Autumn 2020: Is Everything Getting Dimmer or Is It Just Me?

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The seasons change and so do we. What are you reading now?

the unappreciated charisma of cows (Aimless), Tuesday, 22 September 2020 04:51 (one month ago) link

C.L.R. James - The Black Jacobins

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 22 September 2020 09:39 (one month ago) link

Wycherley Woman - Ross Macdonald. Loved The Chill & The Galton Case, gonna start reading them in sequence from here.

Thanks for the Fitzgerald biography recommendation Dow! – I’ve got a copy at home, gonna scan through to help myself decipher the last two novels a bit better

Chuck_Tatum, Tuesday, 22 September 2020 12:19 (one month ago) link

The Macdonald novels before The Galton Case are good too. The one right before that, The Doomsters, marks the point at which he started moving into his late psychodrama style, focusing on Archer's protection of vulnerable young people. The first half-dozen in the series are more straightforward hardboiled novels in the Chandler mode. They're all memorable.

There's a well-known letter in which Chandler rips up the first Archer novel, The Moving Target, sneering at some stylistic weaknesses; between the lines one can see his frustration with a younger author threatening to do his schtick better.

Brad C., Tuesday, 22 September 2020 13:26 (one month ago) link

Love The Black Jacobins. One of the most inspiring moments in human history.

Daniel_Rf, Tuesday, 22 September 2020 15:21 (one month ago) link

Speaking of Chandler and Macdonald, I am reading Red Harvest, Dashiell Hammett. Technically I'm re-reading it, but the first time was during the last century and not one detail of it remains in my memory.

I addressed my previous book, I'm Still Here, Austin Channing Brown, in the prior thread, but will state that it is just the kind of book designed to be read by many millions of Americans, bearing witness to what whiteness feels like when you are a Black woman on the receiving end of it. It is simple, clear, direct and very short, so that even reluctant readers can encompass it easily. It also speaks most directly to professed Christians, which is a plus.

the unappreciated charisma of cows (Aimless), Tuesday, 22 September 2020 17:06 (one month ago) link

It's funny, Aimless, because the Christian address aspect of that particular book is what turned me off from reading it.

healthy cocaine off perfect butts (the table is the table), Tuesday, 22 September 2020 18:01 (one month ago) link

I've been a long time reading, and now at last I am a mere 100 pages from the end of Edward Baptist's The Half Has Never Been Told. As I draw closer to the Civil War, I find myself slowing down and consulting other works, to try to synthesize a bigger picture -- most recently, I started The Field of Blood by Joanne Freeman, on congressional violence and the 'affective history' of debate over slavery and the union. But I also want to go back and study the period of Indian removal in greater detail, as it was largely passed over in Baptist's New Orleans-centered account of the 1820s and '30s.

handsome boy modelling software (bernard snowy), Tuesday, 22 September 2020 19:14 (one month ago) link

xp -You were far from her ideal audience, table. I am closer to it. For me the value of the book being cast in a framework of Christianity is that it has a much greater chance of reaching the audience that has most need of the information it contains. It is a primer, well-designed to spread itself through the Christian grapevine of churches and Xtian bookstores. I applaud that approach and hope it permeates that audience. And it was good reinforcement for me, too.

the unappreciated charisma of cows (Aimless), Tuesday, 22 September 2020 19:21 (one month ago) link

A little over 100 pages left of Ulysses. Supplemented by the Great Courses and Edna O'Brien's short Joyce bio.

Chris L, Tuesday, 22 September 2020 23:47 (one month ago) link

You're certainly right, Aimless, particularly around yr hopes for how the book will circulate. Might be useful for a class in the future, though, so it is still in the pile!

healthy cocaine off perfect butts (the table is the table), Wednesday, 23 September 2020 01:33 (one month ago) link

the rings of saturn. it's good but sheesh lighten up a little would ya bill

Give me a Chad Smith-type feel (map), Wednesday, 23 September 2020 19:23 (one month ago) link

the best parts are the more straightforward stories imo. it strengthens my opinion that lengthy descriptions of dreams always make for tedious reading.

Give me a Chad Smith-type feel (map), Wednesday, 23 September 2020 19:25 (one month ago) link

winfried not bill, sorry winfried

Give me a Chad Smith-type feel (map), Wednesday, 23 September 2020 19:41 (one month ago) link

Red Harvest certainly earned its title. I can see why no one yet has made a film of the original novel, as written, but also why Kurosawa thought the novel's general premise was worth adapting to film.

the unappreciated charisma of cows (Aimless), Friday, 25 September 2020 03:19 (four weeks ago) link

How does it seem not suited for film? Been a long time since I read, but thought it was good, and seems to be gen. regarded as his best novel, although The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man are good in lighter ways. Premise-wise the or a precedent is Goldoni's The or A Servant of Two Masters (thanx and a tip of the Hatlo hat to James Blech for pointing this out to me).

