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 (eleven months ago) link

Tomasz Jedrowski, Swimming in the Dark
Stephen King, Later

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

xpost the like*wise* increasingly incisive.

dow, Thursday, 24 June 2021 03:10 (eleven months 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 (eleven months 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 (eleven months 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 (eleven months 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 (eleven months 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 (eleven months 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 (eleven months 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 (eleven months 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 (eleven months 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 (eleven months ago) link

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

dow, Thursday, 24 June 2021 22:01 (eleven months ago) link

Excellent commentary by o.nate.

the pinefox, Friday, 25 June 2021 11:06 (ten months ago) link

Gonna finally start Alan Moore's Jerusalem.

Daniel_Rf, Friday, 25 June 2021 15:45 (ten months ago) link

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

o. nate, Friday, 25 June 2021 20:42 (ten months 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 (ten months 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 (ten months 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 (ten months 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 (ten months 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 (ten months 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 (ten months 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 (ten months 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 (ten months 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 (ten months 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 (ten months 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 (ten months 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 (ten months 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 (ten months ago) link

Sounds good, thanks.

dow, Monday, 28 June 2021 17:08 (ten months 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 (ten months 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 (ten months 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 (ten months 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 (ten months 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 (ten months 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 (ten months 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 (ten months 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 (ten months 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 (ten months 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 (ten months 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 (ten months 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 (ten months 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 (ten months 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 (ten months 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 (ten months 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 (ten months 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 (ten months 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 (ten months 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 (ten months ago) link

hamnet was fiction

it is to laugh, like so, ha! (Aimless), Friday, 10 September 2021 17:55 (eight months ago) link


𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Friday, 10 September 2021 18:01 (eight months ago) link


siffleur’s mom (wins), Friday, 10 September 2021 18:04 (eight months ago) link


mostly fiction, too

it is to laugh, like so, ha! (Aimless), Friday, 10 September 2021 18:05 (eight months ago) link

^^^^ all of this just made my afternoon lol

I'm a sovereign jazz citizen (the table is the table), Friday, 10 September 2021 18:18 (eight months ago) link

The two McCullers novels I hadn't read 'til a few weeks ago:

Reflections In A Glass Eyewas the follow-up to The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter, and not as well received, at least at the time. Same voice, some of the same themes/undercurrents, but otherwise can see why it was a jolt, as if The Professor's House arrived just after Cather's early crowdpleasers---not a peak like as TPH--there are a few bum notes, and a few declivities---but overall, it's an eerie, elegant, psychological thriller, almost a novella--small cast, short period of time, tucked away on a small-time-seeming US Army base, with not even a flicker of war over the horizon, even though published in 1941: so more striking differences from big, rowdy, somewhat misleadingly-titled, rollin' with the Great Depression rounds of THIALH/
Delving scenes, as always w McCullers, here sometimes seeming so done that they're set pieces, reminding me of Warhol's "My portraits are my still lifes." 'til all the snapshots are cards on the table, uh-oh---making me think of Dream of The Red Chamber.
LoA chronology for The Complete Novels incl. a call from a purported Klan member, maybe because the flamboyant Filipino houseboy is much more responsive and responsible to his (also observant) invalid mistress than her feckless white officer husband, certainly more to the point than any of his vastly amused white officers-and-ladies betters (as a servant, of course, he'd better be).
Race in the reader's face 20 years later, in her last novel, Clock Without Hands, written under great duress, as her health got even worse, but the youthfulness of some characters is very fresh, as convincing as the gradual, relentless decline of their elders.
Sweet clarity, no need for much charity: her steady gaze seems just, and she knows how obliviously people can damage themselves and each other (not that all of her characters are like that in the stories, but maybe they all could be, given enough pages, enough living).

dow, Saturday, 11 September 2021 01:48 (eight months ago) link

Reflections In A Golden Eye, duh, sorry! Although I like "Glass" better, but/and it's maybe a little too wiseass for her, more Algren or Flannery O'Connor.

dow, Saturday, 11 September 2021 01:51 (eight months ago) link

I think I still have CLOCK WITHOUT HANDS on the shelf from 15 years ago - I should get around to that.

