Everything is Whirling and Twirling! What Are You Reading this Summer 2023?

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Today the Northern Hemisphere is (sadly) about as enlightened as it ever becomes, whereas the Southern Hemisphere is maximally benighted. Surely this state of affairs cannot last! Yet, in the face of all this astronomical extremity, we, the ilxors of ILB, read on!

This thread is meant to supersede A halo of warmth in the darkness of the year: what are you reading spring 2023?

btw, my current book is The Galton Case, Ross MacDonald.

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Wednesday, 21 June 2023 22:43 (eleven months ago) link

Finished Shared NOtes by Martin Hayes this morning and went back to reading Donald Bogle's Bright boulevards, bold dreams : the story of black Hollywood which has been backburnered for the last few weeks. But is really interesting and hopefully the first of a few of teh author's books I get to read.

Still reading Walter Rodney How Europe Underdeveloped Africa as a bog book. Which is one reason it's taking me a while to get through.Great book on Africa which I've mean to read for ages.

Stevo, Wednesday, 21 June 2023 22:49 (eleven months ago) link

Moving through Ignazio Silone’s Bread and Wine, truly love this book and don’t know why I haven’t read more than this and Fontamara. Highly recommended.

butt dumb tight my boners got boners (the table is the table), Wednesday, 21 June 2023 23:25 (eleven months ago) link

the summer solstice is my favorite day of the year

still reading War and Peace, almost finished, it is quite a saga. I think it and Infinite Jest are the longest novels I've ever read

Dan S, Thursday, 22 June 2023 00:26 (eleven months ago) link

The Magic Mountain was only 2/3 as long as those two, but it was so dense and philosophical that it felt as long.

Dan S, Thursday, 22 June 2023 00:30 (eleven months ago) link

Still reading The Widow Queen by Elzbieta Cherezinska. As I've gone along and done some historical research on the side (the novel is a heavily fictionalized account of the life of Świętosława of Poland, her siblings, and the Scandinavian and Eastern European notables connected to them), I've found it to be more interesting than I gave it credit for at first. Still, there is something a bit plodding about the prose and the structure of the story. Some of that I attribute to the translation. At any rate, this is apparently the first book in a series. I don't see myself reading the others.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Thursday, 22 June 2023 00:38 (eleven months ago) link

Larson, Where the Heart Beats
Bertei, Peter and the Wolves
Does, Do Not Look Away
Roberts, Lemady
Hass, Twentieth Century Pleasures

it was here that Rilke developed his enthusiasm for Quaker Oats.

alimosina, Thursday, 22 June 2023 01:13 (eleven months ago) link

I finished Sean O'Casey's THE SILVER TASSIE. On the whole I was impressed - especially by the second Act, in WWI, which is the one that the most people objected to way back, including W.B. Yeats.

the pinefox, Thursday, 22 June 2023 08:35 (eleven months ago) link

I'm reading 19th French literature decadence. Finished Les Diaboliques (Barbey d'Aurevilly) and I'm getting to the end of Le Roi au Masque d'Or (Schwob). I will probably get my hands on Mirbeau and return to Huysmans later in the year.

I'm waiting for six books in English. The last on the pile is Tropic of Capricorn and that might be my next read. I loved Sexus but did not return to Henry Miller since then. He will be a good fit for hot urban summer days.

Nabozo, Thursday, 22 June 2023 09:21 (eleven months ago) link

I add, to Aimless: I read THE GALTON CASE last year, loved it. It's hard to choose among Ross Macdonald's novels but that must be one of the finest I've read.

the pinefox, Thursday, 22 June 2023 12:52 (eleven months ago) link

Aimless, if you like it, I'd go for "The Chill" next!

I just started Diane Wynne Jones "Archer's Goon". Refreshingly, I have no idea where the story's going to go next.

Chuck_Tatum, Thursday, 22 June 2023 13:54 (eleven months ago) link

thx. I'm just dipping my toe into Ross MacDonald's oeuvre for the first time. I see there'll be plenty of it to explore later on.

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Thursday, 22 June 2023 17:40 (eleven months ago) link

MacDonald is a master. Not as skilled as Chandler at the brilliant and original turn of phrase, but better at constructing an actual story to be resolved. He captured the time and place so well.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Thursday, 22 June 2023 17:48 (eleven months ago) link

Archer is essentially a psychotherapist who has to constantly drive across state between appointments and occasionally gets socked in the head by one of his patients

Chuck_Tatum, Thursday, 22 June 2023 20:02 (eleven months ago) link

Moving through Ignazio Silone’s Bread and Wine, truly love this book and don’t know why I haven’t read more than this and Fontamara. Highly recommended.
What translations, tables??

dow, Friday, 23 June 2023 02:22 (eleven months ago) link

Agree with poster Jimbeaux about Macdonald.

