Are You There, God? What Are You Reading In The Summer Of 2021?

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I'm continuing in the LoA Melville omnibus. I barely squeezed my way through some of the more elaborately upholstered Uncollected Prose, but mainly the nonfiction; several of the uncollected tales spin their way through light and dark---upholstery in the windspout too, sure---"COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO!" is the non pareil rallying cry that at any hour may waken the debtor-defying narrator to new possibilities in the seasons of fuck you---also, he finally discovers who owns the miraculous cock and won't sell it to him: they're poor and sick, but they cheer that sound as much as our high roller does.
The narrator of "I And My Chimney" comes to resemble his lofty, massive, disruptive, increasingly old-ass chimney, as Melville sometimes waxex Borgesian, though not enough that Borgesian has to wax Melville for a while. The main thing is the power struggle between this legally secure paterfamilas and his wife and daughters (his wife is too for the new, so spirited that she flies around and around 'til she might as well be in the chimney. The self-satisfaction of the Unreliable Narrator is so vivid that it disrupts the story's architecture, as the chimney does the rest of the house and family: it's all well and fine for us to sympathize with these downtrodden female characters--the downtrodden are ever with us in this omnibus, and usually the author is with and for them, no question, as in the Industrial Revolution post-fairy tale "The Taratarus of Maids," the like increasingly incisive, now anguished-to-angry momentum of "Poor Nan's Pudding and Rich Man's Crumbs" and "Jimmy Rose," burning their sentimentality---but here---well, it's show not tell.
Which may have made for a hit, because "The Apple Tree Table" is something of a sequel, but the daddy-narrator and his equally flappable spouse---they're determined to be responsible representatives of Reality for their daughters, and the help, but they're getting out of (and back into, back out of) their depth here. It all works out, in a new way for all concerned--"Original Spiritual Manifestations" (that's the subtitle) indeed. Cute trick, and any inspirational value is just part of that, but not nothing, since it brings them closer, awww.

dow, Thursday, 24 June 2021 03:06 (one month ago) link

Tomasz Jedrowski, Swimming in the Dark
Stephen King, Later

edited for dog profanity (cryptosicko), Thursday, 24 June 2021 03:09 (one month ago) link

xpost the like*wise* increasingly incisive.

dow, Thursday, 24 June 2021 03:10 (one month ago) link

This edition of "Billy Budd"---"unfinished" at the author's death, so conjectural as published, but now with a few cobwebs swept away, seems even more relentless, even more irreducible than ever---torturous passages are brief, and seem necessary to/part of the historically plausible, dutiful and passionate narrator's voice and life, as he spends them in getting this account down.

dow, Thursday, 24 June 2021 03:20 (one month ago) link

"unfinished" in quotes, because--what more could he possibly have said, that would have improved the story...?

dow, Thursday, 24 June 2021 03:23 (one month ago) link

A courtesy link to the previous 'spring of 2021' thread:

Spring 2021: Forging ahead to Bloomsday as we read these books

What's It All About, Althea? (Aimless), Thursday, 24 June 2021 03:37 (one month ago) link

Living a Feminist Life Sara Ahmed.
Picked this up in a charity shop a while back and it's sat in a bookpile way too long. Thought I'd get to it now I'm reading various antiracism/decolonising things. Did hear somebody say it was good on a podcast or webinar last year.

White Fragility Robin DiAngelo
Thought this quite good . Recognised behaviours she talked about to be things I'd encountered.
Do hope that this and others somewhat like it being major sellers does mean that attitudes change and hope it's permanently. Did see there was at least one backlash book calling this fiction. But would be good if this was a turning point of sorts. Probably extremely optimistic.

Rose Simpson Muse, Odalisque,Handmaiden
Memoir of one time ISBer.
Very readable.

An Indigenous People's History of the United States Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz
Scathing overview of 200 years of oppression of various forms against the Native people of the area. Hoping there may be some progress made there too attempts to fulfil the white side of various treaties that only seemed to be one sided or utterly disposable. That is to say restore things to the Native population that were supposed to be protected in them. The introduction of Debbie Harland in her cabinet role is a start as is the cancellation of various deleterious projects that the previous incumbency supported.

Stevolende, Thursday, 24 June 2021 06:58 (one month ago) link

I've evidently paused on the novel TUESDAY NIGHTS IN 1980 because I've started on David Thomson, TRY TO TELL THE STORY (2009), a book received for my birthday.

It's vivid, conversational, sly, intimate - just what you would hope from DT, really.

the pinefox, Thursday, 24 June 2021 07:55 (one month ago) link

I finished World of Wonders last night. I'm not sure what I thought of it. On the plus side, it is well-written, intelligent, and entertaining, so I have no problem saying it is an enjoyable book on the whole. Where my appraisal wobbles away from spirited endorsement, it it due to factors that most readers wouldn't give much weight to.

As the third book in a trilogy with continuing characters and plot elements, Davies felt obliged to wrap up some dangling ends having to do with a character who otherwise gets minimal space in this novel, but suddenly becomes the sole focal point in the final 30 pages. This is a bit jarring if, like me, you last read the other two books decades ago and have no recollection of them. I think that jarring effect would apply to anyone who approached this a a standalone novel.