LONELY HUNTER, I found a devastating portrait of loss and despair.

the pinefox, Saturday, 11 September 2021 10:08 (eight months ago) link

Yes, but there's also a lot of vitality, incl. the power and pleasure of storytelling, pushing against that, and making its way through the years, at least for a while, and that's life (although I don't think that her characters having sex ever leads in a good direction)(but it's more about the power of their drives, whether they even ever get laid or not)

dow, Saturday, 11 September 2021 20:12 (eight months ago) link

power and where it takes them

dow, Saturday, 11 September 2021 20:12 (eight months ago) link

took a break from Life: A User's Manual to read 'the sluts' by dennis cooper, which i picked up because table is the table told me that a side-plot in 'darryl' by jackie ess (which i read last month and loved) referenced. i read it in one sitting (on a plane-ride) and HOLY SHIT. such an intense experience. it's basically a horny version of seven samurai, written through a sequence of reviews left on a gay escort review website in the early 2000s. the whole structure of it, where all the information is delivered by unreliable narrators--and he plays with the anonymity so that at some points you e.g. suspect that one person is assuming multiple identities--ahhhh it was so genius. it reminded me of that old ilx thread where a bunch of people got catfished. it's NOT for the faint of heart (i consider myself to have a pretty strong stomach and i was squirming hard in some sections) but imho has a great dark comic sensibility. got 'closer' out of the library, i kinda don't think anything can live up to this but man

flopson, Thursday, 16 September 2021 02:35 (eight months ago) link

In a Lonely Place and a volume of John Berryman's criticism; in the latter, he proves himself a more incisive writer of prose than of increasingly nattering poems.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 16 September 2021 02:38 (eight months ago) link

Lonely Place is terrific. Unfortunately I read it assuming the plot would at some point turn into the plot of the movie. Unreliable narrator meet unreliable reader.

Chuck_Tatum, Thursday, 16 September 2021 08:56 (eight months ago) link

I have just over 100pp to read of Foster's 500pp+ WBY volume 1.

I love this book, though reading it is also a great labour. It must be the greatest biography I have ever read.

It is full of marvellous facts and details, like the endnote on p.555:

Bernard Shaw, in his diary, after his first meeting with Yeats in 1888:
'An Irishman called Yeats talked about socialism a great deal'.

the pinefox, Thursday, 16 September 2021 11:10 (eight months ago) link

Finally finished Gerald Burns 'Shorter Poems,' which was wonderful but felt a little like a slog toward the end because his style— long lines and a sort of rambling-yet-crystalline erudition— is so singular that it can be overwhelming. In any case, glad I read it.

In the meantime, I'm in the first few chapters of Colin Woodard's 'The Lobster Coast,' which is about the history of coastal Maine. Very interesting popular history book that makes me want to pack up and move there even more than I already do, tbh.

And speaking of Dennis Cooper, his newest book arrived the other day, and so I began that this morning— already can tell it is one of his most vulnerable and personal books. Will probably run through it as I usually do, his prose is so good.

I'm a sovereign jazz citizen (the table is the table), Thursday, 16 September 2021 16:45 (eight months ago) link

been a while since i've posted. work innit. so a rapid book update:

wrote a long thing all been deleted. no rapid book update.

Fizzles, Thursday, 16 September 2021 19:14 (eight months ago) link

Today I noticed that the last book I finished, "Leave the World Behind", is being made into a Netflix movie starring Julia Roberts. Now I'm reading the Booker-prize winner "The Sellout" by Paul Beatty, which it's probably safe to say is a lot less conducive to the made-for-Netflix movie treatment.

o. nate, Thursday, 16 September 2021 19:28 (eight months ago) link

I finished The Hearing Trumpet. The first two thirds were somewhat witty and amusing, as those qualities were prominent in the narrator's character. This changed gradually. As the story became more and more captured by pagan mythology and symbolism and the events became more cataclysmic the narrator's sense of humor faded away and the book became more serious. Which was a pity, because I couldn't find much value in sorting through the jumble of demons, pagan goddesses, werewolves, apocalyptic end times and whatnot. These held no reality for me and no matter how frantically they piled up it was impossible to care much about them.

I also read The Burning of the World: A Memoir of 1914, Béla Zombory-Moldován. A 29 year old Hungarian artist is called into the army and hastily thrown into the front line in the opening days of WWI, where he is trapped for a full day in the open under a continuous artillery bombardment, wounded, evacuated and tries to recover from massive traumatic shock. It was written much later in his life, but the level of recalled detail shows how deeply it burned into his memory. The story is not very new, but his telling makes it so personal and individual that it becomes new again.