I'm halfway through Sean O'Casey's first staged play, THE SHADOW OF A GUNMAN (1923).

the pinefox, Friday, 23 June 2023 09:23 (eleven months ago) link

If you get obsessive (which I did a wincy bit during the pandemic), the coffee table book “Ross Macdonald: It’s all the same case” is highly recommended (by me)

Chuck_Tatum, Friday, 23 June 2023 10:28 (eleven months ago) link

dow, the Harvey Ferguson II translation— picked up an old Signet classic edition

butt dumb tight my boners got boners (the table is the table), Friday, 23 June 2023 11:48 (eleven months ago) link

reading oval. a near-future tech vision that is also a pretty good relationship novel! which was a surprise. the writer is very perceptive when it comes to people and their motivations and i didn't expect that. the main characters live on top of a muddy mountain in this corporation-created group of zero carbon future houses that don't work properly. its a nice touch.

https://m.media-amazon.com/images/I/81Si2epi-WL._AC_UF350,350_QL50_.jpg

scott seward, Friday, 23 June 2023 15:55 (eleven months ago) link

james purdy - malcolm

flopson, Friday, 23 June 2023 20:09 (eleven months ago) link

Good (weird) one.

the dreaded dependent claus (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 23 June 2023 20:32 (eleven months ago) link

yeah, very weird book

butt dumb tight my boners got boners (the table is the table), Friday, 23 June 2023 21:46 (eleven months ago) link

Ignazio Silone’s Bread and Wine

I saw that Signet paperback today and picked it up for $2. thx for the tip.

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Friday, 23 June 2023 23:13 (eleven months ago) link

I am listening to Phoebe's reading of Jane Eyre. It's been probably 30 years or so since I last read this book. While the protagonist does come off as somewhat unbelievably good, it's still a very moving story with more subversive elements than are immediately apparent, and her prose is razor-sharp. I love all the Brontes, but this may be the best of the lot.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Friday, 23 June 2023 23:15 (eleven months ago) link

Hmm, "good" isn't the first word that comes to my mind for J. Eyre; what strikes me more is her absolutely flawless bullshit detector. Just an extraordinary level-headedness and common sense and capacity for self-preservation, and the ability - at nineteen or twenty - to project into the future and see how a given decision that's being pushed on her is likely to turn out. She's equally good at explaining why she can't go off with Rochester and why it would be a bad idea to let St. John hypnotize her into doing the missionary thing.

Lily Dale, Friday, 23 June 2023 23:33 (eleven months ago) link

Oh, no doubt, her clarity of thought is remarkable. I just think she is a bit incredible as a model of virtue (and I realize that that is largely intentional and, to some degree, subversive).

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Friday, 23 June 2023 23:34 (eleven months ago) link

I haven’t read Jane Eyre since high school— I loved it then. Should give it another read!

butt dumb tight my boners got boners (the table is the table), Saturday, 24 June 2023 02:17 (eleven months ago) link

I'm reading Ronald Ayling (ed), O'CASEY: MODERN JUDGMENTS (1969). Quite enjoyable.

the pinefox, Saturday, 24 June 2023 07:58 (eleven months ago) link

I've come to the conclusion that I can't read in June. I get infected with a kind of midsummer madness and can't settle. I've been flitting between a bunch of things: David Macey's biography of Foucault, which is good but very dense; Martin Gayford's *The Yellow House*, the story of the nine weeks Van Gogh spent together in Arles; and a few short bits and pieces: a re-read of Freud's *The Uncanny*, Stevenson's chapters on dreams, and Maupassant's *The Horla*.

Stars of the Lidl (Chinaski), Saturday, 24 June 2023 09:31 (eleven months ago) link

I finish rereading Sean O'Casey's 2-act play THE SHADOW OF A GUNMAN.

This is very early O'Casey and you could say that shows. It's very broad somehow; rather winking and mugging in its approach. Characters say things like 'Kathleen ni Houlihan, your way's a thorny way' - sarcastically perhaps, but it still comes over as ham.

The play was originally called ON THE RUN and the trace of that remains in Donal Davoren saying 3 times 'I'll soon be on the run out of this house'.

