Although it is copyright 2006 and the author attempts to embrace some of the Native American side of the story, he has already managed to use the word "squaw" several times, which tends to cast some shade on his credentials in that regard.

A is for (Aimless), Monday, 20 January 2020 17:58 (four days ago) link

xpost Thanks yall---I'll probably start with Austerlitz, although I certainly sympathize with any book or author tagged, fairly or not, as meandering.
I read a book first publised in 2019, by an actual youngperson! Jia Tolentino's Trick Mirror---Reflections on Self Delusion. At thirty, she looks back to her Canadian-Filipina origins, with prodigious parents who got religion in Toronto, and vaulted to a megachurch lifestyle complex, which the author and her friends referred to as "The Repentagon," somewhere in the "fathomless sprawl" of Houston--which had no zoning laws, so it was near a teen club dedicated to the music and memory of DJ Screw---and as a young and restless, yet well-schooled teen, she found the szzyrup experience compatible with her ideal of eternity---later sought in the desert, while doing psychotrophics---which might have something to do with her attraction to the writings of Simone Weil, the Christian mystic who escaped to WWII London yet starved herself to death in solidarity with the victims of Hitler (since this book came out, JT's New Yorker archive has incl. illuminating, disturbing examination of what had seemed to me something of a mystery trend: millenials posting "just kill me now, blow me away," in ecstatic context).
Back to life: her storytelling essays may have been strengthened by actual journalism, which she first practiced while going back to her alma mater, the University of Virginia, in the wake of the Rolling Stone debacle. She immediately recognizes and sharpens her view of shady nuances, while meeting people close and closer to the center of the recent furor.
Also rides the rapids through tunnel of mirrors, "The 'I' in Internet," seeking to make sense of some involvements, to get perspective on others that make all too much sense, or seem to (Russian nested doll tendencies of some psychedelic and even weed experiences, splitting difference between self-awareness and self-consciousness, may also apply). And she works hard to make the money required for the good food and exercise (esp. a mostly female-inhabited hivetivity known as the barre, which might have come from an unholy collaboration of Ballard and Atwood) required to make the money for
Oh well, she's got a good acerbic sense of humor about all this. Also a lot of good stuff about her favorite children's books, and discussions of seemingly familiar voices---Weil, Plath, Ferrante, several others--while pointing out things I hadn't thought of and didn't know.
The only section I have doubts about is "The Story of a Generation in Seven Scams," mainly because Trump upstages everybody.

dow, Monday, 20 January 2020 18:23 (four days ago) link

Suddenly came to the end of teh Mike Heron memoir part of You Know What You Could Be.
Just getting heavily into it when it abruptly ended. So hope there might be some hope that he writes a longer memoir at some point.
Has Robin Williamson written a memoir?
Heron gets as far as Robin and Licorice getting back from Morocco which means the psychedelic era of th eband is just about to get underway.

Hertoic Failure by Fintan O'Toole
the book on Brexit which came out last year and i started before Xmas and thought I was going to get read over Xmas.
INteresting stuff, he's exploring the meaning of the title subject. He's just been talking about the Terror being found in 2016 and the mission it was on to find the NOrthwest passage. Followed by a load of people going off to try to find the lost ship and not being thought to be really doing it if they came back without finding the ship, including somebody who found the entrance to teh Northwest passage which i thought was mythical. INteresting book, may need to read some more of him once I get through this. Wish I'd gotten myself together to get a ticket to watch him talking at the local university when he was here last year or the year before.

Sex, Drugs and Rock'n'roll: The Science of Hedonism Zoe Cormier
Popular science book on the pleasure principle and evolution and stuff.
Bought this is n a charity shop a while back and its been sitting in a pile waiting to be read.

Stevolende, Monday, 20 January 2020 18:54 (four days ago) link

I finished The House in Paris by Elizabeth Bowen, slowed a bit by my suffering from a miserable cold, which turned out to be strep. It's not a super-easy book to read, bearing as it does a number of modernist hallmarks - acute attention to psychological states, unusual formal structure, lack of omniscient perspective. On the other hand, it does tell a coherent, emotionally-resonant tale, the shape of which becomes clear at around the 3/4 point, and is resolutely realist, keeping flights of lyrical fancy to a minimum. When the shape of the plot first becomes apparent, it may seem perhaps a tad old-fashioned, Gothic even, but by the end, its necessity to the careful and intricate structure becomes plain. Dealing as it does with gradations of social respectability and expected behavior which have now been nearly erased by the march of 20th-century progress towards the fully-liberated consumer, and limning as it does a particularly genteel level of that society, at the rare slow moment, one may catch a whiff of the dusty and fusty. Nonetheless the acuteness of the portraits, especially of the children, and the current of mordant humor running just below the surface, together with the overall craftsmanship and frequently glittering sentences, make it hard to assign any grade other than "masterpiece".