The other unease I felt upon finishing it was more philosophical and is vaguely similar to the unease I felt at the end of Hitchcock's Psycho, where a pompous psychologist suddenly appears in the final minutes to clinically explain Norman Bates's mother fixation and, to put it simply, it is a bunch of bollocks. In this book Davies uses a similar ploy to tidily explain the circumstances around the death of that suddenly-central character from the past novels. We are expected to accept it as the solution to the mystery we didn't know we were supposed to be interested in until a few pages ago, and what's worse, it rings false.

What's It All About, Althea? (Aimless), Thursday, 24 June 2021 18:02 (one month ago) link

I finished "To The Lighthouse". I guess I would agree with the judgment of Pinefox and Leonard Woolf (when he first read the manuscript) that it's a masterpiece. I would add that it's a well-deserved modernist landmark. I certainly wouldn't want every writer to try to write this way, and I'm not even sure I'd like to read much more of Woolf in this mode, at least not right after finishing this one, but as an example of a radical reconception of what a novel can be that succeeds both on its own terms and as a challenge to more conventional forms of fiction, it's hard to deny. The temptation is just to see it as a triumph of art qua art. Perhaps the reputation makes it hard to discern clearly what are in some ways an odd combination of elements: forward-looking feminism alongside somewhat recalcitrant and unquestioned classism, raw nostalgia and sentiment against steely denial of same, highly introspective and subjective stream-of-consciousness perspective against an almost panpsychic vibe at times.

o. nate, Thursday, 24 June 2021 20:21 (one month ago) link

Indigenous Peoples' History should be required reading for every person in the US, afaic, glad you've found it compelling Steveolende.

I've been on my continued Prynne kick, and also reading a chapter of Anna Tsing's "The Mushroom at the End of the World" every morning with coffee and breakfast. Great book.

heyy nineteen, that's john belushi (the table is the table), Thursday, 24 June 2021 21:22 (one month ago) link

Perhaps the reputation makes it hard to discern clearly what are in some ways an odd combination of elements: forward-looking feminism alongside somewhat recalcitrant and unquestioned classism, raw nostalgia and sentiment against steely denial of same, highly introspective and subjective stream-of-consciousness perspective against an almost panpsychic vibe at times. I think that's what makes it such a compelling read! The tension in the coherence of her voice here, as in Melville's best, and even lesser work. Not that his POV is the same (he's very aware of classism, for instance, however he or his characters are feeling about in a given scene), but there's a similar struggle, and his can certainly seem just as high-strung as hers. Have you read Mrs Dalloway?

(yall I put in a request for thread title change this morning, sorry it's such an eyesore)

dow, Thursday, 24 June 2021 22:00 (one month ago) link

his *voice* can certainly seem as high-strung as hers

dow, Thursday, 24 June 2021 22:01 (one month ago) link

Excellent commentary by o.nate.

the pinefox, Friday, 25 June 2021 11:06 (one month ago) link

Gonna finally start Alan Moore's Jerusalem.

Daniel_Rf, Friday, 25 June 2021 15:45 (one month ago) link

Thanks, pinefox and dow. No, I haven't read Mrs. Dalloway (yet).

o. nate, Friday, 25 June 2021 20:42 (one month ago) link

Table I need to read the black & LatinX volume in the same series written by Roxanne's husband Paul. I did see him do a talk on it a couple of months back.

Stevolende, Saturday, 26 June 2021 00:14 (one month ago) link

Those various People's Histories of the US are part of a Penguin series called Revisioning. There's also a queer and a disabled volume as well as a black women's.
Sound like things it would be good to have read widespread.
Also sounds like a concept that should have volumes on other territories. So wonder if anything else is in the works.
I thought Penguin was a British publishing house anyway, not sure if that matters currently. But might think that they might commission something similar on the UK. Unless they already have something they see as being that.
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz helped research the Howard Zinn book A People's History of the United States whenever that was so I'm not sure if that is why this series have the title framework they do. Her book is later in the series as they were released or I would just assume that to be likely. Apparently when the Zinn book was finished she noticed a glaring omission in there being a lack of comment on indigenous people. She pointed that out to Zinn who said he wouldn't know where to start but maybe she could write one and she came out with this decades later.
She also appears in Exterminate All the Brutes which I think she also helped research.
I'm picking up whatever histories I can that are more sympathetic to indigenous people in America and not valorised in the unfortunately traditional way. Indian fighting was presented as a noble cause for way too long. I just got Mari Sandoz book Cheyenne Autumn from the library. Supposed to be a lot more pro Indian than I feared. It pops up in the Dunbar-Ortiz at one point which is why I looked into it.

Stevolende, Sunday, 27 June 2021 07:04 (one month ago) link

I thought Penguin was a British publishing house

I think when they merged with Random House, they became the biggest US publisher, too.

