Now the year is turning and the eeriness comes: what are you reading in autumn 2021?

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A reliquary of sodden texts for the turning year.

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

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Thursday, 23 September 2021 19:26 (three weeks ago) link

Diane Middlebrook - Her Husband
Charles Portis - True Grit

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 23 September 2021 19:27 (three weeks ago) link

Said by fans to be atypical Portis, but not nec. disappointing---I still need to read *something* by him

dow, Thursday, 23 September 2021 19:34 (three weeks ago) link

Finished the Canadian poet Ryan Fitzpatrick's "Fake Math" this morning, and realized from the note at the end that it was written using a sort of conceptual writing practice called flarf which was popular in the aughts. Didn't seem so while reading it, which is much to Fitzpatrick's credit, as much flarf writing is garbage.

I'm a sovereign jazz citizen (the table is the table), Thursday, 23 September 2021 19:54 (three weeks ago) link

Finished Daryl Gregory's The Album of Dr. Moreau (2021) which sputters out once all the conceits have been introduced (boyband of hybrids, murder mystery, apparently set in the 1990s).

Mat Johnson's Pym (2011) was better. Similar big concepts, so many that the Armageddon is a small side plot. Feels like a first novel where the author had to get all their ideas out, although it was the author's third.

Now halfway through Nnedi Okorafor's novella Binti (2015) which is my first encounter with Afrofuturism in writing. I can't say I find the plot engaging yet -- the biggest event so far hinged on a random item the protagonist was holding having magical powers. The portrayal of a future version of Himba culture is interesting enough to keep me going.

adam t. (abanana), Friday, 24 September 2021 02:08 (three weeks ago) link

I'm still on



James Joyce: POEMS & EXILES.

the pinefox, Friday, 24 September 2021 08:06 (three weeks ago) link

I've begun Nella Larsen's first novel, Quicksand.

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Saturday, 25 September 2021 16:30 (three weeks ago) link

cesar aira - the little buddhist monk

humorous and lighthearted novella. fun to read, but also seems like it was fun to write. and its length and simplicity made me think hey i could write something like this. there is another novella collected in the same book called the proof which ill read soon

flopson, Saturday, 25 September 2021 17:28 (three weeks ago) link

Finished a translation of Catalan poet Joan Brossa's poetry, El saltamari (The Tumbler), and also finished a short book of essays on poetry by the sadly departed Leslie Scalapino.

Still on the Maine book, and also reading a long book of Lyn Hejinian's related to nighttime— but the latter I'm only reading before bed/as I fall asleep. Been giving me strange dreams. Fulfills its purpose perfectly!

I'm a sovereign jazz citizen (the table is the table), Monday, 27 September 2021 15:24 (three weeks ago) link

QUICKSAND is quite ... melodramatic? a lot happens, she travels between continents, it's all at a high pitch. I think it's probably not as good a book as PASSING. But worth reading.

the pinefox, Monday, 27 September 2021 16:34 (three weeks ago) link

I finished all Joyce's poems, then his play Exiles, and all the drafts and notes to that which I'd never read before.

Then I reread an important critical chapter on Exiles.

In the last week or so I've read or reread most of the 'minor' Joyce: all the non-fiction, all the poems (including fragments from before he'd really started as a writer), the play. It was quicker than I expected, given a more concerted effort than usual. I should perhaps reread his slender volume GIACOMO JOYCE, written in Trieste.

20pp of Foster's Yeats vol 1 to go.

the pinefox, Monday, 27 September 2021 16:37 (three weeks ago) link

I finished anthony veasna so’s afterparties last night, ended up really loving it

starting anand gopal’s no good men among the living

mens rea activist (k3vin k.), Monday, 27 September 2021 18:43 (three weeks ago) link

I finished Paul Beatty's "The Sellout", an absurdist satire about a predominantly Black low-income urban neighborhood in Los Angeles called Dickens which has recently mysteriously disappeared from official city maps and signage. The protagonist, a farmer who lives in the former Dickens and grows highly potent marijuana among other things, tries to re-establish Dickens as an official place and to bring back racial segregation, though its not clear if this is just a prank. Along the way he also reluctantly acquires a slave, which lands him in the Supreme Court. There is a high zaniness quotient here which might be better in small doses, but Beatty has a charming way of tip-toeing up to the line of things you can't say and then just barreling across it.

o. nate, Tuesday, 28 September 2021 15:27 (three weeks ago) link

Reading Hejinian's "Book of a Thousand Eyes" before sleeping, and John Paetsch's nearly impenetrable but strangely propulsive "Ctasy" otherwise. The latter writer is an expert on Deleuze, so the impenetrable weirdness of his prose isn't surprising.

