Summer 2020: What Are You Reading as the Sun Bakes the Arctic Ocean?

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This is the successor thread to : "And sport no more seen / On the darkening green" -- What are you reading SPRING 2020?

As for me, I am well along toward finishing The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein. Although It has a dizzying cast of characters who whirl through in cameo appearances and a steady stream of self-promotion from Gertrude, it is really rather entertaining and clever.

the unappreciated charisma of cows (Aimless), Thursday, 2 July 2020 04:21 (one month ago) link

I read* The Perfect Spy (Le Carre) and it was as wonderful as everyone says.

I'm now reading Berlin Game by Len Deighton. (Not obsessed with spy stuff, it just happen to come up in my hold queue at the library.) It reads like something Alan Partridge would like.

*listened to the audiobook of while wrangling an infant

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Thursday, 2 July 2020 04:43 (one month ago) link

Currently reading Berger et alii's Ways of Seeing and Deborah Lipstadt's History on Trial. I can't stand fiction right now, it all seems so petty, minor. Here's my 2020 goodreads page:

wasdnous (abanana), Thursday, 2 July 2020 04:56 (one month ago) link

Book VI (of VIII) of Anna Karenina. It's a much easier read than I imagined, which probably means I'm missing a lot.

koogs, Thursday, 2 July 2020 07:03 (one month ago) link

(reading a book per month on top of my usually monthly themed reading and so the 1200pp are 8 easy 150pp chunks)

koogs, Thursday, 2 July 2020 07:04 (one month ago) link

Think I'll finally take the Sebald plunge---should I start with Austerlitz or Rings of Saturn? Other? The first two are nearby, but not the only possibilities, if somebody really hypes me. (But seems like Austerlitz may be the ILB favorite.)

dow, Thursday, 2 July 2020 22:51 (one month ago) link

if it's only those two I would start with Rings of Saturn just because his characteristic digressiveness is reflected in the structure and conceit, and I think you'll get more out of Austerlitz having already been on that walk with him

but if Vertigo is an option you should read that first!

Yanni Xenakis (Hadrian VIII), Thursday, 2 July 2020 23:08 (one month ago) link

Rereading The Golden Bowl; finished Late Auden and Kierkegaard. It's been that kind of week.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 2 July 2020 23:11 (one month ago) link

The Magic Mountain is making pretty good quarantine summer reading.

jmm, Friday, 3 July 2020 16:57 (one month ago) link

Which edition do you have? is the French translated? I got along alright without it, but still curious.

Have started Austerlitz just because it's nearest, liking it pretty well, incl. James Wood's intro, will have to find his interview with the author. But now I'm really wondering about Canetti, where should I start with him??

dow, Monday, 6 July 2020 22:47 (one month ago) link

I, too, picked up Austerlitz and started it last night, but rather late, so I haven't proceeded very far into it as yet. I will soon go out camping for a few days and this gives me some reading time. I'll will take the Sebald with me and two other books to spell it off if it becomes tedious.

the unappreciated charisma of cows (Aimless), Monday, 6 July 2020 22:53 (one month ago) link

xp The Book Of Flies is great aphoristic bathroom reading

Yanni Xenakis (Hadrian VIII), Monday, 6 July 2020 22:58 (one month ago) link


Lipstick O.G. (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 6 July 2020 23:08 (one month ago) link

Listening to Simon callow over-read death in Venice and having a lovely time.

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Monday, 6 July 2020 23:22 (one month ago) link

Struggling to interest myself in fiction these days, so I'm doing the history thing instead. I'm surprised at what a page-turner Edward Baptist's The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the making of American capitalism is turning out to be – he's a very good writer, and his organization of the material into chapters is truly inspired & revelatory. (This sounds like damning with faint praise, but as a layperson I don't really have any better criteria by which to judge a work of serious historical scholarship, hah!)

Other works I'm reading around the Baptist, in whole or in part, for context include: Jacksonland by Steve Innskeep, Surviving Genocide by Jeffrey Ostler, The Source by Martin Doyle

handsome boy modelling software (bernard snowy), Tuesday, 7 July 2020 11:07 (one month ago) link

Oh, and I'll probably also revisit the relevant chapters in Asch & Musgrove - Chocolate City: A history of race and democracy in the nation's capital, which I read earlier this year, and which did a good job bringing out the centrality of the District of Columbia within the domestic slave trade.

handsome boy modelling software (bernard snowy), Tuesday, 7 July 2020 11:11 (one month ago) link

The International Anthony Burgess Foundation are going to be running a virtual book group for Earthly Powers, which is 40 years old this year, so am about 100 pages in to that