What's It All About, Althea? (Aimless), Sunday, 27 June 2021 15:53 (one month ago) link

Back to TUESDAY NIGHTS IN 1980: it still contains no noticeably good writing but a notable amount of bad writing, characterisation, scene-setting.

The question that starts to arise is why it was published. Commercial potential? A persuasive literary agent?

the pinefox, Monday, 28 June 2021 07:28 (one month ago) link

Enjoying the Alan Moore, which better be the case as it's over a thousand pages and the type is tiny.

This statement will be loaded with all sorts of literary prejudice, but after reading a generic efficient dystopian sci-fi thing it feels so good to dig into something with actual ambition, that tries to do things with language and demands the reader's attention. Lots of stuff about the decline of working class culture and, this being Moore, metaphysical shenanigans. Difficult to keep up with some of the descriptions of Northampton architecture tho, having never been.

Daniel_Rf, Monday, 28 June 2021 09:41 (one month ago) link

Pinefox, ngl: Prentiss has money and connections.

heyy nineteen, that's john belushi (the table is the table), Monday, 28 June 2021 10:57 (one month ago) link

I know Northampton quite well, but I can't say that its architecture, as such, made the greatest impression on me.

Hence a bit surprised to hear that AM would focus on it. But maybe he can make it interesting.

the pinefox, Monday, 28 June 2021 10:57 (one month ago) link

Table: that's very interesting and telling indeed, and squares with the assumptions I am starting to have to make about this novel.

the pinefox, Monday, 28 June 2021 10:58 (one month ago) link

My House of Memories Merle Haggard
memoir of the Outlaw country artist. So far he's not left his teens and he's already been in serious trouble with the law several times.
He's talked about trying to escape from minimal security detention homes and higher security more adult lock ups.
He's also been practising his Lefty Frizell influenced singing and playing.
THis seems to be a bit achronological since he talks about more contemporary times to his writing. I just read him talking about how he structures his band.
Quite enjoyable but I think he's not exactly the most progressive. Not the diametric opposite either it would appear but he aint exactly woke.
Have had this out of the library way too long. So trying to get it finished and back despite this having an extended lending time which they appear to have finally moved away from on the book i took out last week.

Cheyenne Autumn Mari Sandoz
Nebraska woman of Swiss extract describing the attempt by several Cheyenne INdians to return to traditional lands from the paltry reservation they had been dumped on. The book is apparently much more sympathetic to the Indians than the Ford film might suggest.
So far I've read the introduction where Sandoz talks about growing up with various indians passing through the house at different times.
This book is back to a 3 week lend after the book son my account have just been being extended continually automaticallly. Maybe a good sign for lockdowns etc, hope that doesn't change back again without reason.

The New Jim Crow Alexander
The story of how US prisons became an employment factory. So far the author has been looking at the history of the US including post Civil War days with the Reconstruction and then the birth of the first Jim Crow.
I'm noticing the font used in this version seems to be different to what I'm used to so wondering what the array of different fonts used for main text in a popular paperback is. Just finding that I'm not sure hwo much I like the way this looks on the page and it may be my eyes but not great anyway. Cos this is something I'm really dying to read.

LIving A Feminist Life Sara Ahmed
Book by black American lesbian feminist talking about how she got to her perspective on things. Pretty majorly interesting.
I should have got to this sooner rather than having it sitting around on a shelf

Stevolende, Monday, 28 June 2021 11:15 (one month ago) link

After casting about for something a bit offbeat, I've been reading Heaven's Breath: A Natural History of the Wind, Lyall Watson. It's an NYRB reprint, which is usually a reliable indicator of an interesting book, but I'm not particularly impressed so far. Still, it's different from Yet Another Novel, so that's why I persist.

What's It All About, Althea? (Aimless), Monday, 28 June 2021 15:54 (one month ago) link

After reading the rest of the Melville LoA omnibus, I went back to the (1770e-1820s) historical novel, Israel Potter, based on an obscure memoir, self-published by its ghostwriter, with "improvisations," as this volume's editorial essay puts it, spinning out of Melville's own observations in travel, also the papers of, for instance, John Paul Jones and Ethan Allen,both of whom take very memorable method-in-their-madness turns in American Revolutionary Wartime Europe (Allen as loudmouthed, charismatic prisoner of war). Ben Franklin's in Paree, the same BF who made D.H. Lawrence nauseous when he read Poor Richard's Almanac(you deserve it, DH).

Potter the tenacious underdog is very much the central of attention, and Melvile takes him through every time scale, up to 40 years in one chapter, perfectly timed adventures, intrigues, sojourns, with just the right, concise descriptions,comments, questions (wonders, after a *perhaps* particularly bloody battle, if civilization isn't just a higher form of barbarism). Some poetic moments, poignant ones too, plenty momentum. Can see I'm going to have to read his first, South Sea novels---and is Patrick O'Brian good? Melville's changing my mind about historicals, which I don't think I've ever read before.

dow, Monday, 28 June 2021 16:17 (one month ago) link

(Oh I did read Vidal's Julian and a Hugo set when I was maybe 14, don't remember a word. Do remember being disappointed by original I, Claudius after the TV series. But enjoyed "Lord John and The Plague of Zombies," a spin-off of Diana Gabaldon's Highlander series. LJ is a fixer, discreetly summoned by another member of the Gay Old Boy Network, and seeking the assistance of a community of maroons, escaped slaves, in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica.)

dow, Monday, 28 June 2021 16:35 (one month ago) link

is Patrick O'Brian good?