Now I am re-reading Hons and Rebels, Jessica Mitford. It is an astonishing book with an artless veneer. She has an unerring talent for shaping an entertaining anecdote with a barbed point just under the surface and more material to work with than any fifty ordinary humans could generate in a lifetime. It's a hell of a book.

it is to laugh, like so, ha! (Aimless), Friday, 17 September 2021 22:24 (eight months ago) link

I should read Hons and Rebels again. Aimless you and I have been chasing each other in our reading lately - I also just finished The Hearing Trumpet last week and checked out The Burning of the World yesterday but haven’t started it yet. Also I share your admiration for The True Deceiver.

In the meantime I read David Mitchell’s recent Utopia Avenue, I wrote a bit on the Mitchell thread but basically it kinda sucked.

JoeStork, Saturday, 18 September 2021 07:49 (eight months ago) link

Finished the new Dennis Cooper book, "I Wished."

Still reading the book about Maine, usually before sleep, but I think today I'm going to try to tackle some chapbooks I've had piling up.

I'm a sovereign jazz citizen (the table is the table), Saturday, 18 September 2021 13:19 (eight months ago) link

Now in the homestretch of Afterparties, the new debut book by Anthony Veasna So, b. 1992, d. Dec. 2020: 258 pages of short stories, so far hitting me like My Brilliant Friend and few other things I can think of: rowdy and resplendent and tragicomic and endlessly resourceful, with the excitement of language cruising ghosty dusty Cali "Cambo" life and lives: even-especially when you think you know the kind of thing that will happen and not happen around the next corner, here are more drive-by insights---they seem that right, so far from my own experiences and yet not: pain and pleasure and success and failure as art pop narcotic that leaves you with whatever keys you wake up with this time.
May try to say something more analytical later, but so far it's hard to believe he already did all this, and is already gone.

― dow, Friday, August 27, 2021 3:22 PM (three weeks ago) bookmarkflaglink

I picked this up this week and read the first two stories, “three women of chuck’s donuts” and “superking son scores again”, both of which had previously been published but I hadn’t read before. his work is receiving a lot of positive press and I intuited from a few reviewers a sort of debt to diaz, which I think he tries pretty admirably to justify, though neither story so far has resonated with me like some of the best stuff in drown, an admittedly high standard for this reader. looking forward to diving in further this weekend and curious to read the experiences of others

mens rea activist (k3vin k.), Saturday, 18 September 2021 13:53 (eight months ago) link

We'll need an new thread in a few days. Equinox is a-coming.

it is to laugh, like so, ha! (Aimless), Saturday, 18 September 2021 16:51 (eight months ago) link

"Superking..." seemed a little amiable or something compared to "Three Women..." and then everything in there---yet it's the one that received the Joyce Carol Oates Award, h'mmm. Will have to check Drown again (which I enjoyed, though it was upstaged in my memory, in a bad way by the novel and some subsequent stories/excerpts from the apparently abandoned second novel), but So's chronicles seemed convincingly drawn from experience, incl. close and unavoidable observation, also extrapolation---at one point, he even writes from the viewpoint of a straight boy with a girlfriend, although--well, you'll see).

dow, Saturday, 18 September 2021 17:51 (eight months ago) link

Reporting back from holiday reading:

Infinitely Full Of Hope, Tom Whyman - Left twitter dude and philosopher (great case of nominative determinism) writes a memoir about becoming a father that is also a philosophical treatise on how hope can be possible in our current historic moment. Lad has a lot more time for Adorno than I do.

Cherokee, Jean Echenoz - I seem to end up reading a lot of French crime fiction, partially because I'm drawn to it and partially because, I think, French acquaintances figure it's easier for me to digest as a non-native speaker. But it's really not! Crime fiction relies on keeping constant attention to details, I think I could actually get a smoother ride from literary fiction even if I needed to look up words more often. Which is all to say that I'm not entirely sure I got the resolution of this comic thriller, though it was certainly an enjoyable ride, grimy and full of strange digressions.

Variations, Juliet Jacques - Another Left Twitter star with a series of short stories painting a portrait of the history of transness in the UK. This allows her to sidestep issues of trans as a historical category, taking in characters who wouldn't have identified as such. The stories are all framed as historical documents, too - letters, oral histories, newspaper clippings, etc. which is the kind of formal trickery I love. Really enjoyed this a lot.