Ward Fowler, Tuesday, 7 July 2020 12:10 (one month ago) link

I reread Austerlitz in May, my first time opening it since 2002. I fell in love, really in love with it. Perhaps its Zen-like serenity beneath which ominous undercurrents are detectable was right for these times.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 7 July 2020 13:05 (one month ago) link

Meeting up for the occasional freebie expert commentary in Antwerp etc., picking up mid-sentence after every 30 years or so, serious and sly and wry and somewhat warm somewhere in the brisket: reading along got me into comfortable expectations---then scenes, segments, moments of heartbreaking beauty surfacing in Wales: another maestro would have made these into an extended bravura finale, and I would have clapped,-but
ooks like there are still quite a few pages to go.

dow, Wednesday, 8 July 2020 01:19 (one month ago) link

Still reading Mann’s Dr Faustus. It’s just interesting enough to keep me going though the thought of bailing out has crossed my mind. It seems rather self indulgent. The plot moves at a snails pace with many pages taken up by the author ‘s barely dramatized thoughts on music, politics, culture, religion, etc. It reminds me more than a bit of Moby Dick in the relative proportions of plot movement vs essayistic digressions. The translation is serviceable but rarely soars, often it feels stodgy but perhaps that’s faithful to the original. In some ways it reads like a love letter to prewar turn of century German culture at least the more refined aspects. In that way it also reminds me of Stefan Zweigs The World of Yesterday.

o. nate, Thursday, 9 July 2020 02:44 (one month ago) link

I've read Joseph and His Brothers and would read a sequel about Joshua, the judges, Samuel, and Saul. Dr. Faustus bored the hell out of me.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 9 July 2020 02:50 (one month ago) link

I’d say bail on Dr. Faustus. It doesn’t go anywhere else. Read some Robert Walser instead.
I’m pushing through East of Eden (my first Steinbeck) and it’s great. Also a quarter into the new Ottessa Moshfegh and am not into it. I’ll finish it, though. It’s relatively short.

Yelploaf, Thursday, 9 July 2020 02:52 (one month ago) link

Just finished Death in Venice. Found it extremely silly.

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Thursday, 9 July 2020 04:25 (one month ago) link

My ten-month old daughter’s favourite toy is an plastic-wrapped DVD case of Far from the Madding Crowd that she likes to eat, which might make her the fist ever human to experience joy from Thomas Hardy

Chuck_Tatum, Thursday, 9 July 2020 08:19 (one month ago) link


Chuck_Tatum, Thursday, 9 July 2020 08:19 (one month ago) link

Barely read a thing over the last month. I feel listless and incapable. Have been desultorily picking through some of Adam Phillips' essays and reading the LRB. I've got Kavalier and Clay lined up for when this term actually ends. I might give Ulysses a go over the summer.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Thursday, 9 July 2020 12:21 (one month ago) link

I think a lot of people are feeling that. All this time for reading books and instead I'm reading stupid Twitter beefs.

I'm kinda wondering if I should abandon 'serious' books for a while and read fantasy instead.

jmm, Thursday, 9 July 2020 17:35 (one month ago) link

Highly recommend audiobooks from your local library in the present circumstances

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Thursday, 9 July 2020 17:36 (one month ago) link

I find audiobooks too stressful, somehow. I zone out too often; I'd forever be rewinding.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Thursday, 9 July 2020 21:23 (one month ago) link

I've been alternating Octavia Butler's Earthseed books with Agatha Christie novels because the Earthseed books are pretty intense

avellano medio inglés (f. hazel), Friday, 10 July 2020 00:32 (one month ago) link

Still crawling towards the end of that damn Mantel, but I did get the audiobook of Emma Warren's Make Some Space, about Total Refreshment Centre, and listened to it while walking from Stokey to London Fields. Didn't expect I'd be as into it as I was, this being a place that I never even went to, but it makes a passionate case for the importance of physical space, which is all the more poignant now that...developments beyond gentrification have endangered the concept even more.

Daniel_Rf, Friday, 10 July 2020 10:17 (one month ago) link

Jonathan Swift - Gulliver's Travels
Pier Paolo Pasolini - Roman Poems

xyzzzz__, Friday, 10 July 2020 10:38 (one month ago) link

I'm still c.240pp into Curtis Sittenfeld, PREP, and c.100pp into David Thomson, THE BIG SCREEN.

I should really focus on finishing PREP before I do anything else.