I'm a sovereign jazz citizen (the table is the table), Tuesday, 28 September 2021 16:34 (three weeks ago) link

O.Nate: good summary. I think that book is quite outstanding in its outrageousness, the way it instals a voice right from the start and keeps going, burning through sacred cows, shibboleths, whatever other very mixed metaphors I can find ... The phrase "black comedy" would obviously be correct if "Black" wasn't such a keyword in other ways (cf the fascinating discussion very near the end of kinds of blackness, with Godard and Bjork, as I recall, in the final category!).

the pinefox, Tuesday, 28 September 2021 17:35 (three weeks ago) link

Reading about Joyce's PORTRAIT in the book THE STRONG SPIRIT.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 28 September 2021 17:38 (three weeks ago) link

Junichiro Tanizaki - The Makioka Sisters. Read almost everything by him except what is seen as his masterpiece - probably lazily so, as it happens to be his biggest book. Though I can see it. Four Sisters, two of whom need to get married. What Tanizaki does here is the quiet set of traumas bought upon by the situation and the people around it, the hierarchies they occupy. Two things it does well: 1) to shadow the odd event coming into this chamber (in this case WWII, where the Tanizaki's befriend a German family who go back to Germany just as the war is about to begin, who then send letters now and then) and the use of the telephone - there is a sorta comedic phase of what to/what not to say on the telephone, as oposed to a more formal manner - such as writing a letter, or actually having a face-to-face conversation. These are shifting formalities in the way of what actually happens: marriage as a way of arresting decline in status, marriage in the way of freedom to live in other ways, which are explored in many other novels.

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 28 September 2021 22:08 (three weeks ago) link

William di Canzio - Alec, a novel about Maurice and Alec Scudder, the couple in E.M. Forster's Maurice.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 28 September 2021 22:15 (three weeks ago) link

I read The Makioka Sisters with delight about a decade ago. The 1984 film is a solid adaptation.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 28 September 2021 22:15 (three weeks ago) link

Heidegger - the question concerning technology and other essays.

I'm reading it, but am I understanding it? (no)

《Myst1kOblivi0n》 (jim in vancouver), Tuesday, 28 September 2021 22:17 (three weeks ago) link

Just now took a look into Crowds and Power, which confused my totally unfair Random Read Test w excellent anecdote about yet another Roman Emperor I never heard off, *then* explaining it like he was too used to ramming Western Civ into hungover undergrads. Oh well, maybe I'll skip those parts. Are his memoirs good reading?

dow, Wednesday, 29 September 2021 01:00 (three weeks ago) link

I loved The Sellout and find myself thinking about it often (the scene with the flooded bus comes to me at odd times).

I've been reading The Cave in the Snow by Vicki Mackenzie. It's an account of Diane Perry who became Tenzin Palmo, the first western female to become an ordained Buddhist nun. I'm quite a sucker for spiritual auto/biography, especially with extended accounts of retreat and enlightenment, but this is pretty hagiographic, with mythic elements often presented uncritically as fact.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Wednesday, 29 September 2021 17:06 (three weeks ago) link

I have a few pages of appendices etc to finish in Yeats, but I have already commenced Steven Connor: THE MADNESS OF KNOWLEDGE.

A dazzling discussion of the nature of how people feel about knowledge. I'm only about 5pp in to a 300pp book, and it's already said more than many 300pp books might do.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 29 September 2021 21:10 (three weeks ago) link

QUICKSAND is quite ... melodramatic?

I would say it was quite ... condensed. Larsen had a specific point she wanted to illustrate about the experience of middle class, educated, American women of mixed race and making her point required her protagonist to sample the spectrum of social niches available to her. That entailed a lot of scenery changes. Since the point was that none of these niches were happy or satisfying choices, it didn't take a lot of exposition to establish that and shuffle her into the next niche.

I'd say Larsen showed great subtlety in her explanations of the source of her protagonist's social discomforts and dissatisfaction, but by constantly whisking her away to new scenery so rapidly it reduced the stature of her main character and made her dilemma be as much about her own immaturity as about her social predicament.

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Monday, 4 October 2021 17:30 (two weeks ago) link

Now I've started Highland Fling, Nancy Mitford's first novel. Not surprisingly, it shares a great deal in common with early Waugh, with just a slight nod in the direction of Wodehouse.

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Monday, 4 October 2021 17:35 (two weeks ago) link

THe Guilty Feminist Deborah Franbces White
The book related to a podcast I listen to weekly. Starts with a history and overview of feminism tied in with the author having spent time in the Jehovah's Witness as a teen which left a lasting mark on her.
Been wanting to read this for a while and I think it gets its point across, may not be the best source on feminism but I think it gives some grounding. Enjoying it so far.

HOw to Rig An Election Nic Cheeseman
Book looking at how elections have been corrupted over time. Its just been talking about Kenya in the section I'm in .