dow, Friday, 25 September 2020 15:31 (four weeks ago) link

Just a few ideas that strike me about the obstacles to filming Red Harvest:

  • The intricacies of the action and characters would need to be considerably streamlined from what the book presents you with, so that audiences could concentrate on the story, which is the main interest, instead of constantly running to keep up with the plot.
  • Since the novel is a first person narration, the screenwriter, director and actors would need to find filmic ways to handle a ton of exposition or the film would be voice-over narration constantly.
  • The Continental Op (main character) is somewhat underdeveloped in the book. He is an avenger with nothing to avenge.
None of these obstacles are impossible to overcome, but they make it a tricky property to adapt. It's probably easier to take the basic storyline and build it out using different elements that are easier to put across on film, which is pretty much what Kurosawa did.

the unappreciated charisma of cows (Aimless), Friday, 25 September 2020 18:01 (four weeks ago) link

I'm reading The Devil Finds Work, a group of 1970s essays by James Baldwin that center around various films, novels and plays; he uses them to shed light on the topic of most of his essays: being Black or white in the USA. This collection is a bit more obscure, but it is included in the Library of America compendium of his essays and that's where I'm reading it.

the unappreciated charisma of cows (Aimless), Friday, 25 September 2020 20:30 (four weeks ago) link

xpost I thought of the Op as being offended by local leaders expecting him to do their dirty work beyond his standards of professional amorality---they want him to get positively immoral, too close to moral, euuuwww. So he does, but in his own way, getting pulled in beyond his usual experience of course, winging it more than advisable. But overall I see what you mean.

dow, Friday, 25 September 2020 22:19 (four weeks ago) link

Mainly I am still rereading James Joyce, STEPHEN HERO. It's much more enjoyable / readable than I remembered - in a way Joyce's most direct fiction ever, and his most politically explicit.

I am also perhaps still reading Ferriter's A NATION AND NOT A RABBLE but I've been somewhat disappointed with that.

And a third Irish book: Terry Eagleton, CRAZY JOHN AND THE BISHOP: the very long essay on 'The Good-Natured Gael' is my bedtime reading. Currently on a section about Oliver Goldsmith. The scholarship in this book, from one (TE) who isn't really a specialist in the field, is staggering.

the pinefox, Saturday, 26 September 2020 13:01 (three weeks ago) link

'm reading The Devil Finds Work, a group of 1970s essays by James Baldwin that center around various films, novels and plays; he uses them to shed light on the topic of most of his essays: being Black or white in the USA. This collection is a bit more obscure, but it is included in the Library of America compendium of his essays and that's where I'm reading it.

― the unappreciated charisma of cows (Aimless)

one of my essential film studies texts

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 26 September 2020 13:06 (three weeks ago) link

How does it seem not suited for film? Been a long time since I read, but thought it was good, and seems to be gen. regarded as his best novel, although The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man are good in lighter ways. Premise-wise the or a precedent is Goldoni's The or A Servant of Two Masters (thanx and a tip of the Hatlo hat to James Blech for pointing this out to me).

Thanks, although I just happened to look this up yesterday and apparently some people say that the Goldoni precedent was just a slim reed brought up by Sergio Leone or his legal team when Kurosawa came after him about A Fistful of Dollars. Think they settled by giving Kurosawa & Co. distribution rights in Japan.

ABBA O RLY? (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 26 September 2020 13:54 (three weeks ago) link

Terry Eagleton's long, erudite section on Goldsmith (on whom he'd never previously written) moves on to a more predictable section on Sterne. An even more predictable section on Burke will probably follow.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 29 September 2020 09:49 (three weeks ago) link

Halfway through Perfect Sound Whatever. Really enjoy the concept - Acaster is convinced 2016 was the best year for music ever and just keeps investigating records from that time - because it's neither an antiquarian task like doing the same for, say, 1971, nor the usual drudgery of trying to keep up with new releases for the year and forgetting about them all come January. Sadly he's no music critic - the book awakwardly tries to tie albums into his personal travails of that year in a very artificial manner. When he's talking about his life he's funny and touching; when he's talking about the music it all just feels like regurgitated press releases.

It also strikes me that a book about music written by a stand-up comedian is probably a true vision of hell for a lot of ILX ppl.

Daniel_Rf, Tuesday, 29 September 2020 14:25 (three weeks ago) link

Yes.

Is he generally convinced of this, or just pretending to be?

the pinefox, Tuesday, 29 September 2020 14:57 (three weeks ago) link

Bit of both? I think he's generally convinced that there's an astonishing wealth of good music from that year that he wants to share. He probably realises this is also true of every year.