What slightly remains of interest to me is Davoren, the poet, and Minnie Powell, the new woman (?) - there is something of interest about these as social types.

I feel that the play would be too dated, in a way, to re-stage now; but then again, I can imagine it being adapted and rewritten for, say, Iraq during US and UK occupation - or any more recent equivalent.

the pinefox, Saturday, 24 June 2023 12:17 (eleven months ago) link

Finished Bread and Wine, picked up Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s Live Audio Essays, a collection of transcriptions of his lectures and performances around the subject of sound, noise, and war, among other topics. Great book so far, reminds me of both Antin and Toufic

butt dumb tight my boners got boners (the table is the table), Saturday, 24 June 2023 14:13 (eleven months ago) link

Hmm, "good" isn't the first word that comes to my mind for J. Eyre; what strikes me more is her absolutely flawless bullshit detector. Just an extraordinary level-headedness and common sense and capacity for self-preservation, and the ability - at nineteen or twenty - to project into the future and see how a given decision that's being pushed on her is likely to turn out.

This is spot on. I love how she never goo-goo over Rochester: he remains "ugly" to the end.

As it happens I'm reading Adelle Hay's Anne Brontë Reimagined.

the dreaded dependent claus (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 24 June 2023 14:18 (eleven months ago) link

Terminal Boredom, Izumi Suzuki - Japanese boomer sci-fi author, back cover offers Le Guin as a comparison point. Three stories in, and every one of them deals with gender in some way. The one that's most explicit about this is I think also the weakest: written from the pov of a high schooler in an all female society, with male births a rarity and when they do happen the babies are instantly carted off to a detention centre. Can't expect a story from 1970's Japan to reflect our current gender views but there's quite a lot of essentialism in here and I don't know that there is much of a point, aside perhaps from such a society being so shocking to readers of the time that its mere depiction is its own purpose? Anyway, men are blamed for war but also for art, which is described as another ego trip; I don't think we're supposed to take this at face value tho, the same way we aren't supposed to accept the excuse that male babies are "filled with radiation". The female regime currently in power is authoritarian and fairly dystopian, though you could argue it's also a consequence of the patriarchy's previous regime leading to environmental collapse. Sapphic love is viewed in a very stereotypical Japanese way - schoolgirl crushes on "handsome" girls, but sex is not discussed at all and when the protagonist ends up sleeping with a runaway boy the experience is so alien to her that it seems the author assumes the society would be sexless. Also no mention of actual queerness, as opposed to a "well we need to organise society so now women couple up" rationalism.

The other two I enjoyed much more: second story is set in a world where randomly selected ppl are put into a coma, supposedly to wake up centuries later (though this is questioned); meanwhile, their conciousness can be inserted into the dreams of the person of their choosing. Protagonist allows friend whom she didn't actually like to come into her dreams, complications ensue. Now I'm on to one about a family of aliens trying to emulate human behaviour on a planet that used to be, but is no longer, populated by humans. Very funny stuff, daughter alien complaining that she never gets to go to the (non existant) discos while father alien tells her she would end up a hoodlum, and blames the (also non existant) motorbikes for the rise in juvenile delinquency.

In the second story the narrator muses that her friend's feminine behaviour makes her instinctively adopt a masculine posture, and decides in the end that she finds gender in general very frustrating. The alien family obviously has very fluid views: it is explained that for quite a few years there were two Son Aliens until they decided a Daughter Alien would make more sense and one of the "boys" just adopted this new guise. Much more to sink your teeth into with those aspects than in the first story.

Daniel_Rf, Sunday, 25 June 2023 10:46 (eleven months ago) link

The Gospel According to the New World by Maryse Condé

youn, Sunday, 25 June 2023 14:07 (eleven months ago) link

Bright boulevards, bold dreams : the story of black Hollywood by Donald Bogle,
after putting it on a backburner for the last month or so. Which is silly cos it is a really good read.
Does have a bit of a drag with chapters being about 100 pages long but does have subsections. Anyway, finding this quite enlightening about an era I Only semi know. I think I am far more familiar with white Hollywood of the time, I just got into the 1940s.
BUt writing is good and it does make me want to read more of his work and watch the more black orientated films of the era. Seemed to be too many films set in teh old South being made in the 30s and limited opportunity for black actors outside of them at the time.
I've just been reading about Lena Horne whose work I want to know more of and how she got to Hollywood after marrying young and having children. But her fame came after that anyway after her first appearing looking heavy after recently having had her first child. So glad she did manage to make it and set new standards for sophistication etc

& just finishing Walter Rodney How Europe Underdeveloped Africa . Have just been reading about comparative education in what Europe regarded as its colonies which basically just made work fodder and tried to stop Africans from getting educated above that role. Not sure how my Dad succeeded so shame I didn't get to read this before he died. I think this is being really disparaging about Kenya and especially the schools teh Kikuyu had set up, might be different in Luo areas but can't have been much different.