But catching up also with LRBs: still on 21.5.2020, on James & RLS.

the pinefox, Friday, 10 July 2020 12:54 (one month ago) link

midway through robin hyde's wednesday's children, one of her five novels published over a few years before she took off for england. was not expecting quite the level of whimsey/fantasy in this given her engagé reputation (such as it is) & that it was written in the midst of depression era nz, though socially conscious elements do creep in: passing mention of the first labour government, depictions of working class auckland neighbourhoods, pākehā/māori relations, but mostly deals with the place of women and individuals who don't quite fit into a conformist society (see also anna kavan's nz writings from slightly later for more on this). going to give her collection of journalism a go after this.

no lime tangier, Saturday, 11 July 2020 04:46 (one month ago) link

Japanoise book on noise music in Japan.
Just reading about people's effects set ups. Though writer doesn't go into technical details.
But awareness of awareness of set up plus random elements that come in and have to be communicated with is interesting. Set ups can be custom created from semi decent pedals etc but there's always this extra presence of randomness.

Stevolende, Saturday, 11 July 2020 12:22 (one month ago) link

About a third of the way in, I'm having a problem with Austerlitz. The problem is that the narrative technique is so strikingly unusual that it led me to start thinking about the choices made by the author to achieve this effect. This combination of engaging with the continued oddness of the narrative as I read along, coupled with a simultaneous consciousness of how the author is leveraging several peculiar techniques layered one upon another, keeps me mentally falling between two stools. It doesn't help that all this artifice in pursued in service to promoting a perspective I do not personally find sympathetic.

It would have been better to read it naively first, then dissect it. I do plan to continue with it though.

the unappreciated charisma of cows (Aimless), Sunday, 12 July 2020 00:26 (one month ago) link

i'm midway through children's bible by lydia millet. it's very good so far.

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Sunday, 12 July 2020 03:09 (one month ago) link

I found James Woods' concise intro to Austerliz very helpful: he sketched the plot, explained use of photographs---He'd interviewed the author, seen the archive--and other use of "journalistic" elements, like the constant "Austerlitz said," and that this could lead to stories withing stories within stories, as quoted on what X said that Y said etc,also the way time-bending effects can include dropping phrases like "a fate untimely" and less noticeable bits into into the stream (I think of it as going back and forth and sideways in time-space, establishing its own groove, like Neil Young's Waging Heavy Peace, and Tim Lawrence announcing and fulfilling his self-imposed mission to proceed "crabwise" through the inter-and intra-related scenes of Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor 1980-83.) Also, the blurbs that mentioned Borges didn't hurt. So I felt like I knew some of what I was getting into.
But maybe you have the same edition, and found that the intro was too much of a load to take into reading the novel itself? I can see how that might be. I did find Austerlitz to be a fairly sympathetic character, even "relatable" somehow, though my own parents died in normie ways. To some extent it seems like Alfred said, the book suits these times. yeah, keep reading,if you can stand it; there are some (some) changes ahead

dow, Sunday, 12 July 2020 04:34 (one month ago) link

the Woods preface is not included in my edition ( Modern Library) of Austerlitz. the perspective I am not sympathetic with is not a lack of sympathy for the character Austerlitz, but rather that the time sense being promoted through many subtle rhetorical and narrative means is one I think is founded upon poorly grasped linguistic and mental confusions the author is exploiting rather than something found in time itself.

the unappreciated charisma of cows (Aimless), Sunday, 12 July 2020 04:47 (one month ago) link

Time itself can be many things to many people though.

dow, Sunday, 12 July 2020 04:53 (one month ago) link

Which is why instead of saying I think it is a wrong view, I say it is not one I find myself in sympathy with.

the unappreciated charisma of cows (Aimless), Sunday, 12 July 2020 04:59 (one month ago) link

Prepping to teach a re-vamped version of a short fiction class this fall, so I just finished Toni Cade Bambara's 'The Sea Birds are Still Alive,' and am now ploughing through Charles Yu's 'Sorry Please Thank You.' Next up is ZZ Packer, then an anthology of older Black writers.

While I am enjoying myself to some degree, I am eager to return to my stack of new poetry books...most of my reading on that front has been going to the readings I've selected for an online workshop I'm facilitating at the moment. The workshop is a real joy, of course, and I love talking about weird poetry that I love with people who are reading it for the first time.

blue light or electric light (the table is the table), Sunday, 12 July 2020 10:59 (one month ago) link

I read the Wood essay in one of his collections, and I agree, he preserves the book's remoteness.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 12 July 2020 13:16 (one month ago) link

I discovered Sebald at the same time he published Austerlitz but to school myself in Sebaldism I read The Emigrants first. It consists of four short stories, Aimless, and it was a splendid intro.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 12 July 2020 13:17 (one month ago) link

Will have to read that too; I'm more of a short story junkie anyway. xxpost ZZ Packer! Drinking Coffee Elsewhere is one of my favorite collections. Please keep us updated on your reading, incl. what might further fertilize the Modern Poetry thread.

dow, Sunday, 12 July 2020 17:41 (one month ago) link

have been too anxious to read for several weeks and I'm grouchy

all cats are beautiful (silby), Sunday, 12 July 2020 19:02 (one month ago) link

The Age of Innocence, this new oral history of The Office, and the Neil bio Shakey.