Daniel_Rf, Tuesday, 29 September 2020 15:03 (three weeks ago) link

there's a podcast on a bbc sounds about it all. i like him, but when he was on Later... talking about it his music taste struck me as bad, so i haven't listened.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/brand/p089rfmk

koogs, Tuesday, 29 September 2020 19:38 (three weeks ago) link

i finished rings of saturn and am about halfway through austerlitz. i'm enjoying its relative straightforwardness.

Give me a Chad Smith-type feel (map), Tuesday, 29 September 2020 19:46 (three weeks ago) link

The podcast's better than the book I think, earnest enthusiasm does more on an audio medium.

Daniel_Rf, Wednesday, 30 September 2020 10:00 (three weeks ago) link

Jorge Luis Borges - The Total Library Non-Fiction 1922-1986

500 pages worth of essays and (later in life, due to what seems like a mixture of further fame and blindness) transcried talks. The essays up to 1955 or so (pre-blindness) are a series of optical illusions. He has an incredible ability to convey the essence of a whatever he is reading or seeing (about a dozen film reviews here) in about 3/4 highly satisfying pages that also manage to display the sense that he has read about half a dozen books on that book or author (this could be another optical illusion but maybe if you spend all your life reading or writing that might be true, either that or he has good skim-reading ability). That's whether he is writing for a journal, the desk, or a woman's magazine. Throughout, we have a series of slightly longer essays that seem like 3/4 pages stitched together, as he talks about the translators of The Arabian Nights (v interesting discussion of Orientalism as a thing before Said?) Benjamin's essay on it gets far more hits than Borges and while there isn't a take on it per se that isn't fused with the books he discusses it feels a little unfair. I love his 20 pages on Dante, just different aspects of the book, on Icelandic Sagas, on Fitzgerald's Rubáiyát (this was a marvel, his account of Fitzgerald felt like a short story!), Flaubert, Gibbon, Coleridge, and first reads of Joyce, Woolf and Faulkner as being published for the first time - his reckoning with modernism and sharp judgment (the way he is so open to what Joyce does on Ulysses while at the same time struggling through Finnegans Wake, compare this to Woolf's dismissal based on snobbery and jealousy in her diaries), plus his Refutation of Time (which has won out in discussion of literature) over space is something to go back to. The range of reading on a level I have not seen since Auerbach's Mimesis (Auerbach ofc also published his own separate account of Dante) that feels like reading has taken place (unlike George Steiner lol, no name dropping). Both are as light and exhausting as they try to give as open a read as their faculties will allow them (at the edge!), and for the Borges there is no better demonstration of how a writer of fiction worth reading is always a reader first and foremost.

In the end its clear how I took Borges for granted too. I reckon Labyrinths is a possibly flawed collection. The power of the stories doesn't put the essays in perspective. Also brings to mind how people like Eco and Manguel really feel like bad copies of him. It can't be empahsized how much of a one-off Borges was.

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 30 September 2020 10:31 (three weeks ago) link

I read Borges' essays and the fictions as essays, as banal as it sounds. The Whole of Harmonium, as it were.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 30 September 2020 10:32 (three weeks ago) link

*Borges' essays as fictions

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 30 September 2020 10:32 (three weeks ago) link

Yes, for sure there is a relationship here between the stories and criticism. Nothing else like it.

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 30 September 2020 10:37 (three weeks ago) link

Great post, xyzzzz

Ward Fowler, Wednesday, 30 September 2020 11:38 (three weeks ago) link

I am still ploughing my way through a big anthology of horror short stories called The Dark Descent, edited by David G Hartwell. As well as the expected big hitters (Lovecraft, Poe, King etc) the pick of the bunch so far would include 'The Swords' by Robert Aickman and 'Good Country People' by Flannery O'Connor (both dark comedies about sexual innocence yet utterly different in style and milieu), 'The Summer People' by Shirley Jackson, 'The Autopsy' by Michael Shea (a tremendously gory variant on The Thing), 'Sticks' by Karl Edward Wagner (which anticipates certain aspects of The Blair Witch Project before going full-on Lovecraft), 'My Dear Emily' by Joanna Russ and 'The Yellow Wallpaper' by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, which put me in mind a little of 'The White People' by Arthur Machen (who is strangely absent from this selection).

It also includes 'The Jolly Corner' by Henry James, which put me in mind of this comment from Borges - “I have visited some literatures of the East and West; I have compiled an encyclopedic anthology of fantastic literature; I have translated Kafka, Melville, and Bloy; I know of no stranger work than that of Henry James.”

Ward Fowler, Wednesday, 30 September 2020 11:50 (three weeks ago) link

I've never read Borges, but a lot of authors I like have been influenced by him. Where should I start?