Daniel_Rf, Monday, 20 September 2021 10:18 (eight months ago) link

btw I’m now about halfway through afterparties and am now completely bought in, great stuff

mens rea activist (k3vin k.), Monday, 20 September 2021 10:28 (eight months ago) link

the patricia lockwood novel is bad, just a pile of tweets sloshed with autofictional pathos sauce, no thanks

adam, Monday, 20 September 2021 15:04 (eight months ago) link

Finished the new Dennis Cooper (devastating), had a busy weekend so not as much reading as I would have liked but spent some time with my book about the Maine coast and also nearly finished a do-si-do chapbook by my friends Daniel and Jenn.

I'm a sovereign jazz citizen (the table is the table), Monday, 20 September 2021 15:49 (eight months ago) link

I today finished James Joyce: CRITICAL, POLITICAL & OCCASIONAL WRITINGS ed. Kevin Barry (Oxford, 2000).

It's an outstanding, almost comprehensive collection. (My doubt: shouldn't JJ's original 'Portrait' essay of 1904 be here? Or maybe not.)

The Introduction is very shrewd, especially re how JJ was not as unique as he would want us to think, and how we should return to eg DANA magazine c.1903 if we're interested in this stuff. It's less good in a tangential section on JJ's Aesthetics. Those are written in an irritating, superior, pedantic, repetitive, stultifying style that I think is suppose to be an example of how well Thomistic Catholics think.

The extent of JJ's political knowledge (eg of England, let alone Ireland), in many of these pieces, is very notable and would surprise some people.

I followed up by starting the Foreword and Introduction to J.C.C. Mays' edition of James Joyce: POEMS AND EXILES (1992).

the pinefox, Tuesday, 21 September 2021 18:17 (eight months ago) link

i read minor feelings by cathy park hong which i thought was great, but i'm white btw. apparently they're adapting it as a tv series, which seems bananas. table: do serious poetry people like her?

i also read hail mary by andy weir (who did the martian). it was well-executed trash.

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Tuesday, 21 September 2021 20:43 (eight months ago) link

Someone posted about a book recently that was written by a former professor from Queens College about a Jewish retirement home. Can’t find this despite many google searches.

Taliban! (PBKR), Wednesday, 22 September 2021 02:57 (eight months ago) link

The Sorrows of Young Werther. Christ what an asshole.

ledge, Wednesday, 22 September 2021 07:23 (eight months ago) link

I started watching the film by Max ophuls but the sound was atrocious. So I gave up , did seem a tad sanctimonious.

Stevolende, Wednesday, 22 September 2021 08:34 (eight months ago) link

The Mandarins Simone De Beauvoir
Her novel loosely based on the intellectual circle in paris in the immediate wake of WWII and over teh next 5 years. She did claim it was not a roam a clef at one point . But interesting anyway.
Have had this kicking around for way too long drifting around my front room so glad to be getting into it.

Angela Saini INferior
reread this book on science and Gender imbalance. Enjoyed and was drinking way less than when i first read it last Xmas .
Looking forward to her book on the patriarchy whenever that lands.

How To Rig an Election Nic Cheeseman, Brian Klaas
book on political intrigue I picked up a couple of months ago. Looks interesting.

Stevolende, Wednesday, 22 September 2021 08:50 (eight months ago) link

Someone posted about a book recently that was written by a former professor from Queens College about a Jewish retirement home. Can’t find this despite many google searches.

This sounds like the Prince of West End Avenue by Alan Isler. Great book.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Wednesday, 22 September 2021 09:52 (eight months ago) link

The Sorrows of Young Werther. Christ what an asshole.

Agreed, really didn't enjoy reading this dude's livejournal.

Daniel_Rf, Wednesday, 22 September 2021 10:05 (eight months ago) link

Someone posted about a book recently that was written by a former professor from Queens College about a Jewish retirement home. Can’t find this despite many google searches.

This sounds like the Prince of West End Avenue by Alan Isler. Great book.

― Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Wednesday, September 22, 2021 5:52 AM (one hour ago) bookmarkflaglink

This was it. Many thanks.

Taliban! (PBKR), Wednesday, 22 September 2021 10:59 (eight months ago) link

i read minor feelings by cathy park hong which i thought was great, but i'm white btw. apparently they're adapting it as a tv series, which seems bananas. table: do serious poetry people like her?

Many of my Asian poet friends (and Asian non-poet friends, tbh) take serious issue with some of Minor Feelings. Since I'm not Asian, I don't really feel comfortable explaining those issues, but let's just say that they're present.