Jane Jacobs The Death and Life of Great American Cities
1963 book on what makes a city work. I was watching a series on Planning For teh Post Pandemic City over the pandemic which had me thinking about town planning etc which this gives soe grounding for.
I saw a documentary on the writer last year which was interesting so finding this in the library was great. ONly got as far as the introduction so far but going to get into this .

Stevolende, Monday, 4 October 2021 17:41 (two weeks ago) link

I'm totally ignorant of this writer, who sounds very appealing:

Winner of the National Book Award, the Newbery Medal, and a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant, Virginia Hamilton (1934–2002) wove Black folktales and narratives of African American life and history into a body of work that forever changed American children’s writing and made her its most honored writer.
Join Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden and award-winning children’s book author and memoirist Jacqueline Woodson (Brown Girl Dreaming) for a conversation about Hamilton’s life and wildly inventive novels, newly collected in a Library of America volume edited by Hamilton biographer Julie K. Rubini.

Wednesday, October 6
6:00 – 7:00 pm ET

Register For Online Event:


Virginia Hamilton: Five Novels
Hardcover • 907 pages
List price: $35.00
Web Store price: $31.50
(Save 10%)

Buy now
“We are all so fortunate to have these wonderful and courageous novels to guide us.”—Nikki Giovanni

Virginia Hamilton: Five Novels
Zeely | The House of Dies Drear | The Planet of Junior Brown | M.C. Higgins, The Great | Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush

Edited by Julie K. Rubini

This Library of America volume collects five of Virginia Hamilton’s most beloved works, along with beautifully restored illustrations.

In Zeely (1967), Geeder Perry and her brother, Toeboy, go to their uncle’s farm for the summer and encounter a six-and-a-half-foot-tall Watutsi queen and a mysterious night traveler. In The House of Dies Drear (1968), Thomas Small and his family move to a forbidding former way station on the Underground Railroad—a house whose secrets Thomas must discover before it’s too late. Junior Brown, a 300-lb. musical prodigy, plays a silent piano in The Planet of Junior Brown (1971), while homeless friend Buddy draws on all his New York City wits to protect Junior’s disintegrating mind.

In the National Book Award–winning M. C. Higgins, The Great (1974), Mayo Cornelius Higgins sits atop a forty-foot pole on the side of Sarah’s Mountain and dreams of escape. Poised above his family’s home is a massive spoil heap from strip-mining that could come crashing down at any moment. Can he rescue his family and save his own future? And in Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush (1982), fifteen-year-old Tree’s life revolves around her ailing brother, Dab, until she sees cool, handsome Brother Rush, an enigmatic figure who may hold the key to unlocking her family’s troubled past.

dow, Monday, 4 October 2021 22:39 (two weeks ago) link

just read The Road (had seen the film but was unprepared for the cannibalism) and am halfway through Things Fall Apart, which is like what i remember of The Famished Road but a quarter of the length so i might actually finish it.

(this month's theme: books less than 200 pages, trying to reduce the backlog)

koogs, Tuesday, 5 October 2021 04:59 (two weeks ago) link

Any recommendations, I'm after some short books myself (I've read Things Fall Apart). Currently 2/3 done with Ducks, Newburyport - I gave up about halfway through a year or so ago but I no longer no why as it's obviously extraordinary.

ledge, Tuesday, 5 October 2021 08:32 (two weeks ago) link

the things i have lined up are nothing special: another ed mcbain, some short stories that have been bundled in with kindle edition of American Gods, the rest of the Aeschylus i read a couple of months ago maybe, anything else i can find in my _todo shelf on the kobo. Jacob's Room perhaps. and i have at least 4 short story collections i'm part way through.

(november is female month (Small Isle...), december is dickens)

koogs, Tuesday, 5 October 2021 12:53 (two weeks ago) link

ledge and koogs:

for fiction, I've been on a Christa Wolf kick, her books "ACCIDENT" and "NO PLACE ON EARTH" are both extraodinary and short...I'm also re-reading (for the first time in a decade!) Maurice Blanchot's "Death Sentence," which is also very short and rather extraordinary in a totally different way.

I'm a sovereign jazz citizen (the table is the table), Tuesday, 5 October 2021 19:55 (two weeks ago) link

i lost all ability to focus on reading for weeks at a time so it took me a while to finish sentimental education, which i got pretty bogged down in even though it's obviously a total masterpiece

i just started malina which i am already very taken with and am kinda breezing through, feels great

STOCK FIST-PUMPER BRAD (BradNelson), Tuesday, 5 October 2021 19:58 (two weeks ago) link

Ugh, Malina is SO good.