Quiet Storm Thorgerson (PBKR), Wednesday, 30 September 2020 12:47 (three weeks ago) link

Any of the famous stories. "The Library of Babel," "The Lottery in Babylon," "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius," "The Aleph," many others. Most of his writings you can easily finish in half an hour or less.

jmm, Wednesday, 30 September 2020 13:48 (three weeks ago) link

Thanks!

Quiet Storm Thorgerson (PBKR), Wednesday, 30 September 2020 15:17 (three weeks ago) link

I think the key to Borges is time. Each of those stories jmm mentions (or indeed the essays xyzzz mentions) took maybe 10 or 15 minutes to read but they've taken up huge spaces in my imagination - to the point where one reaches for Borgesian metaphors to explain the phenomenon.

There's an element of Kafka inventing his precursors here, but I do wonder if Borges is an inevitable literary archetype: just distant enough in time and place; the blandness of his biography that, alongside the impossible nature of his writing, that seems to invite mystery; adrift in the bowels of the national library, dreaming of gauchos, becoming that rare thing, the man who has read everything; the blindness in later life that he embraces, enabling the shift into the sightless sage.

His 'creation myth' is intriguing. Short version (as I remember it) is that he received a nasty concussion and was briefly hospitalised and during convalescence decided to start writing fiction, resulting in his most productive period. It'd make an interesting book alongside Dylan's crash, Eno getting run over by a taxi. I'm sure there's a bunch more.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Wednesday, 30 September 2020 16:05 (three weeks ago) link

Hi PBKR, you might dig these threads:
Borges translation?

Labyrinhts (1962) - Jorge Luis Borges POLL

My gateway/first love object: The Aleph and Other Stories 1933-1969 (Dutton, 1978. ISBN 0-525-47539-7), translated by Norman Thomas Di Giovanni, who is still my favorite for that, though Hurley and others I've read in comparison seem okay too.

dow, Wednesday, 30 September 2020 16:43 (three weeks ago) link

I tried to get a start in Jean Stafford's The Mountain Lion last night, but I couldn't get any traction with it. After watching that horrifying Trump/Biden 'debate' its tone of childlike innocence was a million miles from where my feelings were. I'll try again tonight.

the unappreciated charisma of cows (Aimless), Wednesday, 30 September 2020 17:42 (three weeks ago) link

So glad you liked the Rubáiyát essay. One of the most lovely little gems I've ever read.

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Thursday, 1 October 2020 01:12 (three weeks ago) link

I finished the collection of 2 Natalia Ginzburg novellas Valentino and Sagittarius. I thought they were pretty great. I will definitely be seeking out more of her books. It's hard to think of who to compare her to. For some reason, I thought of Collodi's Pinocchio. There is something like Collodi's fairy tale in the unity of effect, the excision of anything extraneous, in the way the comic and tragic run closely together, the treatment of her characters that borders on the malicious, though with an underlying sympathy -though nothing happens in these stories that couldn't happen in real life.

Now I'm reading True Grit by Charles Portis, which is a rollicking good time so far.

o. nate, Thursday, 1 October 2020 01:37 (three weeks ago) link

Great to hear all this Borges talk.

My gateway/first love object: The Aleph and Other Stories 1933-1969

Portuguese bookstore employee blogger I used to follow had a story abt someone coming in the store requesting "the ALF".

Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 1 October 2020 09:36 (three weeks ago) link

I finish Terry Eagleton's 'The Good-Natured Gael' at last. He praises Edmund Burke a bit more than I expected.

Then his essay on 'The Masochism of Thomas Moore'. Superb analysis: incredible that TE worked his way through the complete writings (and loads of criticism and scholarship) of this writer who he says at the end of the essay doesn't even stand up very well. TE's judgment of writers and their place in history is so consistently sound. But the attention to detail in these essays would be uncharacteristic of his later work.

the pinefox, Thursday, 1 October 2020 10:12 (three weeks ago) link

Really enjoyed the Borges discussion, will track down 'The Aleph and Other Stories' (and I love the Labyrinths poll thread, ILB at its best)

Ward - that looks like an excellent comp. One aspect (of many) I neglected to emphasize is his love of fantastical literature (brings to mind his love of James, who seemed to be at ease with both fantasy and something more 'psychological'), something that I just don't read that much of these days. It might explain why he never won the Nobel prize too, its not their bag. Might be interesting to contrast his essay on The Detective Story with Auden's in The Dyer's Hand. For Auden iirc it seems to be something to relax with. For Borges, aspects of it appear every now and again in how he perceives the world of the page.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 1 October 2020 10:43 (three weeks ago) link

"I finished the collection of 2 Natalia Ginzburg novellas Valentino and Sagittarius. I thought they were pretty great. I will definitely be seeking out more of her books. It's hard to think of who to compare her to. For some reason, I thought of Collodi's Pinocchio."

Lol I love those Ginzburg novellas (read them in a past edition, one of NYRB's best reissues in the last year imo) but never thought of it along Pinocchio (which I have always meant to read ever since NYRB put out an edition of it).