Evans on Hammond (evol j), Sunday, 12 July 2020 23:53 (one month ago) link

Modern Poetry thread? The rolling poetry thread? Oh gosh.

blue light or electric light (the table is the table), Monday, 13 July 2020 01:55 (four weeks ago) link

I am 4/5ths of the way through “Burr” by Gore Vidal and I dont want it to end, it’s so much fun.

terminators of endearment (VegemiteGrrl), Monday, 13 July 2020 01:57 (four weeks ago) link

I'm going to admit I've never read Gore Vidal. I'm a bad fag.

blue light or electric light (the table is the table), Monday, 13 July 2020 02:01 (four weeks ago) link

Thanks for all the Bradbury suggestions. "Martian Chronicles" is a book that I esteem very highly though the last time I read it was assuredly more than a decade ago. I have a few other collections of his stories that I also love. For now, I'm sticking with "Malone Dies". The humor to me seems much more muted than in "Molloy", which often reads like a comic monologue, in bravura passages such as:

And in winter, under my greatcoat, I wrapped myself in swathes of newspaper, and did not shed them until the earth awoke, for good, in April. The Times Literary Supplement was admirably adapted to this purpose, of a neverfailing toughness and impermeability. Even farts made no impression on it. I can't help it, gas escapes from my fundament at the least pretext, it's hard not to mention it now and then, however great my distaste. One day I counted them. Three hundred and fifteen farts in nineteen hours, or an average of over sixteen farts an hour. After all it's not excessive. Four farts every fifteen minutes. It's nothing. Not even one fart every four minutes. It's unbelievable. Damn it, I hardly fart at all, I should never have mentioned it. Extraordinary how mathematics help you to know yourself.

But then he tries your patience in long passages describing very precisely and with perfect diction some tedious piece of inane business. I think the voice of Beckett is unique and definitely worth knowing, but maybe easier to encounter in the theatrical works.

o. nate, Tuesday, 28 July 2020 02:40 (two weeks ago) link

I remember enjoying this one, but in the 80s, so I take no responsibility for saying so.
Take it away, wiki:
Mercier and Camier is a novel by Samuel Beckett that was written in 1946, but remained unpublished until 1970.[1] Appearing immediately before his celebrated "trilogy" of Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable, Mercier et Camier was Beckett's first attempt at extended prose fiction in French. Beckett refused to publish it in its original French until 1970, and while an English translation by Beckett himself was published in 1974 (London: Calder and Boyars and New York: Grove Press), the author had made substantial alterations to and deletions from the original text while "reshaping" it from French to English.[2][3]

The novel features the "pseudocouple" Mercier and his friend, the private investigator Camier, in their repeated attempts to leave a city, a thinly disguised version of Dublin, only to abandon their journey and return. Frequent visits are paid to "Helen's Place," a tawdry house modeled on that of legendary Dublin madam Becky Cooper (much like Becky Cooper, Helen has a talking parrot). A much-changed Watt makes a cameo appearance, bringing his stick down on a pub table and yelling "Fuck life!"

Scary surprise (not Watt) near the end.

dow, Tuesday, 28 July 2020 03:27 (two weeks ago) link

robin hyde: dragon rampant

no lime tangier, Tuesday, 28 July 2020 07:48 (two weeks ago) link

Oddly that description of MERCIER & CAMIER is totally unfamiliar to me. Maybe because I haven't read it for ... 26 years.

Started today by finishing Eagleton's MATERIALISM.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 28 July 2020 09:49 (two weeks ago) link

I'm about halfway through the first volume of Anthony Powell's Dance to the Music of Time: A Question of Upbringing. I'll admit to a certain amount of immediate disillusionment with its milieu (Eton, ffs) and even the roman-fleuve in general, but so far it's Powell's eye, the lulling unfolding of his sentences and the humour of it that's keeping me going. This description of Le Bas, a housemaster at Eton is fabulous.