As far as her own poetry is concerned, her book Dance Dance Revolution is interesting to me, but much of her poetry is what poets call "workshop-core"— that is, the poems seem written for a specific audience to teach specific types of innovative writing techniques. In that way, they're valuable, but qua books of poems, they're kind of "meh."

She also hasn't put out a book of poems in nearly a decade. Before Minor Feelings came out, she was probably most well-known in poetry circles for this absolutely damning takedown of the white supremacist gatekeepers of the avant-garde circa 2013-2014:

I'm a sovereign jazz citizen (the table is the table), Wednesday, 22 September 2021 16:28 (eight months ago) link


𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Wednesday, 22 September 2021 22:58 (eight months ago) link

Really, really enjoying this (my first Menard) but realizing that given my pace and its size, a three week library loan isn't gonna be enough to finish it.

Legalize Suburban Benches (Raymond Cummings), Thursday, 23 September 2021 01:01 (eight months ago) link

I guess I've aged into a 10-15 pages per day reader for stuff like this. It's just so rich, like a dark chocolate cake.

Legalize Suburban Benches (Raymond Cummings), Thursday, 23 September 2021 01:02 (eight months ago) link

I see Menand in the link, but was primed to expect ... a vast new work by Pierre Menard.

the pinefox, Thursday, 23 September 2021 09:43 (eight months ago) link

Sorry about that

Legalize Suburban Benches (Raymond Cummings), Thursday, 23 September 2021 10:36 (eight months ago) link

Ha, was hoping for the same thing!

I, the Jukebox Jury (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 23 September 2021 10:42 (eight months ago) link

Like a new album by one of these guys.

I, the Jukebox Jury (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 23 September 2021 10:47 (eight months ago) link

Here Comes Everybody James Fearnley
Memoir by Pogues and Nipple Erectors member. Hope i didn't already have this,k definitely don't remember having read it if I did. I think i8t was around in various places at cut price a few years ago. Like in the 2 for £5 in FOPP and i think in HMV .
Finding it quite compelling at the moment, he's been brought into the Nipple Erectors on guitar then been fired by the bassist when he's asked if he can subsitute for her on a recording opportunity offered by Paul Weller when she's too heavily pregnant to play bass. He's apparently still involved with Shane Macgowan who he's hung out with during his Nips tenure cos Shane's trying to talk him into wearng Gladiator gear on a project he's talking about putting together. From which it appears the Pogues may have been suggested thanks to connections to music being talked about Irish music resembling Arabic which is like Aegean which would have been the music in the Roman Project thingy, or so it would appear.
Enjoying it anyway.
& missed seeing the Pogues despite having heard of their existence pretty early on and meaning to go and see them in Hope & Anchor etc days & buying records off Shane when he worked in that record shop behind Virgin.

Stevolende, Thursday, 23 September 2021 11:05 (eight months ago) link

I've been distracted by the Muhammad Ali documentary lately, but I finished re-reading Hons and Rebels last night. Very satisfying book.

NB: The equinox arrived. Summer has fleeted. This thread may be put to bed now and a new edition commenced. I'll think about it later today, but please feel free to forestall me by starting one yourself. I'd thank you for it.

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Thursday, 23 September 2021 16:16 (eight months ago) link

Thank you.

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Thursday, 23 September 2021 19:30 (eight months ago) link

one month passes...

the mezzanine by nicholson baker - first read 20 years ago. has not aged well but very good at what it does.

the kingdoms by natasha pulley - alt history (what if napoleon had won). dreadful.

the new sally rooney - not as good as the other two. much less interested in reading her opinions in epistolary than teenage soap opera.

amazon unbound - overly sympathetic look at bezos/amazon since ~2010 (there's a part 1 from 90s-2010, but i haven't read it). despite being overly sympathetic, it's crazy how bad they are for the world when you see it laid out. amoral criminality notwithstanding, some interesting business operations stuff (i work in tech).

a thousand ships by natalie haynes - i read madeline miller last year and this is follow-up from that. enjoyed it!

stubborn archivist by Yara Rodrigues Fowler - short debut from young brazilian british writer set in london/sao paolo. nothing really happens and i liked it a lot.

looking glass war - minor le carre. not his best obviously. very straightforward plot. i thought i'd like that, because i find some of his plots borderline incomprehensible. it turns out i like being baffled, and this one in particular felt very slight.

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Monday, 25 October 2021 16:14 (six months ago) link

whoops lock thread, will repost on the other one.

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Monday, 25 October 2021 16:15 (six months ago) link

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