Stevo, Sunday, 25 June 2023 15:47 (eleven months ago) link

Some light summer reading - Humble Pi by Matt Parker, "What happens when maths goes wrong in the real world" - entertaining, though mathematically entirely unchallenging.

ledge, Monday, 26 June 2023 08:35 (eleven months ago) link

Started a couple of books yesterday on finishing a couple of others.

Arlie Russell Hochschild The Managed Heart.
the book that gave the world teh term Emotional Labour looking at the idea of certain public facing jobs inherently including a level of work taht hadn't been recognised previously. She looks at stewardesses on a US airline and how they are forced to smile continually at the passengers as well as other forced external emotional signs. I've just started it so not got very far.
But does seem that i am recognising the text so wondering if I did actually get to read a copy when i first heard of teh book about 20 years ago. I know the University library had a copy and do remember at least handling that but for some reason didn't think I had actually read it. Anyway 20 years is quite an interval with a book so going to read or reread this over the next while. & it does seem pretty interesting.
Just seen her mentioning being married to an Adam in the preface. It seems she is the wife of the author who wrote King Leopold's Ghost. I had thought he had a famous wife but it was someone different. Oh well .Both interesting writers then.

David Graeber Bullshit Jobs
anarchist anthropologist lecturer/author's book on the then current workforce's plethora of meaningless jobs that seem to only exist to use up the worker's time without creating anything worthwhile. It is an expansion of an article he wrote for a magazine.
I haven't read Graeber before and have had thsi for a while and not sure why it has been backburnered other than losing itself into a to -read pile. I have been watching talks etc he did taht are up on youtube for the last few weeks. So thought i would start this, have a number of recent;y acquired books i meant to get into ASAP but can't do everything at the same time. I am enjoying his writing. Started this at like 2.30 this morning and nearly kept going with it then did manage to get to sleep.
So another one I am hoping to power through and the style does seem to lend itself to that.

Ted Gioia How To Listen To Jazz
American music critic talks about the process and criteria of telling good music from bad.
I have seen his name crop up in a few places and meant to read some material by him. I saw this title and thought it might be an interesting place to start. So far I've read the first chapter where he is talking about how to tell a rhythm section gels and if it swings. What speed the band is playing at for you to get a good sign of this.
Seems like an interesting book and I think it may trigger me to read a few others by him.

Fabulous Beasts Joseph Nigg
a collection of selections of work dating back to antiquity talking about the fauna populating the unmapped regions of the world. Interesting stuff, I was thinking particularly when I was reading it at the same time as Ed Yong's An Immense World which talked about the umwelt of known animals.
I'm currently on a section talking about medieval bestiaries. In these medieval writers are trying to apply the existence of animals talked about since the Greek and Roman empires in terms of how they support Christian credos. Which si quite interesting.
So book is interesting on a number of levels. The ideas of what animals are out there for a non global community and what it says about what they want to believe and why .
I think I was just walking round the library having a browse when i stumbled on this book and it has been backburnered for longer than I thought I would have it . But pretty interesting to read its contents.

Stevo, Monday, 26 June 2023 10:18 (eleven months ago) link

I have read the first 75 pages of the new Lorrie Moore I AM HOMELESS IF THIS IS NOT MY HOME and so far it has exceeded all my expectations. Thought the last novel was a car crash, and her recent reviews of Sally Rooney etc made me think she had really lost it. Still plenty of time for it to go off the rails but I am heartened by the quality of what I've read.