NYRB are also putting out a couple more Ginzburg novellas next year.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 1 October 2020 10:45 (three weeks ago) link

Working through Norma Cole's "Mars" today. One of her books that isn't featured as heavily in her selected poems, I can understand why— it is strange and hermetic, in a sense, mixing prose and poetry and without standard reference points. I still find myself enjoying it, though, but as we've been discussing on the poetry thread, my tastes run pretty weird.

healthy cocaine off perfect butts (the table is the table), Thursday, 1 October 2020 16:02 (three weeks ago) link

Map, you might enjoy Karen Russell and Kelly Link's 21st Century speculative fiction, for lack of a better term, their short stories are imaginative and a lot of fun. Also, Russell is an empath; Link is punk. Maybe start w KR's Vampires in the Lemon Grove, KL's Get In Trouble Karen Joy Fowler started with science fiction per se, with stories in Asimov's, novels harder to classify. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves has grown offspring dealing with wtf & aftermath of Primatologist Dad's bringing a new little sister home from the lab---there have been nonfictional accounts of this kind of experiment accumulating over the years, as one of the main characters discovers.

dow, Friday, 16 October 2020 02:39 (one week ago) link

KELLY LINK! KELLY LINK! https://www.eddostern.com/RISD/Stone-Animals-by-Kelly-Link.pdf

I love her.

healthy cocaine off perfect butts (the table is the table), Friday, 16 October 2020 13:18 (one week ago) link

Finished my Norma Cole binge. Finding it hard to read any non-fiction atm, so have started the new Buffy Cain chapbook. will probably try to move toward actually reading non-fiction again next, though i might have to put down the Mieville— while I admire his style, the dryness of it all is really making it more of slog than i anticipated...

but actually, this gets into a question i have for all of you.

Do you have a reading "practice," so to speak? Do you take notes? What about routines?

I try to read poetry in the morning, as a way of waking up my brain and reminding myself of myself.

If I have time during the remainder of the day, I try to read non-fiction or philosophy, but sometimes— and especially as of late— I've had a more difficult time doing so.

Then at night, I go for either fiction or poetry, usually the latter since it's so much more my wheelhouse.

Today, I have to grade some papers, record the lectures for next week (on Dorothy Allison and Jayne Anne Phillips!), then plan the reading that I'm giving tomorrow. It's raining heavily. Think I'm all set!

healthy cocaine off perfect butts (the table is the table), Friday, 16 October 2020 13:27 (one week ago) link

I used to just read on public transport, in the Beforetimes. These days I alternate between reading prose and comics in the late afternoon and before bed.

Daniel_Rf, Friday, 16 October 2020 13:29 (one week ago) link

I routinely alternate between binge-reading and avoiding books completely aside from the bare minimum for my work. The latter usually accompanies feelings of disgust towards academia and the hyperanalytic frame of mind It fosters, but I also go through periods where words strike me as the most unnecessary entities of all (cue Dave Gahan).

pomenitul, Friday, 16 October 2020 13:34 (one week ago) link

I also strive towards monogamy - hate that situation where I've got five different books on the go and feel like I'll never finish any of them.

Daniel_Rf, Friday, 16 October 2020 13:36 (one week ago) link

Same here. I also wish I could abandon certain books more readily – those that 'fall from one's hands', as we say in French – but my completist instincts are too strong.

pomenitul, Friday, 16 October 2020 13:41 (one week ago) link

pom, I think that the disgust you talk about above is what really drove my decision to not get a PhD, tbh. Too many friends telling me that they hate reading and never have time for whimsy or reading "light" crap also helped.

healthy cocaine off perfect butts (the table is the table), Friday, 16 October 2020 14:16 (one week ago) link

I totally respect that tbh. I'm glad I went through with it in the end but part of that 'gladness' is just commitment to a sunk cost fallacy.

pomenitul, Friday, 16 October 2020 14:18 (one week ago) link

Should I bother with Seven Gothic Tales? The prose seems a bit much.

Patriotic Goiter (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 16 October 2020 14:56 (one week ago) link

I read Dinesen when I was writing my thesis on Borges 17 lifetimes ago. I can't remember very much about it all except, as you say, that the prose was a bit much (I can do purple, I can do thickety but I don't know, it was a slog).

I find it increasingly difficult to read at home and always feel I should be doing something else. So, I only read in bed, usually non-fiction, particularly in term time.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Friday, 16 October 2020 15:21 (one week ago) link

She reminds me of the worst of Broch.