It depends on what you enjoy. There's a ton of accurate historical detail woven into his books, along with some mild humor and some very taut adventure. The characters are pleasantly drawn, but they are all of them men & boys (or very nearly so) as befits his subject matter. O'Brian's knack for describing ordinary humans and how they behave is well above average, so his characters feel real enough, but he's no Melville and doesn't tempt one to make the comparison.

What's It All About, Althea? (Aimless), Monday, 28 June 2021 16:38 (one month ago) link

Sounds good, thanks.

dow, Monday, 28 June 2021 17:08 (one month ago) link

Only read half a dozen of the Aubrey maturin books but they were pretty much perfect afaict and I mean to return to them when we get childcare back (lol pandemic) and I can read the print versions (the audiobooks are dreadful. Same goes for Wodehouse btw.)

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Monday, 28 June 2021 22:22 (one month ago) link

Really? Thought I found a good Wodehouse audiobook once.

Rich Valley Girl, Poor Valley Girl (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 28 June 2021 23:27 (one month ago) link

I think I struggle with comedy in audiobooks rather than it was an especially bad performance of the text

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Monday, 28 June 2021 23:33 (one month ago) link

The more a book relies on style the less an audiobook will do the job imo, especially if you've read the author before and thus have a voice in yr head already.

Daniel_Rf, Tuesday, 29 June 2021 09:50 (one month ago) link

I've never listened to an audiobook

heyy nineteen, that's john belushi (the table is the table), Tuesday, 29 June 2021 18:56 (one month ago) link

I finished Anna Tsing's 'The Mushroom at the End of the World' this morning. Still plowing through the Prynne chapbooks from the past year, though am unsure as to what will be my next morning read... Tsing's book was perfect because I could read a chapter with breakfast and coffee, and it sort of carried me through my day nicely.

heyy nineteen, that's john belushi (the table is the table), Tuesday, 29 June 2021 18:58 (one month ago) link

I've never listened to an audiobook

They’re not as good as books but they’re better than nothing, and the alternative the last 18 months was nothing.

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Tuesday, 29 June 2021 19:59 (one month ago) link

Audiobooks read by the author can be amazing; Spike Milligan's war memoirs for example.

Lily Dale, Tuesday, 29 June 2021 20:04 (one month ago) link

I'm not making a value judgment, btw. Just stating something about myself...I also read mostly poetry and non-fiction, tho, so there might be a dearth of options for me.

heyy nineteen, that's john belushi (the table is the table), Tuesday, 29 June 2021 21:22 (one month ago) link

I ditched Heaven's Breath, the book about the wind, about 70% of the way through it. It was a mass of poorly integrated facts, many of which were moderately interesting, but none of which were developed into anything longer than a Mark Trail cartoon. The author also had a bad habit of overstatement and drawing unjustifiably broad conclusions from a single suggestive fact.

I finally realized that I wouldn't retain any of what I was reading and trying to retain it all would have required at least five times the time and effort I was willing to expend.

it is to laugh, like so, ha! (Aimless), Thursday, 1 July 2021 02:52 (one month ago) link

I went straight into the ancient potboiler The Thirty-Nine Steps, John Buchan and finished more than half last evening. It has some shameless anti-semitism in the first several pages and calls the fictional leader of Greece a "Dago", but I just winced and went on with the story, which is swift paced and a bit silly.

it is to laugh, like so, ha! (Aimless), Thursday, 1 July 2021 17:34 (one month ago) link

I finished Amis' I Like It Here, another cranky-funny-misanthropic short novel about how awful foreigners are.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 1 July 2021 18:03 (one month ago) link

just started One Thousand Ships, which is about the 5th Iliad-adjacent thing i've read in the last 2 years (without having read the "original")

koogs, Thursday, 1 July 2021 18:17 (one month ago) link

finished north and south (thanks to lily dale for encouragement to persist). at times a little bit centrist in its politics (the unmoored "the right way is half way between the two 'extremes'" variety of centrism) but a good yarn nontheless. "darkshire" was a bit fucking much as a name though tbh!

now finishing up how to do nothing by jenny oddell which is already a little dated in places and the prose is very plodding and academic, but it's got a lot to say and i would recommend it (or at least chapter 1, which is available here

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Thursday, 1 July 2021 18:59 (one month ago) link

the ring and the book, which i have never read.

just read the first three lines and it’s such a delight to be back in the distinctive company of browning.

Do you see this Ring?
‘T is Rome-work, made to match
(By Castellani’s imitative craft)

the opening interrogation, the sense of being accosted by someone in the street, sonic and intellectual spring and delight of “Castellani’s imitative craft”, unfurling a suggestive world of what i will call anachronistically “borgesian magic”, the sense of stumbling upon a hidden alley of history, opening into unexpected piazzas.