Piedie Gimbel, Monday, 26 June 2023 10:55 (eleven months ago) link

I have it on reserve at the library. Dwight Garner was not amused.

the dreaded dependent claus (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 26 June 2023 14:18 (eleven months ago) link

"new Lorrie Moore" are not words I need to see when I am in the homestretch of my dissertation, with no time for unrelated reading.

niall horanburger (cryptosicko), Monday, 26 June 2023 14:55 (eleven months ago) link

Stevo, I've only read Bogle's first book, which includes Lena Horne also, don't know about overlap otherwise, but it was really good, with very vivid, nuanced appraisals---wiki sez:

Bogle's first book, Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies and Bucks: An Interpretative History of Blacks in Films, was published in 1973. In it, he identified five basic stereotypical film roles available to black actors and actresses: the servile, avuncular "tom"; the simple-minded and cowardly "coon"; the tragic, and usually female, mulatto; the fat, dark-skinned "mammy"; and the irrational, hypersexual male "buck".[2] In the second edition of the book, Bogle identified a sixth stereotype: the sidekick, who is usually asexual.
And it went on into relatively recent developments, prob more about those in some later books. Halle Berry brought his Dorothy Dandridge bio to the screen.
I've seen some unappealing quotes and descriptions in favorable reviews of Lorrie Moore's new novel, but Dwight Garner was not amused might well be a blurb, as far as I'm concerned (he can be okay up to a point).

dow, Monday, 26 June 2023 18:23 (eleven months ago) link

His review of the recent Sam Shepard "biography" was terrible: slinging sneers around, no indication that Shepard ever did any worthwhile writing, that there might be something more to him than cartoon anecdotes.

dow, Monday, 26 June 2023 18:33 (eleven months ago) link

Last night I took a brief run at Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury. I picked it up more or less as a 'name check' exercise, having heard about it and knowing nothing else. It was an immediate fail for me. Too directly aimed at kids (mainly boys) of roughly 11 to 15. And the writing style was a romanticized to within an inch of its life.

So now I'm re-reading Human Voices, Penelope Fitzgerald.

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Monday, 26 June 2023 18:52 (eleven months ago) link

Fitzgerald's run from Human Voices to The Beginning of Spring is incredible.

Chuck_Tatum, Tuesday, 27 June 2023 12:16 (eleven months ago) link

yep

the dreaded dependent claus (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 27 June 2023 12:42 (eleven months ago) link

I picked it up more or less as a 'name check' exercise, having heard about it and knowing nothing else. It was an immediate fail for me. Too directly aimed at kids (mainly boys) of roughly 11 to 15. And the writing style was a romanticized to within an inch of its life.

what's wrong with aiming books at boys?

the dreaded dependent claus (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 27 June 2023 12:42 (eleven months ago) link

I'd say nothing but it's fair to list "I'm not the demographic" as a reason to drop a book.

Daniel_Rf, Tuesday, 27 June 2023 13:06 (eleven months ago) link

I’m….not so sure about that

butt dumb tight my boners got boners (the table is the table), Tuesday, 27 June 2023 13:47 (eleven months ago) link

Well, I was reading too much into it, “age demographic” does make sense to me. Otherwise the statement gives me pause

butt dumb tight my boners got boners (the table is the table), Tuesday, 27 June 2023 13:48 (eleven months ago) link

Read a few new chaps yesterday, and then today decided that I will try to read as much of I can of Olson’s The Maximus Poems at breakfast each morning until I finish. I’ve never read more than sections of it and his other work, and frankly never understood the hype or how his own theories are played out in the poems. But I’ve read much related to his work, and Prynne and a few others I admire were friends with him, so I figure: why not?

butt dumb tight my boners got boners (the table is the table), Tuesday, 27 June 2023 13:51 (eleven months ago) link

dow, I have not, sounds interesting. According to this anthology there's actually a lot of published testimonials from victims, tho who knows how many have been translated.

Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 14 September 2023 09:58 (nine months ago) link

I read Alex Kazemi’s New Millennium Boyz, couldn’t put it down, really.

It poses some interesting challenges for readers, as it pretty aptly documents the attitudes, patois, and behaviors of suburban white teenage boys in the US around the turn of the millennium. That is to say: the book contains a lot of misogyny, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and violence.

I escaped the sort of environment that the book documents by the time it really mattered, but my middle school years were reflected back at me through the book. (Fwiw, I was basically “taken out” of the school system because I was being mercilessly bullied for a number of reasons). It does an equally good job of depicting Y2K culture, from PBS (which the kids call “Parents BullShitting”) to popular music to the rise of the internet and early online video culture.

And I think that part of its point is that mainstream handwringing over what is happening to a certain class and race of young men is largely bullshit, not because young men aren’t in crisis, but because the handwringing does little to change the culture of how young men are raised in USAmerican society. The book suggests, through its action, that the hollow center of the culture, its banality and stupidity, builds and allows for hollow and broken young men to perpetuate the social ills I mention above.

Whether it needed to utilize the moves that it does is certainly up for debate, but it gets at some things about my own experience growing up that I found illuminating.