I'm a sovereign jazz citizen (the table is the table), Tuesday, 5 October 2021 20:02 (two weeks ago) link

I'd never read Joy Williams! I'm three quarters through The Quick and the Dead.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 5 October 2021 20:28 (two weeks ago) link

xps thanks table! they sound good, annoyingly none of them are available as ebooks so I can't read them RIGHT NOW.

ledge, Tuesday, 5 October 2021 20:34 (two weeks ago) link

I've been reading "The Anthologist" by Nicholson Baker, an amiable, extremely low-key novel about a published poet who has been commissioned to write an introduction to a new poetry anthology but is suffering from a monumental case of writer's block and the lingering effects of a recent break-up.

o. nate, Wednesday, 6 October 2021 15:15 (two weeks ago) link

lol that sounds both dope and extremely nicholson baker

STOCK FIST-PUMPER BRAD (BradNelson), Wednesday, 6 October 2021 15:17 (two weeks ago) link

There's a sequel to it, which I expect I'll read also.

o. nate, Wednesday, 6 October 2021 15:18 (two weeks ago) link

I'm reading The Nag Hammadi Scriptures, which has many scholarly essays in it, and Misquoting Jesus by Bart E. Ehrman which is about textual analysis of the New Testament. I'm an atheist but I find this stuff fascinating. One early example from Ehrman is that the passage in John about the adulterous woman, the "let he who is without sin" one, was not by the original author, and that Jesus' response isn't actually a good interpretation of the Hebrew Bible.

adam t. (abanana), Wednesday, 6 October 2021 16:42 (two weeks ago) link

I'm still reading Hejinian's "Book of Thousand Eyes" before sleep, but last night finished a re-read of Blanchot's "Death Sentence," and this morning I cracked open my copy of Christa Wolf's "The Quest for Christa T.," her most famous book and one of hers that I've never read! One chapter in and I already know I'm going to love it.

I'm a sovereign jazz citizen (the table is the table), Wednesday, 6 October 2021 17:13 (two weeks ago) link

I really liked The Anthologist and yup, it's full Nicholson Baker.

I'm reading William Goldman's Adventures in the Screen Trade. It's fun.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Wednesday, 6 October 2021 17:26 (two weeks ago) link

I finished Highland Fling. Pretty good for a first novel, mildly comical but nothing to get excited about.

Last night I got my feet wet in 42nd Parallel, the first part of the Dos Passos trilogy, U.S.A. This work was an obvious influence on writers as diverse as Steinbeck and Thomas Wolfe, but I think I'll lay it aside for now. I have a library copy of the Library of America volume of Octavia Butler that includes Kindred and that seems more inviting at the moment than Dos Passos and his impressionistic kaleidoscopic style, which reads rather crudely to me, a century onward.

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Saturday, 9 October 2021 18:36 (one week ago) link

I got that LOA on Butler from the library a few months ago. Enjoy.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 9 October 2021 18:50 (one week ago) link

Starting Dana Spiotta’s Innocents and Others - partly in anticipation of a trip to Los Angeles. Any recommendations for contemporary-ish L.A. lit that isn’t, like, Bret Easton Ellis or Hollywood nostalgia?

ed.b, Saturday, 9 October 2021 19:12 (one week ago) link

starting on freedom by maggie nelson

mens rea activist (k3vin k.), Saturday, 9 October 2021 22:36 (one week ago) link

First Love by Gwendolyn Riley. Halfway through — I always think books like this are going to be cringe and Thought Catalog-y, but it’s pretty good so far.

Chuck_Tatum, Saturday, 9 October 2021 23:11 (one week ago) link

ghost wars - steve(?) coll
the Italian - Ann Radcliffe

brimstead, Sunday, 10 October 2021 16:02 (one week ago) link

Ed B, I am a big fan of the poet Sesshu Foster, who has written a lot about LA, though his novels tend to be speculative..the most recent being about a dirigible company and local uprisings in the near future.

I'm a sovereign jazz citizen (the table is the table), Sunday, 10 October 2021 22:24 (one week ago) link

This may be of interest solely to me here but I just finished The Naturalist On The River Amazons by Henry Walter Bates, from 1863. It’s the first book of natural history I’ve read through, that wasn’t by Peter Matthiessen. Overall quite readable for being a 150 year old science book although there is occasional colonialist bigotry.

The depiction of that environment though is so strikingly unique, it makes me so sad that I can never see what he saw. Of course he also had to eat a lot of really weird stuff which would be a deal-breaker for me. Quite a bit about mass slaughter of turtles too, that was not cool.

recovering internet addict/shitposter (viborg), Sunday, 10 October 2021 23:25 (one week ago) link

The King at the Edge of the World by Arthur Phillips which I picked up hoping, based on the blurb, that it would be more than just straightforward historical fiction (which I have nothing against, just not my cup of tea), and it was and I enjoyed it a great deal. Now on to Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez which is supposedly about gender bias in data but in fact seems to be a systematic description, explanation, and statistical breakdown of gender inequality across the world in every walk of life. Which is fine. (The book, not the inequality.)

ledge, Monday, 11 October 2021 07:56 (one week ago) link

Finished 'The Quest for Christa T.,' now onto poet Steve Zultanski's latest, entitled 'Relief.'