Fizzles, Friday, 2 July 2021 13:21 (one month ago) link

and also of course the slightly ludicrous such as the phrase

“sundry amazing busts”

which feels like a good love island line.

Fizzles, Friday, 2 July 2021 13:37 (one month ago) link

I've picked up The Ring and the Book twice in the last three years. I did read the Pope's monologue.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 2 July 2021 13:37 (one month ago) link

and the colour and interlingual sound effects of the last line here - “gl” being one of the loveliest italian sounds, softer than english makes it.

A wreck of tapestry, proudly-purposed web
When reds and blues were indeed red and blue,
Now offered as a mat to save bare feet
(Since carpets constitute a cruel cost)
treading the chill scagliola bedward : then

and the glory of that “then”! and the typical household economy of the moan about cost, reminiscent of up at the villa down at the square, and the resonant simplicity of “when reds and blues were indeed red and blue” - a line that has lasted, for its perfect expression of the vividness of nostalgia.

Fizzles, Friday, 2 July 2021 13:44 (one month ago) link

I've picked up _The Ring and the Book_ twice in the last three years. I did read the Pope's monologue.

i wonder whether i’ll get all the way through. are you a fan of browning, alfred?

Fizzles, Friday, 2 July 2021 13:45 (one month ago) link

I finished Blood Meridian and liked it quite a bit. Better than The Road at least. Both books left me with a queasy feeling.

Carlos Santana & Mahavishnu Rob Thomas (PBKR), Wednesday, 14 July 2021 15:03 (two weeks ago) link

I have Book of the New Sun, which I might start, but I've never read any of the Elric books and thought I might grab a couple of those.

Carlos Santana & Mahavishnu Rob Thomas (PBKR), Wednesday, 14 July 2021 15:36 (two weeks ago) link

I got a library card and started reading The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell, a sweeping magical-realist epic of colonialism & its afterlives on the Zambezi River.

Nature's promise vs. Simple truth (bernard snowy), Thursday, 15 July 2021 11:14 (two weeks ago) link

i recently finished Dawn by Octavia Butler too. I don't know much else about her stuff beyond a graphic novelisaiton of Kindred, but I did really enjoy it. There are some genuinely icky bits to it.

Urbandn hope all ye who enter here (dog latin), Thursday, 15 July 2021 11:22 (two weeks ago) link

xxp In the Gilead novels, black swan to black sheep to prodigal Jack goes from disruptive child-and-teenhood to disrupted adulthood of a kind, coming to take the specter of predestination into/the seed ov his late-blooming sense of self-regulation and self-torture. Kinda sucks for him, better for society, at least most of the time, as he gets older. So. whatever Robinson may say elsewhere, as an artist, she leaves us to our own thoughts re Calvinism, tracking Jack and those he affects.
I went straight from the whole New Sun tetraology to Elric, which seemed pretty dry by comparison, but it was probably too soon. Was very impressed by the former, but forgot virtually all of it long ago. Still want to read The Old Drift.

dow, Thursday, 15 July 2021 16:25 (two weeks ago) link

70 pages to go of TUESDAY NIGHTS IN 1980.

Though it's still not actually well written, I must admit that it has become more interesting as the plot has become more outlandish. A painter cutting off his hand, his gf suddenly having an affair with another major character, an unknown nephew turning up from another continent - the daft story is managing to hold the attention.

the pinefox, Sunday, 18 July 2021 12:05 (two weeks ago) link

I finish it at last. It's been an effort.

There are some good ideas or signs of promise in this novel. The way that the text breaks off into titled sections that describe a scene or character, for instance, shows some inventiveness with form. The theme of synaesthesia remains the most original in it. But the writing at the end is often as poor as ever, and dangerously sentimental.

The Acknowledgements are very effusive, calling one person after another the most amazing and inspiring that the author has known. It's like what an English person's parody of an effusive American used to be like; like an Oscars speech. It makes me think: I wish one or two of these people could have helped to make this novel slightly better.

the pinefox, Sunday, 18 July 2021 19:24 (two weeks ago) link

I went camping last week, taking two books to read.

One of them was a collection of "occasional pieces" by William Golding called The Hot Gates. I read about four of these pieces and gave up on it. It has all the marks of a book that was rushed out to capitalize on his Nobel Prize in 1983 (which was an ill-advised choice by the Nobel committee imo). A dud.