One of them, perhaps the question that the book asks in the end, is whether the then-new hypervisibility, self-as-brand, and lack of privacy actually makes us more invisible to ourselves and those around us. Still a potent, if perennial, question.

butt dumb tight my boners got boners (the table is the table), Friday, 15 September 2023 11:32 (nine months ago) link

I am about 3/4 of the way through Harlem Shuffle. It's very well-written. Some passages are just gorgeous. However, if I'm comparing it to his last novel (which, tbf, won the Pulitzer), it seems a little . . . the words that come to mind are "light" and "directionless." It's more of a caper than anything weightier. I suppose it's unfair to expect every book from a writer to be as impactful as his or her best work.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Saturday, 16 September 2023 18:53 (eight months ago) link

finished Mishima's "The Sound of Waves" last night, going to dig back into Chateaubriand's memoirs, which i made it about 1/3 of the way through last winter.

ton of things, especially some more recent stuff (fiction and non-fiction), that i need to get from the library soon; just a question of making the push to put it all on hold at my local branch.

budo jeru, Saturday, 16 September 2023 19:15 (eight months ago) link

this thread both inspires and overwhelms me on the reading front

budo jeru, Saturday, 16 September 2023 19:15 (eight months ago) link

I'm a few pages from finishing The Last Grain Race, Eric Newby, about his time spent as an apprentice deck hand, aged 18, on a four-masted sailing ship, circling the globe from Belfast to South Australia, picking up a load of wheat, and returning with it to England in 1938-39. It was written in the mid-1950s and is somewhat more ironic than the usual wooden-ships-and-iron-men genre (note: the ship was steel-hulled).

It shares some characteristics with Two Years Before the Mast in that Newby is a public school product interpreting life in the lower reached of the working class. Except where it diverges into long explanations about the ship's rigging and other technical details, it is readable and amusing enough. But Newby is not Orwell of Down and Out in Paris and London. Even though he is clear enough about the low pay, back-breaking work, bad food, and mortal dangers of the job, he has no real interest in the class system. Basically, he is just slumming.

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Saturday, 16 September 2023 19:36 (eight months ago) link

The Matrix by Lauren Groff. Nun lit (see also The Corner That Held Them), at the halfway point it almost dips its toe into fantasy or magical realism but it mostly seems to want to stay on the straight and narrow.

lurch of england (ledge), Monday, 18 September 2023 10:08 (eight months ago) link

The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman. Birkbeck College is mentioned as a path to advancement for a minor character, a clerk at Imperial Foods owned by Mr. Khan who is married briefly to the protagonist and comes to live in London for a new life. I've read a few novels by Rachman and in his writing think I detect the discipline (and limits) of his having previously written for a news publication, which I read somewhere while reading his first novel and so may not be entirely objective. (Separately, I am wondering how UCL fits within the system.)

It's strange to think that Lorrie Moore is a responsible adult now and writes about bands that I knew. I like getting to know obliquely the cross section of America that she writes about and her experience in it. I am gladthat the protagonist was able to hold her own when she did and I especially liked the parts about her cutting loose when she was adrift.

youn, Monday, 18 September 2023 14:30 (eight months ago) link

Rachman is appealing if you fantasize about living abroad.

youn, Monday, 18 September 2023 14:50 (eight months ago) link

King Solomon's Mines, H Rider Haggard - Quartermain probably the least read of the characters from Moore's original League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen? A big game hunter in Africa immediately conjuring more troublesome things than, say, an invisible man. So yeah this is about Quartermain helping a guy out whose brother has disappeared and discovering a Lost Kingdom. The portrayals of the African characters, while mostly "benign", also tend towards the paternalistic - I was surprised though to read a paragraph where Quartermain makes a big deal out of not using the n word, which he dislikes, and states that some "natives" are gentlemen while some rich white men are not. This struck me not as particularly impressive anti-racism from Haggard but because it suggests that even in Great Britain circa 1880 the word already had a stigma amongst some white people, which I wasn't aware of.

Less serious but of course the hunting sequences are also a bummer, particularly when they're not doing it to survive: lots of talk about "poor beasts" and moments of compassion for the dying animals. Don't shoot them then, Allen!

Anyway outside of all that the novel has an amusing author's voice, Quartermain sometimes coming across as a child's idea of a hero - he remarks often on his companion's propensity towards swearing, which amounts to said companion saying "God" and "Jesus" at times. Also as Alec Guiness said about the script to Star Wars - I want to know what happens next.