He was a tall, untidy man, clean-shaven and bald with large rimless spectacles that gave him a curiously Teutonic appearance: like a German priest. Whenever he removed these spectacles he used to rub his eyes vigorously with the back of his hand, and, perhaps as a result of this habit, his eyelids looked chronically red and sore. On some occasions, especially when vexed, he had the habit of getting into unusual positions, stretching his legs far apart and putting his hands on his hips; or standing at attention with heels together and feet turned outwards so far that it seemed impossible that he should not overbalance and fall flat on his face. Alternatively, especially when in a good humour, he would balance on the fender, with each foot pointing in the same direction. These postures gave him the air of belonging to some highly conventionalised form of graphic art: an oriental god, or knave of playing cards. He found difficulty with the letter “R,” and spoke – like Widmerpool – rather as if he were holding an object about the size of a nut in his mouth. To overcome this slight impediment he was careful to make his utterance always slow and very distinct. He was unmarried.

That final payoff is exquisite.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Tuesday, 28 July 2020 09:52 (two weeks ago) link

I spent a month reading it in 2007. It disappointed me but I'm glad I read it.

I'm reading Ford's Parade's End, which covers the same ground with a tad more art.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 28 July 2020 10:21 (two weeks ago) link

I think ADTTMOT is utterly brilliant but I wouldn’t want to read the whole lot straight through. I think some time has to be allowed to pass between each (the whole thing, after all, is weaved around a series of set pieces, where two or more of the main characters’ lives intersect and they catch up).

Tim, Tuesday, 28 July 2020 11:26 (two weeks ago) link

E.M. Cioran - Short Histroy of Decay.

This seems like parts of a reckoning with a strand of German philosophy I know about (like all philosophy) through 2nd hand readings (Kant, Hegel, Nietzche), published around the time of French existentialism. What it most reminds me of is parts of Baudelaire's Flowers of Evil, and post-Pessoa, writing around the struggle to exist. The best bit was the third part, which is a 10 page essay that veered into a kind of SF-ish post-apocalyse post-human post-loss of language, but I do prefer Pessoa's imagination - or at least I am far more attuned to that.

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 28 July 2020 13:04 (two weeks ago) link

Back to Thomson, THE BIG SCREEN.

He does France (to the 1930s) in a chapter called ... FRANCE. A couple of pages each on Meliés, Vigo, et al. Then a whole chapter on RENOIR - whom he adores. Then AMERICAN: suddenly a chapter on Welles.

I enjoy the boldness. It's not a rigorous 'history' in that it doesn't, for instance, describe the French production system to compare it with the US or Soviet at the time. It's a very long series of vivid sketches. It makes me want to spend less time watching recent films, more time watching old ones - say, pre-WWII.

the pinefox, Thursday, 30 July 2020 10:58 (one week ago) link

Going to spend some more time with poet Ed Steck's latest today, 'An Interface for a Fractal Landscape.' This is the first in a trio of books about the same world, using lots of computer engineering and video game jargon to create strange surfaces revealing an alternate reality of language. He's pretty incredible, highly recommend all his former books, particularly if you're a "head" who doesn't need typical lyricism in your poetry.

blue light or electric light (the table is the table), Thursday, 30 July 2020 11:14 (one week ago) link

I finished two books last week while on a hiking/camping trip, A Few Green Leaves, Barbara Pym, and Maigret in Society, Georges Simenon. Both of these are among the authors I consider highly reliable and I was not disappointed.

The Pym novel was her last and according to Wikipedia she was not entirely satisfied with its state when she submitted the manuscript, but she was dying of advanced cancer and sent it in anyway. She needn't have worried. It was fine, and revisited some characters from previous work, placing them later in life.

The Simenon was slightly uncharacteristic but I thought it one of the best of the Maigret novels among those I've read. It should be said there are more than 50 Maigret novels I have not read.

the unappreciated charisma of cows (Aimless), Thursday, 30 July 2020 14:52 (one week ago) link

Wyndham Lewis - Tarr (1918 version)

Its a pretty good novel, overall. Found myself thinking it sits between Anthony Powell (the milieu, the cynicism around marriage, women, relationships, money and art and failure) but then a modernism in prose also sets in at points in the way he describes motion and action both in the dance party and the duel later on. Will definitely read his criticism at some point.