Patriotic Goiter (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 16 October 2020 15:22 (one week ago) link

I think it's deliberately mannered? Not that that makes it any easier.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Friday, 16 October 2020 15:24 (one week ago) link

I read anecdotes of destiny, the one with “babette’s feast”, within the last few years & really enjoyed the style tho not many details have stuck

Gab B. Nebsit (wins), Friday, 16 October 2020 15:35 (one week ago) link

My reading habits aren't very fixed, but during quarantine I've often been reading philosophy during working hours on days when I have no work to do (philosophy feels like labour and so I feel less like I'm idling). Fantasy or sci-fi in the evening.

jmm, Friday, 16 October 2020 16:02 (one week ago) link

xps I wouldn’t like to be at all programmatic with my reading and I don’t have to so i don’t, I just read according to my whims and habits

I read on the bus to work, in the café at the weekend and increasingly during the evenings at home with music on since I never seem to feel like watching anything these days. Also I’d stopped reading in the break room at work cause I didn’t want to seem antisocial but am more willing to do it now that social distancing is mandatory, it feels like less of a faux pas when you have to sit at the other end of a long table.

I’m a terrible one for having a load of books on the go - usually for the sake of convenience, like I’ll start reading something on my tablet cause I forgot to put the book I’ve been reading in my bag, plus I’ll have a hardback book I only read in the evenings cause it’s literally impossible to carry around, and then I might also have an audiobook on the go, and a library hold becomes available so I start that... I have started reading a new book because the one I’m on is in a different part of the room and I can’t be arsed to go get it so pick up a closer one

Sorta relatedly, I just bought a fairly basic book stand thing in the hope of easing my neck problems and it is SO GOOD I’m honestly kind of annoyed I’ve gone 35 years without getting one of these, so I’m going to be reading a whole load of big hardbacks now just for the sheer novelty of it not feeling like torture lol. Currently making my way through Cynthia Ozick letters of intent, a 600pp career-spanning (and disappointingly typo-riddled) collection of her essays.

Gab B. Nebsit (wins), Friday, 16 October 2020 16:32 (one week ago) link

hard yes on Seven Gothic Tales, I reread it recently and it holds up beautifully

it helps to keep in mind that Blixen is a Dane writing English (very well indeed, but not exactly as a native speaker would) and also that almost all the stories are set in the early 19th century; both their style and subjects are of that period, but her irony lifts them above pastiche

Brad C., Friday, 16 October 2020 16:48 (one week ago) link

Pretty good for a Baroness Karen

dow, Friday, 16 October 2020 19:50 (one week ago) link

Map, you might enjoy Karen Russell and Kelly Link's 21st Century speculative fiction, for lack of a better term, their short stories are imaginative and a lot of fun. Also, Russell is an empath; Link is punk. Maybe start w KR's Vampires in the Lemon Grove, KL's Get In Trouble Karen Joy Fowler started with science fiction per se, with stories in Asimov's, novels harder to classify. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves has grown offspring dealing with wtf & aftermath of Primatologist Dad's bringing a new little sister home from the lab---there have been nonfictional accounts of this kind of experiment accumulating over the years, as one of the main characters discovers.

― dow, Friday, October 16, 2020 3:39 AM (seventeen hours ago) bookmarkflaglink

thanks for these, will investigate

Give me a Chad Smith-type feel (map), Friday, 16 October 2020 19:55 (one week ago) link

Bunnicula is great and also makes an easy Halloween costume; bunny ears, fangs and some white vegetables and you're good to go.

Lily Dale, Friday, 16 October 2020 21:40 (one week ago) link

Deflatormouse, have you read The Mouse and His Child?

Lily Dale, Friday, 16 October 2020 21:43 (one week ago) link

From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E Franweiler is my 2nd fave so far.

this book is wonderful. even being forced to read it in fifth grade and take a quiz after literally every chapter couldn't ruin it for me.

love the mouse and his child (and the frances books) but haven't yet gotten around to any of hoban's later books.

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Friday, 16 October 2020 23:11 (one week ago) link

My brother and I got obsessed w/Hoban's books and read our way through most of them a few years ago. They're a mixed bag, but I think Riddley Walker and Turtle Diary are great. I also liked Pilgerman, The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz, The Medusa Frequency, and Kleinzeit, but how much you like those depends on how much tolerance you have for Hoban's particular brand of obsessive weirdness. (He's a bit like Philip K. Dick in that he has a few preoccupations that he returns to again and again, but instead of everything being about God, drugs and pottery, there's a recurring thing about the head of Orpheus, and another one about a Kraken, and a few others that are equally strange.)

Lily Dale, Saturday, 17 October 2020 00:02 (six days ago) link

Bunnicula is great and also makes an easy Halloween costume; bunny ears, fangs and some white vegetables and you're good to go.

― Lily Dale, Friday, October 16, 2020 5:40 PM (three hours ago) bookmarkflaglink

omg LOVE IT!!! <3

I found a play version of this which calls for Harold and Chester to be played by actors in plain clothes, with only the occasional reminders in the dialog that they're animals which I think is so great, really spot on- they are effectively human characters. And Bunnicula is a stuffed toy.