The other book was a sci-fi novel by Ursula K. Le Guin, Rocannon's World. Judged beside her best books, this one is rather pedestrian, with adventures falling thick and fast, but the characters are barely there and the connective tissue that binds it all together is rather weak. It does benefit from her disciplined imagination, which weaves together elements stolen borrowed from other cultures and times and transposes them onto other worlds with an overlay of super-advanced technology.

it is to laugh, like so, ha! (Aimless), Sunday, 18 July 2021 19:43 (two weeks ago) link

I'm now pretty far into reading A Death In The Family, which goes from the "Chambray"-like preface---not turning over in bed, but a nocturnal overview and slow track of Daddies with hoses on the front lawn, Mamas finishing up in the kitchen and sitting down on the front porches, kiddies screaming triumphantly out back and along the side yards, sidewalks, as the time traveler tunes back
waay back in to the locusts ov "Knoxville, Summer 1915" (set to music by Samuel Barber)---and then, somewhat like the later development of Swann's Way, proceeding through plausibly recollected interactions of the autobiographically-based child, Rufus (Agee's middle and family name) with other family members, and then to interpolated thoughts and deeds of the adults, alone and together, building to a long 24 hours, anticipating the possible, not unexpected death of one member, then the much less likely, but eventually confirmed death of another--the living room gradually filling up with news and adults and dynamics as the children sleep upstairs: this chapter isn't all that long, but I had to set the book aside for a couple of days, and catch my breath. The shifts of viewpoint reminded me a little of "As I Lay Dying" and some Delmore Schwartz stories, but I say that to talk myself down a little, find the banister as I go back in.

dow, Sunday, 18 July 2021 21:40 (two weeks ago) link

"Combray," sorry

dow, Sunday, 18 July 2021 21:45 (two weeks ago) link

I am reading The Expendable Man by Dorothy B. Hughes and it's great but it is STRESSING ME OUT; I've realized I'm really bad at reading stressful things these days.

Lily Dale, Sunday, 18 July 2021 21:56 (two weeks ago) link

I return to David Thomson: TRY TO TELL THE STORY. Increasingly I feel it's Thomson ... at his best? Well, maybe not quite his best, but on characteristic form: wry, droll, speculative confiding.

the pinefox, Sunday, 18 July 2021 22:18 (two weeks ago) link

re-reading 'little, big' after nearly 30 years

not a lot actually happens, but it not-happens very pleasantly, perhaps even . . . eligiacally

is the holy roman empire reborn? difficult to say. at least we know that people with one eyebrow have special powers

mookieproof, Monday, 19 July 2021 02:42 (two weeks ago) link

people with one eyebrow have special powers

Ant Davis confirms this

it is to laugh, like so, ha! (Aimless), Monday, 19 July 2021 02:53 (two weeks ago) link

I have The Expendable Man waiting for me at the library - you've not sold it to me, Lily Dale!

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Monday, 19 July 2021 07:20 (two weeks ago) link

I'm midway through Altai by Wu Ming, a sequel of sorts to Q by Luther Blisset. The latter I remember as being a wild mix of historical fiction, political allegory, action and adventure, and conspiracy tinged spy thriller. This has the politics and history but so far none of the fun.

At Easter I had a fall. I don't know whether to laugh or cry (ledge), Monday, 19 July 2021 08:43 (two weeks ago) link

Thanks for persuading me to give the Agee a go, dow. I worried it would have clotted prose.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 19 July 2021 09:30 (two weeks ago) link

200 pages into Jerusalem. Every chapter is from a different perspective, I hope he circles back to known characters at some point - damn thing is a thousand pages, and Girl Woman Other pulled the trick of a character a chapter so well that this suffers a bit in comparison. I'm not signed up to the "only write about the experiences of ppl in yr own socio-cultural category" line of thinking, the act of writing fiction is after all about inhabiting someone else (main reason I never felt capable of it) but I can't deny that the chapters coming from the perspectives of working class white bohemian boomers feel very real and lived in and the chapters from the perspective of, say, a mixed race sex worker or a black man in the 19th century...less so.

Daniel_Rf, Monday, 19 July 2021 09:33 (two weeks ago) link

i read sam riviere - dead souls, and oli hazzard - lorem ipsum

the riviere was great, felt like a big joke, and reminiscent of something i couldn't put my finger on (not really thomas bernhard whom several reviews have mentioned); the hazzard not so much, there were things to like in it, but i think 'never mention brexit in a novel' was correctly on elmore leonard's ten rules for writing

i also picked up blake butler's alice knott again, which i got to about halfway through some months ago, very beautiful book, one of those that you want to read slowly

dogs, Monday, 19 July 2021 15:51 (two weeks ago) link

Hi Alfred, there are a few clots and knots, bum notes, from time to time, but he doesn't try to justify them, as jazz musicians are sometimes encouraged to do (supposedly); he goes on to something else, incl, straight through and past the thing of overloading childhood's POV w an a adult adept's articulation---while tapping into inchoate early impressions and emotions, usually a justifiable effort here---one dream-to-nightmare bit I could live without--but he just keeps going: like I thought the night of adults dealing with the news of death would be followed with telling the children, but instead we go back to his being gaslighted by older boys, who have gotten bored and obscurely guilty, but have come up with "a new formula," to be revealed--meanwhile, Rufus has just met his mountain grandfather's grandmother (? started having 'em young, I reckon---premise is worth going with)

dow, Monday, 19 July 2021 19:17 (two weeks ago) link


So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 19 July 2021 19:21 (two weeks ago) link

Started reading Lovecraft Country and got a few chapters in.