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 1 August 2020 11:17 (one week ago) link

i think tarr is good in both its iterations, but have a slight preference for the og version. coincidentally recently read two works in a row where a character is reading time & western man (one of them being powell's a dance to...)

if you're looking at reading his non-fiction i remember the creatures of habit and creatures of change collection being a good way in, also the julian symonds ed. essential wl.

no lime tangier, Sunday, 2 August 2020 07:49 (one week ago) link

j symons, that is!

no lime tangier, Sunday, 2 August 2020 07:51 (one week ago) link

TIME & WESTERN MAN is hilarious - at least in part unintentionally.

the pinefox, Sunday, 2 August 2020 10:00 (one week ago) link

Delightful that Thomson finishes his chapter on Welles and Kane, AMERICAN, and follows it with ... what? ... AMBERSONS!

the pinefox, Sunday, 2 August 2020 15:04 (one week ago) link

I admire his Welles book from the '90s, but he does disparage him for weight problems often and makes purely speculative claims about whom he slept with.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 2 August 2020 15:29 (one week ago) link

Last night I tried starting Orwell's A Clergyman's Daughter and it was... not good. It suffered horribly by my having recently read some Barbara Pym and Simenon, so the relatively poor quality of the narrative prose was all the more glaring. I think I need to ferret out a non-fic book from my shelves to occupy me next.

the unappreciated charisma of cows (Aimless), Monday, 3 August 2020 16:04 (one week ago) link

I've been slowly chipping away at Hesse's Magister Ludi for most of the summer. Not sure what I think of it tbh. In the meantime I've been trying to read more short stories, which is something I don't do very often. Dinesen's Seven Gothic Tales and Munro's Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage were both pretty good.

Just finished another Maigret and started on Wharton's The Custom of the Country, which is very promising so far.

cwkiii, Wednesday, 5 August 2020 22:47 (one week ago) link

Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage has some of my favorite short stories by anybody ("Floating Bridge" for one), and I've tried imitating them.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 5 August 2020 22:53 (one week ago) link

She's my favorite short story writer, maybe. Top 3, which switches around depending on the day.

blue light or electric light (the table is the table), Thursday, 6 August 2020 01:55 (six days ago) link

I found Dear Life, Runaway and The View From Castle Rock at a used book sale last year and figured I'd grab them all; which one should I read next?

cwkiii, Thursday, 6 August 2020 11:15 (six days ago) link

Superior:The Return oF Race Science by Angela Saini
Interesting recap of the history of race science so far or at least the roots of it in the 18th and 19th centuries so far.
Quite well written. I think I'm about aware of the stuff so far. Saini's main point in the book is saying that dodgy science with pretty subjective interpretation which had been hopefully sunk into the past has returned to be an active thing in supposedly reliable areas.
I think it is a decent book but I've only read about the first 3 chapters.

Stevolende, Thursday, 6 August 2020 11:36 (six days ago) link

Runaway, cwkiii, her last strong collection. I found her concentration faltering in the last decade.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 6 August 2020 12:01 (six days ago) link

I finished Malone Dies. It was okay. Beckett's ability to wring comedy out of the state of being bedridden is impressive. Instead of trying the reader's patience with prolixity, as in "Molloy", here he tries the reader's patience with vagueness and incomplete information. It's not clear why we should care about the stories that Malone is writing and they're too intentionally crude to stand on their own. Overall I would judge it an interesting but not wholly successful experiment.

Now I'm re-reading "The Martian Chronicles" by Bradbury.

o. nate, Thursday, 6 August 2020 21:29 (six days ago) link

Returned books and got books from the just-reopened uni library where I adjunct today, and am very excited about the books I got: a load of Brossard novels I haven't read yet, a book of Norma Cole's poetry and one of her essays on art, plus a P. Inman book that a friend recommended.

blue light or electric light (the table is the table), Thursday, 6 August 2020 21:44 (six days ago) link

xp. I absolutely adore the trilogy. very fucking frustrating reading at times but also hilarious

Temporary Erogenous Zone (jim in vancouver), Thursday, 6 August 2020 21:46 (six days ago) link

I've been reading Dark Sun, Richard Rhodes. It's his sequel to The Making of the Atomic Bomb, which is excellent. This book mainly follows the further development of nuclear weapons after WWII ended, including the Soviet Union nuclear program (and nuclear spying), the invention of a working hydrogen bomb, and most aspects of the Cold War and arms race.

The contrast in this sequel is that it is less about the step-by-step solution to a long series of thorny physics problems and the scientists who engaged and solved those problems. In this book politics take over center stage. Mostly national security politics and internal scientific community politics. The experimental science and technological advances aspects still appear, but in a much less central role. This makes it a much different story than the original, somewhat less intellectually thrilling and somewhat more depressing.

the unappreciated charisma of cows (Aimless), Friday, 7 August 2020 03:25 (five days ago) link

I read Ben Macintyre's The Spy and the Traitor. It ripped along right enough and painted a picture of the 80s that I wasn't wholly aware of but it wasn't exactly keen to bring any nuance to the idea of Russia as the evil empire.

Then I read Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me which moved me deeply but at which I can only chuck platitudes like profound and unsettling.