Daniel_Rf, Tuesday, 19 September 2023 10:03 (eight months ago) link

KSM and She were big films and are often repeated on the lesser freeview channels. but those are the only two from the list of 40+ things he wrote that i recognise.

koogs, Tuesday, 19 September 2023 11:21 (eight months ago) link

In The Italian Teacher, the one character who knows both the father and the son is Marsden. I am curious about what could have happened without an imagined deadline or word limit but am not certain that that character would have been right (otherwise, Natty, or less likely, Birdie or Barrows).

youn, Tuesday, 19 September 2023 13:10 (eight months ago) link

barbara tuchman - a distant mirror

my second tuch. this is her book about the 14th century. it’s a pretty fat tome and i’ve been reading a few pages before bed each night, at this rate it’ll take me a year to finish it. definitely slower and denser than guns of august (which i gobbled up in a few sittings) but she’s such a great writer. every paragraph is dripping with “the sauce”

flopson, Tuesday, 19 September 2023 14:35 (eight months ago) link

My sense is that every boomer in the UK has read KSM but their kids will only have read it if there was a copy on the shelves growing up.

Chuck_Tatum, Tuesday, 19 September 2023 14:35 (eight months ago) link

barbara tuchman - a distant mirror

my second tuch. this is her book about the 14th century. it’s a pretty fat tome and i’ve been reading a few pages before bed each night, at this rate it’ll take me a year to finish it. definitely slower and denser than guns of august (which i gobbled up in a few sittings) but she’s such a great writer. every paragraph is dripping with “the sauce”

― flopson,

I'm glad you mentioned her. I've wondered if she's still worth a read (and if her stuff remains accurate).

hat trick of trashiness (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 19 September 2023 14:38 (eight months ago) link

distant mirror is an incredible book.

guns of august was solid imo.

i've had her march of folly on my list for while, but it seems the most vulnerable to reappraisal on its historical merits.

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Tuesday, 19 September 2023 15:00 (eight months ago) link

Guns of August is certainly worth reading despite not being perfectly accurate. i recommend pairing it with a long book review of christopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers like this one https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v35/n23/thomas-laqueur/some-damn-foolish-thing

flopson, Tuesday, 19 September 2023 15:01 (eight months ago) link

Oh right I have March of Folly lying around the bed waiting to be read.
So need to do that and maybe these others

Stevo, Tuesday, 19 September 2023 15:03 (eight months ago) link

distant mirror is an incredible book.

guns of august was solid imo.

i've had her march of folly on my list for while, but it seems the most vulnerable to reappraisal on its historical merits.

― 𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Tuesday, 19 September 2023 11:00 AM (one minute ago) bookmarkflaglink

im curious about the stilwell in china one

flopson, Tuesday, 19 September 2023 15:04 (eight months ago) link

I found March of Folly to be the weakest of her efforts, unless you compare it to Stilwell and the American Experience in China., which is essentially just her doctoral thesis, seized on by her publisher in order to capitalize on the immense popularity of The Guns of August.

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Tuesday, 19 September 2023 15:12 (eight months ago) link

I always run into this with history books, constantly debating with myself whether to read the boring but superficially more accurate new one or the old one that reaches further into the ecstatic truth of vivid, aesthetically sublime writing.

oiocha, Wednesday, 20 September 2023 17:02 (eight months ago) link

If you want relentless accuracy, fact-by-fact (you can look 'em all up!) as nail-by-nail x overview as compelling narrative, try Timothy Egan: The Big Burn is the life of a forest fire in rich timberland---that burned an area the size of Connecticut in a weekend---when the U.S. Forest Service was itself seen as a Big or Bigger Burn by righteous capitalists. The Service is not presented as perfect by any means, but the story zooms from macro to micro and back at just the right times, with the struggle of different groups and individuals fighting the fire juxtaposed with how things are going back in D.C. (not too much of this shit)

Righteous capitalist catnip for The Pioneer Spirit sets the stage for environmental and social disaster in Egan's even deeper-digging The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl.

dow, Friday, 22 September 2023 00:39 (eight months ago) link

I'm starting into Persuasion, Jane Austen. Her prose is a precision instrument, just a pure pleasure in itself.

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Friday, 22 September 2023 01:35 (eight months ago) link

xp The Worst Hard Time has the distinction of being the most severely panned book in my book club, which has now been running for more that 10 years and has read more than 100 books.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Friday, 22 September 2023 03:18 (eight months ago) link

Austen is gangsta

hat trick of trashiness (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 22 September 2023 03:44 (eight months ago) link

Finished Matrix. Some lovely writing but it felt mostly like a straight line journey from beginning to end, no major diversions or setbacks or unexpected events. In other words somewhat lacking in plot.