I'm a sovereign jazz citizen (the table is the table), Monday, 11 October 2021 18:24 (one week ago) link

Having to rush read Crazy Horse by Mari Sandoz since i just found out that it has a hold on it. Library book which i got out a couple of months ago alongside her Cheyenne Autumn.
Do enjoy her writing I think. Just wish I didn't need to get through this at speed since it would be more comfortable to take more time.

Stevolende, Monday, 11 October 2021 18:54 (one week ago) link

Maybe take an extra day and pay the overdue fine?

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Monday, 11 October 2021 18:56 (one week ago) link

contemporary-ish L.A. lit that isn’t, like, Bret Easton Ellis or Hollywood nostalgia

I think Paul Beatty's "The Sellout" fits the bill. Lots of LA atmosphere.

o. nate, Tuesday, 12 October 2021 16:51 (one week ago) link

I've been trying to read where I can and today finished Caradog Prichard's One Moonlit Night. It's a slight novel, translated from Welsh and tells the story of a little lad growing up in a remote mining village during WWI (albeit the war is far off, a rumour). The chronology of the narrative isn't always clear and it's written in a mix of vernacular and a kind of hymnal, devotional voice of the land, which is immersive and dislocating at the same time. Obviously it's translated, but it reminded me a bit of Joyce (Dubliners, Portrait) and of Sunset Song in its rhythms and obsessions and it had a real emotional heft.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Tuesday, 12 October 2021 19:58 (one week ago) link

That sounds good!

I'm a sovereign jazz citizen (the table is the table), Tuesday, 12 October 2021 20:50 (one week ago) link

I finished Zultanski's 'Relief,' and this morning sort of sped-read through Gabri3lle D4niels' 'Something Else Again.'

The latter was sent to me by a friend who published the US edition of the book, hoping I might write something nice about it on social media. I can't do so, because I don't think the book is very good, but I am going to try my best to write something even-handed nonetheless.

I'm a sovereign jazz citizen (the table is the table), Tuesday, 12 October 2021 20:53 (one week ago) link

have just read g.b. edwards' the book of ebenezer le page, a rather idiosyncratic portrayal of island life on guernsey circa 1900-1970. very good.

now about to start on dorothy carrington's granite island: a portrait of corsica

no lime tangier, Thursday, 14 October 2021 05:10 (six days ago) link

Have got through like half of Crazy Horse so doing good time and did decide I might take some extra days. Its like 400+ pp.
Should have paced myself better but didn't really think I needed to until I saw it was wanted elsewhere.

Why I'm NO Longer Talking TO White People About Race Reni Eddo-Lodge
THis seems like avery logical covering of a loto finformation some of which I was already familiar with. Good place to start possibly if one wasn't that familiar with it. I am seeing some negative reviews of it on Goodreads etc which I now think may refelct on the reviewer more than teh book but Maybe that's to be expected.
Got like 2/3s of the way through this when I realised i need to get through Crazy Horse.
& got this when I was a similar length through the Guilty Feminist which is also good.

HOw To Rig An Election Cheeseman
INteresting book on corruption in politics. Finding this particularly so cos he's talking about Kenya quite a bit.
Looking also at how it is more authoritarian regimes taht have to go through teh process of pretending in this way. But maybe taht's already clear.
Anyway good charity shop find I think.

Stevolende, Thursday, 14 October 2021 12:53 (six days ago) link

I finished Baker's The Anthologist, which seemed mainly an excuse for Baker to share his thoughts on poetry, and some quite funny riffs on the same.

For example, on Ashbery:

"He was born in 1927. He has won every poetry prize known to man or beast, and he was part of that whole ultracool inhuman unreal absurdist fluorescent world of the sixties and seventies in New York. Once he'd edited an art magazine, Art News. Even his name is coolly, absurdly, missing one of its Rs."

Or on poetry's lasting cultural value:

"One day the English language is going to perish. The easy spokenness of it will perish and go black and crumbly--maybe--and it will become a language like Latin that learned people learn. And scholars will write studies of Larry Sanders and Friends and Will & Grace and Ellen and Designing Women and Mary Tyler Moore, and everyone will see that the sitcom is the great American art form. American poetry will perish with the language; the sitcoms, on the other hand, are new to human evolution and therefore will be less perishable. Some scholar will write, a thousand years from now: Surprisingly very little is known of Monica Mcgowan Johnson and Marilyn Suzanne Miller, who wrote the 'hair bump' episode of Mary Tyler Moore. Or: Surprisingly little can be be gleaned from the available record about Maya Forbes and Peter Tolan, who had so much to do with the greatness of Larry Sanders.