Aklso started into Beloved by Toni Morrison

& the Peter Principle the original book that the phenomenon of people getting promoted to the point if their incompetence got its name from .

Coming to the end of Sara Ahmed's living A Feminist Life

& started Paul Ortiz's African American & LatinX People's HIstory Of the US

& its hot so I'm not reading as much as I was

Stevolende, Monday, 19 July 2021 20:27 (two weeks ago) link

Just finished reading "Remains of the Day" by Ishiguro. It's a very clever book. The way Ishiguro has the narration proceed simultaneously on two levels (the narrator himself who is seemingly oblivious to or at least deeply alienated from his own feelings, and the subtext of what is really going on, which is artfully revealed to the reader) is done so naturally and seamlessly that any attempt to describe it fails to do it justice. The effectiveness of this literary parlor trick depends on the seeming artlessness of the narration. So the style is allowed to be rather starchy, which is fine, but can grow tiresome at novel length. Perhaps it would've been more effective as a novella.

o. nate, Wednesday, 21 July 2021 20:15 (one week ago) link

Git through th e big story in LOecraft Country and now the one about Letitia's house. Interesting to see what they've changed for the tv series. Not sure what the Ruby story is as yet seemed to be more fleshed out in the tv series and I don't remember teh brother Marvin being in the show.
I think they integrated teh big story more into having things happening before and around it didn't they?

Anyway good read and i must get around to reading some of the actual black Lovecraft influenced writing.

Stevolende, Wednesday, 21 July 2021 20:40 (one week ago) link

Want to add a little to what I said a week ago: xxp In the Gilead novels, black swan to black sheep to prodigal Jack goes from disruptive child-and-teenhood to disrupted adulthood of a kind, coming to take the specter of predestination into/the seed ov his late-blooming sense of self-regulation and self-torture. Kinda sucks for him, better for society, at least most of the time, as he gets older. So. whatever Robinson may say elsewhere, as an artist, she leaves us to our own thoughts re Calvinism, tracking Jack and those he affects.I Calvinism may be considered to keep a lid on Jack (who is still a walking caution sign to all), but the pressure of said lid keeps the ontology bubbling, sometimes rising---he can't really live in submission or comformity to snything but his own nature, but in response to the world, now that he's tuned into some of it, no longer just kicking it away, having made his selection of stolen settlement; that's no longer good enough.

dow, Thursday, 22 July 2021 16:11 (one week ago) link

O.Nate: I like THE REMAINS OF THE DAY and I don't feel that it's too long. KI's later novel THE UNCONSOLED really is long - about 500pp - and I did feel that about it! But I have read REMAINS several times and I never felt it outstayed its welcome.

the pinefox, Thursday, 22 July 2021 18:53 (one week ago) link

I read THE LOST LETTERS OF FLANN O'BRIEN, a book containing many letters to FO'B from famous people.

Then on to Declan Kiberd's first book SYNGE & THE IRISH LANGUAGE (1979 but second edition 1993). What's certain about this book is that it's the most scholarly, solid research that this celebrated critic has ever done. Nothing else I've seen by him compares.

the pinefox, Thursday, 22 July 2021 18:56 (one week ago) link

It's not that the book is so long, just that the meticulous, occasionally stilted prose style had a tendency to make me groggy. I guess a calming, soporific effect is part of what a butler's speech should strive for, but it became difficult for me to read very much in one sitting. I was thinking perhaps a bit more shorter work would have less of that issue, but it might just be my own idiosyncratic response. Lots of people seem to find the style of the book hypnotic and beautiful in its way.

o. nate, Thursday, 22 July 2021 19:05 (one week ago) link

remains of the day is perfect imo.

i found the unconsoled very heavy going at the time (as documented in this parish), but it's difficult to think of a book i've thought more about in the past year+ since i've read it.

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Thursday, 22 July 2021 19:31 (one week ago) link

At last I've started reading a book I've wanted to read for years: W.J. McCormack's FOOL OF THE FAMILY, a life of John Millington Synge.

I like to read books properly and cover to cover, but I'm afraid that won't be the case here. More strategic reading and dipping. But I enjoy it.

The young Synge in Paris was interested in anarchist groups. I'm interested to find out more about how his socialism developed.

the pinefox, Saturday, 24 July 2021 09:24 (one week ago) link

Otter Country: In Search of the Wild Otter by Miriam Darlington. I guess it's a pretty good but not mind blowing nature book but the romantic naive foolish part of me wanted to give it to those who want to build more coal fired power stations and nuclear weapons and say 'here's what you're missing'. Could've done with slightly better editing, a couple of repeated sentences and a few too many references to steaming cups of tea.