In a potentially absurd move, I'm now reading Houellebecq's Platform. Eck, I'd forgotten how grubby he makes me feel.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Saturday, 8 August 2020 10:49 (four days ago) link

Now in the homestrech of (re-reading, after many years) Willa Cather's The Professor's House(1925), and trying to slow down, because so far what I distantly rembered about it has been confirmed and then some: Professor St. Peters, with whom I somehow identify, has to on extent painted homself and been painted into a corner emotionally, is bound to fall. He's finished lifeswork, an eight-volume history of Spain's North American exploration, in early middle age, and reaped rewards, in terms of professional recognition and even a bit of money, which, as the book opens, had finally provided a new house, but he keeps going back to his attic study--though he now does no more writing, it's still a good refuge---ih the old place(which was always "funny and somewhat bare," but if he and his wife couldn't afford a suitable item, they and their daughters did without--none of the "pathetic" settling-for so common in the little Hamilton College faculty community.
He knows it was always a mark against him that he wrote beyond the minimum requirement---for magazines and shit---and now he's got these honors from outside, extra money, oooo--and not from climbing, and cultivating the kind of commercial "academia" favored by the State Legislature (courses in bookkeeping, egads sir!), But he's been here so long, also teaching his ass off when not writing (he's Lord of the Books, so why should he mind all these courses, sayeth the Powers), because it's a familiar, orderly setting for his productive perch---and because, when he was young and in love and ready to marry---it was the first school that accepted him and was near his eternal resource, Lake Michigan--- Professor St. Peters, of French-Canadian descent, from just over the border, identifies mostly with France and Spain, the wells of his other increasingly crucial memories,,,,
He is sophisticated, aesthetic, sensitive--but also increasingly insular/moving out of his depth, and he senses this too, even while reflexively observing, appraising, whenever possible: hes older daughter does indeed have a beautiful face, as everyone agrees--but he's the one who also perceived a subtle slope to her bod, a slight but unmistakable, inescapable legacy of her Canuck great-grandfather. She's also the sole heir of the Professor's best student ever, the *one* whose brilliance lasted---'til he was killed in the Great War, after making a remarkable discovery, later commercialized by the heiress's charming, brainy new husband, whose name is Louie and who is beginning to be something of a local Medici, only nicer, and uh, Jewish, though it's seldom mentiojed outright, but he's a supersalesman and, you know, good with money---realigning family and other dymanics, but then The Professor sees his daugther, Madame Louie, also his wife, respond with their own realigned dynamics (Mrs. St, Peters, whose husband is fading, now plays what he sees as the game of womanhood with her sons-in-law, trying to balance and advance everything).
Challenge to the young reapers, and to student Tom's seemingly ironclad will are beginning to surface, to which The Professor is somewhat sympathetic, though what can he do; he feels himself more useless in such matters than ever---also he remembers Tom's confided secret (better than he sometimes remembers Tom himself, who is becoming "a dazzling idea," maybe especially via Louie's Commemorations, though Louie never met the guy, and sure wishes he had): Tom's *first* discovery, when he was a young cowpoke in New Mexico, of a beautiful, deserted mini-civilization, which he ahd his colleague/best friend first called Cliff City, and then they found some more settlements on the same nesa---so he went to find Smithsonian or some other source of recognition and support of further, deeper study, in D.C., which turns out to be much more a deserted city--of the heart, yet swarming with climbers, other talkers---and then he goes back and really gets crushed, also crushing---goes way up to Hamilton College and starts over'
Stays on the wheel, as The Professor sees it now---and of coursel the author and her characters can't know how much of this will have been moot, re the Great Crash of '29---but I'll bet she wasn't too surpised: the slide is already in place.
Having said all that, I should give it up for Cather, who seems at the top of her game, leading mel discreetly, unstoppably, though rooms and buildings and mesas in layers of compressed clarity, incl. appetites and affections and amusements and archness and sadness and a sense of the tragic coming back(also the shit you can't take back). As Willie says in his recent "Love Laughed," "It was fun---in a strange kinda way..."

dow, Saturday, 8 August 2020 20:47 (four days ago) link

Tho I didn't understand all of what you just wrote, it made me want to read that book. Thanks!

blue light or electric light (the table is the table), Saturday, 8 August 2020 20:50 (four days ago) link

That's the main thing, thanks to you too. Sorry for typos! Why didn't I magnify? Getting too set in my ways, like the or The Professor.

dow, Saturday, 8 August 2020 20:55 (four days ago) link

Hope that's not too spoiler-y---*how* she presents all this is what's amazing.

dow, Saturday, 8 August 2020 20:58 (four days ago) link

Memoirs and Misinformation by Jim Carrey and Dana Vachon

brooklyn suicide cult (Dr Morbius), Saturday, 8 August 2020 21:05 (four days ago) link

I read Ben Macintyre's The Spy and the Traitor. It ripped along right enough and painted a picture of the 80s that I wasn't wholly aware of but it wasn't exactly keen to bring any nuance to the idea of Russia as the evil empire.