And even so, I want to lie in bed and just read poems sometimes and not watch TV. Regardless of what will or won't perish."

o. nate, Thursday, 14 October 2021 18:38 (six days ago) link

Only about 40% of the way through Kindred, but I want to say how impressed I am by Butler's technical skills, how disciplined her imagination is, and how good her instincts are as a storyteller. In most hands this material would have been structured into a straight-up historical novel, but the whole time travel structure, as she uses it, greatly enhances the story. It took real insight to avoid the easier path.

Additionally, she very rightly doesn't attempt to explain the time travel; she just presents it as part of the story, imposes some 'rules' about how it will operate and gets on with the core of the storyline. The reader is drawn in and the questions of 'how' or 'why' drop aside naturally. Great story telling!

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Thursday, 14 October 2021 22:44 (six days ago) link

I'm in a covid funk and, feeling a bit better, randomly picked up Margin Released by JB Priestley, which has been by my bed for years now.

Priestley's at great pains to point out that it's not an autobiography and merely a memoir of writing but I felt I learnt a good deal about him from it all the same. He's a stuffy old bugger, socially conservative (if not politically: he's vocally anti-Tory in a few places, though he's also keen to point out he was never a member of a political party), prone to moralising and doom-mongering and clearly carried anxiety about his lack of critical standing to his grave. I'm a few characters from saying it, so: he comes across as a bluff old Yorkshireman: self-confident, resilient, wry. And, I found him good company in the end. The mid-section, where he doesn't write a war memoir, while writing a thoughtful war memoir, is full of barely-suppressed rage and portrays him as an able soldier and probably a good leader. He is adamant he had a lucky war and I suppose he did - to survive physically and mentally intact is a feat in itself.

He's interesting, if not too revealing, about Bennett, Wells and Shaw but the book does trail off in the final third, where he doesn't really say very much at all about the main chunk of his writing career. There was something there, between the lines, that I wanted to know about (his relationship with Jacquetta Hawkes; his fascination with time; his interest in and relationship with Jung - Priestley as mystic?) but it stays in his pocket. I'll have to go find it elsewhere.

Now reading Christopher Priest's The Affirmation which is, ah, odd.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Friday, 15 October 2021 16:23 (five days ago) link

how are you feeling, Chinaski?

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 15 October 2021 16:24 (five days ago) link

Hey Alfred, thank you for asking. Better today, mercifully. I've been in bed for six days, my throat is still bad (hedgehog nesting on the lower eastside of my larynx) and I'm bone-tired, but so much better than earlier this week. I very much don't recommend it!

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Friday, 15 October 2021 16:40 (five days ago) link

Have you read any Christopher Priest before, Chinaski?

Spiral Scratchiti (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 15 October 2021 16:52 (five days ago) link

Have you read any Christopher Priest before, Chinaski?

I read Inverted World a long time ago but don't remember much about it. This is deliberately dislocating, but also has that icy affectlessness I associate with Ballard. It also reminds me of Red Shift by Alan Garner, with its stiff jump cuts and narrative games. It's unsettling but (mostly) in a good way.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Friday, 15 October 2021 17:05 (five days ago) link

That sounds about right, although I still haven't read Red Shift.

Spiral Scratchiti (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 15 October 2021 17:08 (five days ago) link

Driss Chaibi - The Simple Past
J. Rodolfo Wilcock - The Temple of Iconoclasts

The Simple Past has these angry moods, mostly directed at the father but its just a generally anxious mood that's conjured up. Willcock's book is better than anything the lppl around Borges have ever come up with. Its a fake encyclopedia of scientists, philosophers and makers of a could've been modern world, and I haven't read this much joy in making shit up for a long time.

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 16 October 2021 12:12 (four days ago) link

I got the Chaibi over the summer on a whim but haven't read it; would you say you liked it?

I'm a sovereign jizz citizen (the table is the table), Saturday, 16 October 2021 18:58 (four days ago) link

Yeah it's really good though it took me a little while to tune into the voice at first.

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 17 October 2021 10:02 (three days ago) link

Thanks, yeah I think that's what's been keeping me, and a novel is an "investment" in a way that sometimes seems preventive...maybe over the holidays before the year's end.

I'm a sovereign jizz citizen (the table is the table), Sunday, 17 October 2021 14:26 (three days ago) link

I'm reading Ruskin for the first time -- the political writing.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 17 October 2021 14:35 (three days ago) link

MFK Fisher, How To Cook A Wolf. A delight so far.

if not politically: he's vocally anti-Tory in a few places, though he's also keen to point out he was never a member of a political party)

Huh. Saw a staging of An Inspector Calls once and it felt super explicitly socialist.

Daniel_Rf, Monday, 18 October 2021 09:47 (two days ago) link

I'm a chapter away from the end of Crazy Horse Stange Man of teh Lakptas by Mari Sandoz. Been interesting. I think I will try to read afew more by her.