I haven't read much of Hoban's kid lit. Riddley Walker was given to me by this girl in high school who I had a little platonic crush on. I'd mentioned to her that I was looking for stuff with unusual language, so she loaned me her favorite book. But I really struggled to make headway, I was embarrassed for her to know how long it was taking me so I returned it to her, fibbed about my progress and got my own copy. She was a couple of years older, kind of aloof and wrote such brilliant stuff. I was a little intimidated. So she says, "wow you finished it already?? it took me six months!!"

Around that same time I was over at a friend's house and happened to notice Hoban's name on a couple of his old kids' books, I think I found them kinda disappointing. Am I missing out?

Mixed up Files is wonderful, yeah. The children are a bit like Bunnicula's animals in that they don't seem to realize they're children. They have very adult personalities.

Deflatormouse, Saturday, 17 October 2020 02:47 (six days ago) link

Also, Russell is an empath

What does this mean (this is not a trolling question, it's just I have only ever heard that term used, in SF books, as being likje a telepath but with emotions)?

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Saturday, 17 October 2020 06:20 (six days ago) link

I finished Pale Horse, Pale Rider last night. All three of the stories were fine pieces of work, but the final one from which the book takes its title was pretty goddamned amazing!

James, as my wife uses the term empath, it seems to apply to people whose empathy for the feelings of others rises to a level where it consistently interferes with their ability to stay grounded in their own feelings and not become overloaded with trying to soothe everyone else's fears, anxieties, griefs or worries. They have a hard time understanding and maintaining personal boundaries.

the unappreciated charisma of cows (Aimless), Saturday, 17 October 2020 16:06 (six days ago) link

G.K. Chesterton - The Best of Father Brown
Adelbert Von Chamisso - Peter Schlemihl

Following on from Borges earlier in the month I went onto read these sets of fantastical-type tales. Think I'll get another selection of Father Borwn, lots I quite liked even if I couldn't keep the stories going in my head. Detective Fiction is just a very different mode for me.

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 17 October 2020 21:46 (six days ago) link

I finished Pale Horse, Pale Rider last night. All three of the stories were fine pieces of work, but the final one from which the book takes its title was pretty goddamned amazing!

James, as my wife uses the term empath, it seems to apply to people whose empathy for the feelings of others rises to a level where it consistently interferes with their ability to stay grounded in their own feelings and not become overloaded with trying to soothe everyone else's fears, anxieties, griefs or worries. They have a hard time understanding and maintaining personal boundaries.

― the unappreciated charisma of cows (Aimless),

She's fantastic, Porter is. I reread the title story at the start of the pandemic. Her Collected Stories is one of my touchstones.t

Patriotic Goiter (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 17 October 2020 21:48 (six days ago) link

Ah, thanks, aimless, that makes sense.

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Sunday, 18 October 2020 00:02 (five days ago) link

Began The Jakarta Method by Vincent Bevins last night. Back on my non-fiction as a result-- engaging writing about a geopolitical moment of which I only know the basics.

healthy cocaine off perfect butts (the table is the table), Monday, 19 October 2020 14:13 (four days ago) link

I finished TE's essay on Cork and went on to his essay 'Home & Away'.

The level of obscure reading and learning in these two essays is staggering.

the pinefox, Monday, 19 October 2020 15:47 (four days ago) link

I meant it pretty close to the SF sense that James first mentioned: her narration tends to omniscience, but in a goood way--come along if you can, and you probably can (emotions don't interfere with narrative drive through layers of clarity, not in any stories I've read)(haven't checked the novel).

dow, Monday, 19 October 2020 15:59 (four days ago) link

And speaking of clarity, Aimless, I meant "punk" in the attitudinal sense associated with a tag first applied, often as a compliment, by rock music writers to certain acts, especially bands, or groups, in the 1970s. Not in the older sense(s), such as most if not all definitions of "gunsel."

dow, Monday, 19 October 2020 16:23 (four days ago) link

Sorry, too much coffee this morning, too much time with words this weekend (lost in productivity, now there's a word).

dow, Monday, 19 October 2020 16:29 (four days ago) link

As of last night I am officially reading one of Dawn Powell's earliest novels, Dance Night, published in 1930. It has introduced so many different characters in the first few dozen pages that it seems destined to be a 'portrait of a small town' novel, rather than tracking a couple of main characters through their personal trials.