At Easter I had a fall. I don't know whether to laugh or cry (ledge), Monday, 26 July 2021 13:27 (one week ago) link

The only KI I've read is the novellas of Nocturnes, which, despite the classy title, is fairly scruffy, and with a good variety of voices and settings---no Unreliable Narrators that I recall, and I think at least most of the stories are third-person, refreshingly enough (*maybe* one first-person, but he seemed okay: unobtrusive, duh)

dow, Tuesday, 27 July 2021 01:08 (one week ago) link

Oh meant to say the title comes from the stories being about how music finds its way into-through lives and vice versa

dow, Tuesday, 27 July 2021 01:10 (one week ago) link

Or anyway each novella has something to do with music.

dow, Tuesday, 27 July 2021 01:11 (one week ago) link

I read Through A Scanner Darkly, which was oddly beautiful but christ, bleak as all hell. Dick's afterword is pretty shattering.

Now reading more genre fiction: Richard Stark's The Hunter.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Tuesday, 27 July 2021 08:37 (one week ago) link

Finished Lovecraft Country lkast night and enjoyed i. May need to rewatch the tv series again now that I've read teh source. But am aware of teh differences or at least mos o fthem. Would be interested i further adventures in both.

Started Beloved by Toni Morrison this morning and read the first chapter. Quite delicious prose.

finished Sara Ahmed's Living A Feminist life and started reading Paul ortiz's An African American and LatinX People's History of the United States. I hope this is as good as his wife's book from the series. Wound up at a book club discussion of that indigenous olume last Sunday which was interesting.

Stevolende, Tuesday, 27 July 2021 08:56 (one week ago) link

Stepanova, In Memory of Memory, from New Directions. Just absolutely outstanding stuff.

J Edgar Noothgrush (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Tuesday, 27 July 2021 11:14 (one week ago) link

I'm enjoying the biography of Synge more than I've enjoyed a book in a long time.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 28 July 2021 07:26 (six days ago) link

Stopped at my favorite bookstore twice in my recent travels, so will be mostly going through that big pile plus my NYRB flash sale purchases.

I think since I last checked in, I've read the following:
Cody-Rose Clevidence, FRIEND...
Liz Waldner, ETYM(BI)OLOGY

The latter three were all read from that big bookstore pile. The Guest and Albon were interesting and worth reading, the Waldner not her finest effort. The first three are all astonishing in their own ways.

heyy nineteen, that's john belushi (the table is the table), Wednesday, 28 July 2021 23:26 (six days ago) link

I've been reading "Time of Gifts" by Patrick Leigh Fermor, a much after-the-fact account of the ultimate backpacking trip across Europe, in lieu of actually doing any travel this summer. My eyes tend to glaze over at the long passages of what I'll call poetical descriptions of architecture, but I guess that's part of what European travel is about. Some good stories, stylishly told.

o. nate, Thursday, 29 July 2021 18:15 (five days ago) link

A slack time for me. On a recent camping trip I managed several Wodehouse short stories (Jeeves/Wooster) and a Maigret novel by Simenon, Maigret in Montmartre. Both sturdy MOR work by their respective authors.

it is to laugh, like so, ha! (Aimless), Friday, 30 July 2021 20:37 (four days ago) link

Tom Scharpling, It Never Ends
Dawnie Walton, The Final Revival of Opal and Nev

edited for dog profanity (cryptosicko), Friday, 30 July 2021 23:02 (four days ago) link

I've read a few Maigrets and they all seem relatively MOR. Are there standouts, or is the MOR-ness the point?

Chuck_Tatum, Saturday, 31 July 2021 12:58 (three days ago) link

Was wondering about that myself

Two Severins Clash (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 31 July 2021 14:02 (three days ago) link

i feel bad about what i said about b.r. yeager earlier (maybe the last thread?), i picked up 'negative space' again and it's gotten into its stride, still not totally my thing but better than i gave it credit for

i also punished myself by reading a couple of kingsley amis novels, 'girl, 20' and the one about the librarian... horrendous

dogs, Saturday, 31 July 2021 17:47 (three days ago) link

also just read 'the coiled serpent' by camilla grudova, a new one on sam riviere's press, v enigmatic and nasty short story, v good

dogs, Saturday, 31 July 2021 17:48 (three days ago) link

afaics, the Maigret novels all rely on familiar recurring tropes that Simenon developed early on in the series to create a world that was reliably comfortable for his readers. The best Maigret that I've read so far is Maigret in Society where Simenon stepped further away from the familiar and deliberately placed events in a mileau that made his hero uneasy and the motives and actions of the characters were very strange and unsettling for him.

it is to laugh, like so, ha! (Aimless), Saturday, 31 July 2021 19:10 (three days ago) link

David Thomson on RED RIVER in TRY TO TELL THE STORY. 'Take 'em to Missouri, Matt'.

McCormack on the PLAYBOY riots in the Synge biography. Hard, in a way, to believe that people rioted over such a play.

the pinefox, Sunday, 1 August 2021 17:05 (two days ago) link

What definition of MOR are we going with here? Maigret ain't noir or anything, but I find him less mor than, say, Agatha Christie.

Daniel_Rf, Monday, 2 August 2021 12:08 (yesterday) link

Read JL Carr's 'A Month in the Country' and was really impressed, looking forward to getting my hands on some of his other books. Interesting character, too!

heyy nineteen, that's john belushi (the table is the table), Monday, 2 August 2021 14:04 (yesterday) link

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