Finished How tO Rig An election by Cheeseman and Raas. So now have a better idea of what to look out for in authoritarian regimes looking to cover up just how authoritarian they are.

Started a book on Class, Caste and stuff which I've had lying around too long.

Stevolende, Monday, 18 October 2021 10:01 (two days ago) link

I've been reading Stafford's "The Mountain Lion", which I associate as an ILB fave, since I've seen it mentioned a few times.

o. nate, Monday, 18 October 2021 18:28 (two days ago) link

Read Prynne's "Enchanter's Nightshade" and "Efflux Reference," two chapbooks of his from the past year or so. Will certainly read more Prynne this year than any other author, and all of it has been published since 2019! The man is prolific to say the least.

I'm a sovereign jizz citizen (the table is the table), Monday, 18 October 2021 18:46 (two days ago) link

The Mountain Lion is great!

I finished Kindred last night. Butler accomplished no small feat here, vividly showing many distinct strands that were involved in the reality of slavery in the USA, by making each one visible in itself, while showing how deeply entangled they all were.

My library hold on Reign of Terror, Spencer Ackerman, came in, along with the sequel to Adventures in the Screen Trade, William Goldman, called Which Lie Did I Tell. Now I'll read one, then the other, or both at once. Hard to say.

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Monday, 18 October 2021 18:53 (two days ago) link

if not politically: he's vocally anti-Tory in a few places, though he's also keen to point out he was never a member of a political party)

Huh. Saw a staging of An Inspector Calls once and it felt super explicitly socialist.

It does seem odd, given his obvious and professed socialist leanings and his involvement with CND and the foundation of the welfare state etc. He professedly disliked the bureaucratic nature of politics and probably pissed too many people off to be useful in any organisational sense.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Tuesday, 19 October 2021 10:27 (yesterday) link

I admired Christoper Priest's The Affirmation without ever really enjoying it.

To be a bit SPOLIERY about it... It involves a narrator who, in the writing of his autobiography, seems to experience a psychotic break. During that break, he imagines he wins a lotterie (sic), the prize for which is a procedure that effectively grants the winner immortality. However, the procedure means total amnesia, so the winner writes an autobiography from which to 're-learn' oneself after the procedure is over. The two narratives sort of spiral around one another and it ends up being a little like China Mieville's The City and The City, with one reality transposed over the other. It's clever, but I found it maddening. Which may well have been Priest's point.

The not spoilery version: I wondered if the book is really about the writer's life; the act of creation and the over-identifying with the art form - sort of like Flaubert falling in love with Emma Bovary and then some. Weirdly, a quote from the JB Priestley book I read the day before seems to explain it quite well (I didn't realise I needed a priest; turned out I needed two):

One curious by-product of fiction, for those who write it, is worth mentioning. To imagine intensely is to add to experience. We remember scenes we wrote long after we have forgotten our daily life at that time. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that we were not there, except in imagination. When we begin a novel, which is what most of us do only when we have run out of excuses for not beginning it, we are hesitant and have no confidence in ourselves, probably writing the opening paragraph over and over again. We are like small children who creep up to the sea, put a toe in, then scamper to safety. But once we are writing steadily we return in the morning to the dark road, the brilliant crowded room, the ship among the flying fish, whatever scene we left the night before, and in five minutes the sustained fable seems to be life, while all the life surrounding us is as thin and flickering as a dream. Then, years afterwards, as we wander among our memories, we are standing on that dark road again, we are looking down on that brilliant crowded room, leaning over the rail of the upper deck we watch the flying fish once more. Our experience has been enlarged and enriched by the inventions of our trade. Nobody looking at us could guess all that we have seen and known. We have lived more lives than one.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Tuesday, 19 October 2021 10:40 (yesterday) link

Priest at his best creates, how to say this, multiple levels of reality, where in the beginning one is supposed to be the “real”world, the other clearly fictional and fantastical but eventually the two get tangled up like the DNA strands of an old telephone cord and one can’t pick them apart again. It’s amazing how many times he pulled this trick off, although I haven’t kept up with his latest

Double Chocula (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 19 October 2021 11:40 (yesterday) link

30 pages left in malina, the greatest book ever written by anybody. gonna start in a lonely place right after that :)

STOCK FIST-PUMPER BRAD (BradNelson), Tuesday, 19 October 2021 13:05 (yesterday) link

Oh hell yes, glad you like Malina, Brad. I finished it right before a therapy session a few years ago and really bored my poor shrink to tears just rambling about it lol

I'm a sovereign jizz citizen (the table is the table), Tuesday, 19 October 2021 16:13 (yesterday) link

That's the elbowing I needed.