Nothing wrong with that, as long as I can actively keep all the names attached to the correct storylines in my memory. If I let several nights elapse between readings that can become unduly burdensome.

the unappreciated charisma of cows (Aimless), Monday, 19 October 2020 18:27 (four days ago) link

Phil Dellio, You Should've Heard Just What I Seen
L.C. Rosen, Camp
Sasha Geffen, Glitter Up the Dark: How Pop Music Broke the Binary

Langdon Alger Stole the Highlights (cryptosicko), Wednesday, 21 October 2020 16:40 (two days ago) link

i started the alex ross wagner book yesterday, had a discussion about it with my boyfriend last night that has sapped my enthusiasm about the subject and now i don't feel like going back to it. part of the issue is that while ross picks out details that feel immediate / relevant to now, i find the survey approach to be a little bland and the bits of his own thesis that have emerged so far are too general to be of interest to me. plus wagner himself does seem like a particularly vile and unlikable person with a bloated ego. on the other hand that can make for juicy reading...

i remembered a book that my ex had, the front runner, a big hit in the 70s about a track coach (ex marine naturally) and his love affair with one of his student athletes. not on kindle, unfortunately. said ex had this carefully curated collection of "power gay" books that he never read. i wouldn't mind breezing through something pulpy in that vein.

Give me a Chad Smith-type feel (map), Wednesday, 21 October 2020 18:29 (two days ago) link

Is Alex Ross Wagner different from Alex Ross? Or a half brother fathered by RJ Wagner when he wasn't with Natalie Wood.

Here Comes a Slightly Irregular (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 21 October 2020 18:33 (two days ago) link

both are true, if you would like them to be. namaeste

Give me a Chad Smith-type feel (map), Wednesday, 21 October 2020 18:35 (two days ago) link

Ann Quin - The Unmapped Country (Stories & Fragments)

Ripped through this in a day. A collection of never finished (she died by drowning), or stories that were in archives (sometimes personal ones, so its a great piece of labour by editor Jennfer Hodgson to track this stuff down). The title piece was shaping up to be an excellent novel set in a mental institution, with some juicy sketches with the therapist, fellow inmates and the like. Motherlogue is just as the title implies, and the other great piece is Nude and Seascape, which is a little bit like Mishima's Patriotism. This violent act which is carried out, a simple description of its physicality and sorta left there for you to go over. Its probably worth it for that piece alone.

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 21 October 2020 22:01 (two days ago) link

Because I'm overdue for a Trollope novel, I started Barchester Towers yesterday. I usually read one of his every 15 months.

Patriotic Goiter (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 21 October 2020 22:04 (two days ago) link

Absolutely loving "Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor" - it's exactly what I was looking for, which is a continuation of Love Goes to Buildings On Fire with a focus on rap, graffiti, art, etc.

He was very mean to Mr. Chamillionaire (PBKR), Wednesday, 21 October 2020 23:01 (two days ago) link

xp I love Trollope, as you can probably tell from my username. Barchester Towers is probably the Barsetshire book I've spent the least amount of time with, but I love that whole series so much.

Lily Dale, Wednesday, 21 October 2020 23:22 (two days ago) link

The Palliser series, which I finished over a couple years, brought great pleasure during Obama's presidency.

Patriotic Goiter (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 21 October 2020 23:29 (two days ago) link

PBKR, if you didn't see my exclamations about that book and related on prev. WAYR?, there's a listening companion of the same title, released last year, put together by TL, who also therein comments on the tracks re New York Dance Floor historical context. Good related reading and listening can be found in the slipcase of The World of Keith Haring, also 2019, and released by Soul Jazz Records in time for a UK Haring exhibit.

dow, Thursday, 22 October 2020 19:57 (yesterday) link

You can also listen to (and order) the author's whole comp here, but his booklet isn't posted, oh well: https://reappearingrecords.bandcamp.com/album/life-death-on-a-new-york-dance-floor-1980-1983

dow, Thursday, 22 October 2020 20:07 (yesterday) link

Yes, thank you, I did on the Keith Haring thread where, I think, you and table is the table mentioned this book which is why I bought it. I've been listening to a playlist that has many of those tracks and more.

He was very mean to Mr. Chamillionaire (PBKR), Thursday, 22 October 2020 21:47 (yesterday) link

I read that book right after the Ghost Ship fire where I lost a bunch of people. It was a harrowing yet beautiful read for me, felt like therapy.

healthy cocaine off perfect butts (the table is the table), Thursday, 22 October 2020 22:13 (yesterday) link

I know it delves into the early aids epidemic so I imagine things will get tough.

He was very mean to Mr. Chamillionaire (PBKR), Thursday, 22 October 2020 23:03 (yesterday) link

Have temporarily shelved Children of Men because I’m not reading that much atm and when I’m reading, it’s mostly the Invisibles ( see the comics board). It being October, I dipped into The Stepford Wives again and it’s so great, still! Moves along without a pause for breath or an inch of waste. I think I prefer the film’s ending for sheer creepy, but that’s my only criticism.

scampus milne (gyac), Thursday, 22 October 2020 23:15 (yesterday) link


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