I've now started the enjoyably diverting (and undemanding) Life is Meals by James and Kay Salter.

o. nate, Monday, 20 January 2020 22:17 (four days ago) link

I discovered Bowen in December '18. "Gothic" is a good descriptor. If you liked what you read, try The Death of the Heart.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 20 January 2020 22:19 (four days ago) link

I'd like to read that one at some point.

o. nate, Monday, 20 January 2020 22:24 (four days ago) link

Also try doorstop Collected Stories, from the very early 20s (and maybe before?) to late 60s.

dow, Tuesday, 21 January 2020 00:49 (three days ago) link

a person of interest, susan choi

youn, Wednesday, 22 January 2020 01:49 (two days ago) link

ive been reading mickelsons ghosts by john gardner ~ p good, reads vaguely like a less depraved sabbath's theater to me

johnny crunch, Wednesday, 22 January 2020 23:08 (two days ago) link

The Lark Ascending, Richard King. Enjoyed Original Rockers quite a lot so looking forward.

Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 23 January 2020 09:58 (yesterday) link

Just now coming to this thread -- I read Reinhardt's Garden last year and loved it! I'm a few months removed so my impressions are no longer the freshest; but I read it around the same time I tried to read a Bernhard I'd never read before (Old Masters), and I thought Haber was doing something quite different and, in a way, much more straightforwardly enjoyable, once you get past the intimidating look of the unbroken word-column, and the basic conceit of the delirious monologue. I thought the transitions between the narrative present and recollected events were managed very well, and kept me interested in a way that Bernhard sometimes fails to do. (Not that he doesn't hold my interest [Well, Old Masters didn't; apart from that, though...], but with TB I tend to feel I'm being asked to focus more on the language itself, and less on the story.)

handsome boy modelling software (bernard snowy), Thursday, 23 January 2020 15:43 (yesterday) link

Yeah, I really liked Reinhardt's Garden.

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Thursday, 23 January 2020 20:38 (yesterday) link

I've started reading Maria Edgeworth's CASTLE RACKRENT.

How can one read James Joyce — or Beckett for that matter — without a sound appreciation of Castle Rackrent?"

-- Brian Aldiss, "Diagrams for Three Enigmatic Stories"

alimosina, Thursday, 23 January 2020 21:17 (yesterday) link

Castle Rackrent is a perfect little black comedy.

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Friday, 24 January 2020 01:44 (seventeen hours ago) link

i finished parable of the sower over the holiday and i'm just blown away. i can't stop thinking about it. of course i'll be picking up the second in the series and everything else butler wrote, but if anyone has any other suggestions in this vein i'd really appreciate them: prescient books that deal with the disaster of now, that understand social reality outside protected bubbles and point ways forward, from queer povs a bonus.

As someone who also read Parable for the first time recently, I'd be curious to hear whether you found anything that fits the bill.

I'm tempted to recommend Omar Al-Akkad's American War, which gave me similar feelings, but was less well-written (What isn't less well-written than Octavia Butler, though?!), to the point where it stopped holding my interest around the halfway mark. Been meaning to pick it back up though!

handsome boy modelling software (bernard snowy), Friday, 24 January 2020 01:55 (seventeen hours ago) link

Deep into that Barr book on Ealing - curious how even as far back as the 70's, someone mounting a defense of the studio had to put the spotlight on its "rebels" (Hamer, McKendrick) and push back against its archetypal image - "x isn't just what you thought it was" admitidley being a well-worn approach to talking about anything.

Daniel_Rf, Friday, 24 January 2020 10:14 (nine hours ago) link

I like Brian Aldiss, and like people to read old books, but I don't really understand his question above.

I don't see very much relation between this and Joyce, or Beckett. I do see a bit of a relation with Myles na gCopaleen - the parodic Editor and footnotes anticipating AN BEAL BOCHT / THE POOR MOUTH.

Though my understanding of most things is very limited indeed, I suspect that I actually know Joyce, at least ULYSSES, better than Aldiss did.

the pinefox, Friday, 24 January 2020 11:07 (eight hours ago) link

Just reading some batches of short novels:

Linda Bostrom Knausgard - The Helios Disaster
Thomas Benhard - On the Mountain
Peter Handke - The Afternoon of a Writer
Franz Kafka - Letter to his Father
Anna Kavan - Sleep has his House
Natalia Ginzburg - Happiness, as Such

xyzzzz__, Friday, 24 January 2020 16:45 (two hours ago) link


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