I thought it was great fun but I’d agree with this.

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Sunday, 9 August 2020 01:56 (three days ago) link

The Professor's House's structure emphasizes its queerness.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 9 August 2020 02:49 (three days ago) link

right now:

i'm listening to friends and strangers by j. courtney sullivan.

it's mostly pretty trashy, but it has some very keenly observed moments about class, parenting, new york etc. and i'm enjoying it.

never read/heard of her before this. her previous books all have very conventional Serious But Accessible Women's Fiction covers (cf. kate atkinson etc.), but this one has an extremely sally rooney cover. the comparison is not off the mark but it's not as good, and it's about older people. but if you like sally rooney you might like this.

i'm rereading outline by rachel cusk because it takes about 90 minutes to read, it's great, and i'm about to read the other two for the first time.


october by china mieville which was... informative. it came alive a bit in the final chapter where it felt like he finally allowed himself to analyse things. aside from that it was extremely stodgy "and then what happened was ... and then what happened was ..." history writing. some awful prose too.

our man in havana by graham greene:

"comedy" but not funny.

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Sunday, 9 August 2020 03:20 (three days ago) link

i can apparently no longer sleep at night, so i read the first third of chuck wendig's 'wanderers'

solid if you want an extremely long thriller with paint-by-numbers characters confronted by plague, white supremacy and dysfunctional american politics. i do not

mookieproof, Sunday, 9 August 2020 03:56 (three days ago) link

Rereading Seamus Deane on Joyce. Insight and intellect but also, as always, sometimes gnomic to the point of meaning very little.

the pinefox, Sunday, 9 August 2020 16:50 (three days ago) link

The Professor's House's structure emphasizes its queerness.

― TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn)
The scenes down in old New Mexico did bring Willie's (and Ned Sublette's) "Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Found of Each Other") to mind a little bit, but what's another example?

dow, Sunday, 9 August 2020 18:19 (three days ago) link

"Fond" even

dow, Sunday, 9 August 2020 18:20 (three days ago) link

if you're looking at reading his non-fiction i remember the creatures of habit and creatures of change collection being a good way in, also the julian symonds ed. essential wl.

― no lime tangier, Sunday, 2 August 2020 bookmarkflaglink

Thanks there is a copy of his book on Shakespeare around here.

xyzzzz__, Monday, 10 August 2020 19:32 (two days ago) link

Well, Houellebecq's Platform was desperate to be provocative ('insolent' says Julian Barnes), full of Islamaphobia and affectless sex. Who knew?

I've started Michael Chabon's Kavalier and Clay. Can I take 600 pages of that intimate, folksy voice?

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Tuesday, 11 August 2020 09:42 (yesterday) link

Bernhard's Old Masters and Caro's The Power Broker last week.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 11 August 2020 09:45 (yesterday) link

My mom got me the new Houellebecq for Christmas and I immediately put it in a little free library. Like, that day. Can't stand the guy.

blue light or electric light (the table is the table), Tuesday, 11 August 2020 10:43 (yesterday) link

I read a book, the first novel I've finished since March. It was "A Liar's Dictionary" by Eley Williams. It's very good - without the intense blasts of the short stories (which I love so much), it has a lightness that reminds me of Elizabeth Taylor or maybe Shena Mackay. Which is not to say that it doesn't tangle with its own language quite often, to does so very pleasingly. I think - I'm not sure - it does something quite clever with the momentum of the storytelling, but my sense of a quickening pace may have mad more to do with my circumstances than the book itself. I'd have to read it again to find out, and I look forward to doing so at some point.

Tim, Tuesday, 11 August 2020 12:40 (yesterday) link

You read the power broker in a week Alfred?!

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Tuesday, 11 August 2020 14:29 (yesterday) link

I put it down to finish Elizabeth Taylor, but I resumed reading this morning. I should finish it by Friday, yeah. Caro's such a confident storyteller.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 11 August 2020 14:43 (yesterday) link

"i don't care what anyone says, i think the power broker is a good book" -- me being edgy

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Tuesday, 11 August 2020 20:49 (yesterday) link

I loved kavalier & clay at the time, suspect it would annoy me now. The bit everyone hates in the Arctic is the best bit imho.

Chuck_Tatum, Wednesday, 12 August 2020 13:46 (seven hours ago) link

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