Brad, you'll dig IALP.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 19 October 2021 16:17 (yesterday) link

I tried reading Reign of Terror last night, but it kept telling me about awful, depressing events that I had observed as a contemporary and remembered well. The subtitle promised that it would explain how all this happened, but it mainly boiled down to horrible people like Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld in positions of power in a greedy nation that has a multitude of racists and easily manipulated, miseducated fools. This is not a revelation.

Onward I go, to Goldman's Hollywood insider gossip!

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Tuesday, 19 October 2021 16:32 (yesterday) link

I finished The Magician, Colm Toibin's novel about Thomas Mann. Not as revelatory as The Master, but a sharp peek at the nexus of European cosmpolitan intellectuals and the FDR White House. I keep forgetting that (a) Mann's two oldest children were gay and lesbian (b) EriKa Mann married W.H. Auden.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 19 October 2021 16:36 (yesterday) link

I tried reading Reign of Terror last night, but it kept telling me about awful, depressing events that I had observed as a contemporary and remembered well. The subtitle promised that it would explain how all this happened, but it mainly boiled down to horrible people like Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld in positions of power in a greedy nation that has a multitude of racists and easily manipulated, miseducated fools. This is not a revelation.

Onward I go, to Goldman's Hollywood insider gossip!

― more difficult than I look (Aimless), Tuesday, October 19, 2021 9:32 AM (thirteen minutes ago) bookmarkflaglink

I've been running into this problem more and more these days. Tried reading Harsha Walia's "Border & Rule" over the summer, and I got three sections in and put it down because it wasn't telling me much that I didn't already know.

I'm a sovereign jizz citizen (the table is the table), Tuesday, 19 October 2021 16:48 (yesterday) link

The Mountain Lion is great!

Yes, I've been enjoying it so far. The setting in an early 20th-century Western small town reminded me of Cather's Song of the Lark, but whereas the main character in that book is clearly destined for greater things, its not clear whether the two children in Stafford's book will even survive adolescence. At the beginning of the book, I was worried that having children as the main characters was going to make the book a bit twee. At first their eccentricities seem like the usual Wes Anderson terrain. But as the book progresses you realize that Stafford is not going to flinch from depicting the ugly and disturbing aspects of childhood and adolescence.

o. nate, Wednesday, 20 October 2021 17:36 (four hours ago) link

Good analogy.

NYRB just reissued Boston Adventure, her debut novel and long out of print. I tried reading it a decade ago and gave up; the edition's print was too small.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 20 October 2021 17:38 (four hours ago) link

I'm reading "Mountain Lion" in the Library of America edition with all 3 of her novels. But I'm not sure I'll have to time to read the others before its due back at the library.

o. nate, Wednesday, 20 October 2021 17:39 (four hours ago) link

Started Biased by Jennifer Eberhardt this morning. Finding it a compelling read . Talking about confirmation bias and various other forms of unconscious biases. I think this wasa book on a couple of recommended lists I got from people, I think Angela Saini was one of the sources.
BUt yeah great book so far, may have heard teh author interviewed on podcasts last year too.

picked up some good books yesterday. Unfortunately didn't get Song OF Solomon by Toni Morrison cos the card machine was bust in the charity shop I was in and i haven't been carrying cash.

Stevolende, Wednesday, 20 October 2021 18:12 (three hours ago) link

im reading a biography of john o'hara~

Once O'Hara found himself at a bar sitting beside a midget. Somehow they fell into a quarrel and O'Hara got ready to fight. Just then another midget materialized so there was one to his right and one to his left. Finding himself being grabbed from both sides, O'Hara pulled his shoulders back, hoping to throw off the midgets like a pair of gnats. But they pushed him and he fell on his back on the sawdust floor. The two midgets then jumped on him and begun to pummel him. The bartender broke up the fight and threw O'Hara out of the bar. O'Hara was astonished and outraged. Apart from the shame of the defeat, he knew that John Steinbeck was present and had seen the whole episode. By common unspoken consent, neither of them ever mentioned it afterwards.

johnny crunch, Wednesday, 20 October 2021 18:13 (three hours ago) link

Wow. I loved O'Hara in high school. As a summer "boy's trip" before I went to university, my dad and I went to Pottsville and did the John O'Hara walking tour and also toured the Yuengling factory, back before we knew the family were a bunch of bigots.

I'm a sovereign jizz citizen (the table is the table), Wednesday, 20 October 2021 18:16 (three hours ago) link

I never thought of an O'Hara walking tour! I too loved him in high school, or at least relished the lowdown on what adults wee up to, esp. in a small town like mine, also the City.
Boston Adventure is another you might think would be xpost twee, from the title, but noooo---what I remember of it is pretty awesome, esp. the injustice-collecting Mom. Don't recall The Catherine Wheel at all: her last novel, and some crits say a let-down, but there are those on ILB who've said it's really good, so I'll have to get back to it.

dow, Wednesday, 20 October 2021 19:45 (two hours ago) link

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