On to The Swimming Pool Library.

lurch of england (ledge), Friday, 22 September 2023 08:02 (eight months ago) link

Swimming Pool Library is another, like Famished Road, that has been sat over there on the shelf for 30 years. ha, in fact, they are literally next to each other

koogs, Friday, 22 September 2023 08:07 (eight months ago) link

(unread / unfinished)

koogs, Friday, 22 September 2023 08:10 (eight months ago) link

I gave up on The Famished Road last year.

lurch of england (ledge), Friday, 22 September 2023 08:12 (eight months ago) link

King Solomon's Mines does this (offensive) thing where the white explorers encountering a hidden civilization pass themselves off as wizards by using their modern weapons, familiar to me from many a children's cartoon and Carl Barks comic but I wonder if this is where the trope started.

My fav instance of it is in the (I'm sure otherwise not very good) Martin Lawrence vehicle Black Knight where Lawrence, transported to medieval times, turns on his lighter and goes "look, FIRE!" and one of the rampaging villagers just goes "well, we have fire".

Daniel_Rf, Friday, 22 September 2023 09:21 (eight months ago) link

David Olusoga Black & British
pretty decent history of black presence in Britain going back to Roman times.
It jumped forward to Tudor times to describe musicians at Henry VIII's court and then followed through teh start of the slave trade and hat it was easier to seize a shipment containing human cargo asa privateer than go through the whole process of buying from sourcel I've just read the cynical treatment of loyalists and black soldiers who fought for the loyalist side in the War of Independence in what was to become the States. & then gone through the scheme to move population incoming from that in Sierra Leone. Which I hadn't taken in previously was a combination of scam and wishful thinking by the guy who suggested Sierra leone. & that he had actually written an article/submission saying why the same place wasn't suitable as a penal colony shortly before suggesting it was a good place for a black colony.
Good book which I've meant to read for a long time but I've neglected since getting out of the library cos I'm in the middle of reading a stack of other things.

LUdd in the mist Helen Mirlees
fantasy novel that was a big influence on Neil Gaiman among others. & I was turned onto by reading his Welcome To The Cheap Seats recently.

Voodoo In Haiti Alfred Metraux
study from the mid 20th century looking at the syncretic religion and its effect on the population of the country it was prevalent in.
Its a bit racist, it is from 1947 so I guess that's to be expected. Probably could be a lot more so so maybe by comparative standards its like totally woke.
Pretty interesting and i think it is well known.
THink this was something I picked up from the bibliography of Federici's Caliban and the Witch . Another book I'm neglecting.

Bruno Bettelheim The Uses of Enchantment
Scholarly study on the subject of fairytales that I've meant to read for decades. THink I was looking at it the summer of 20 years ago and didn't get to read it

Toni Morrison Mouthful Of Blood
an anthology of shorter pieces by the black author. My current bathroom book

Stevo, Friday, 22 September 2023 09:30 (eight months ago) link

> I gave up on The Famished Road last year.

it's almost as if i remembered this rather than just bringing it up at random 8)

took a bunch of books to amnesty last saturday, mainly modernish sf that i know i will never read again (utopia, altered carbon, windup girl) and things i've bought as ebooks since (american gods). maybe these should follow.

koogs, Friday, 22 September 2023 11:01 (eight months ago) link

Just started Deacon King Kong by James McBride.

(I find myself making up thread titles for Aimless the way I sometimes make up baby names or others might play video games. I was trying to find a way to incorporate the moon or moonlight without much success. The moon can really light up one's path.)

youn, Friday, 22 September 2023 12:32 (eight months ago) link

Deacon King Kong, otoh, was one of the most beloved book club reads. Fantastic book.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Friday, 22 September 2023 12:48 (eight months ago) link

What were your book club's objections to The Worst Hard Time?

dow, Friday, 22 September 2023 17:25 (eight months ago) link

I think it was just the sheer unremitting misery of the narrative. I actually found it engaging.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Friday, 22 September 2023 17:27 (eight months ago) link

Yeah, somehow he finds momentum in misery! Digging through the Dust Bowl.
The Big Burn might have more of that, moving with the crackling, drying flash of the fire, drying the melodramatic/disaster porn potential to plain detail and perspective and scale of physical=mental-emotional (also strategic and tactical) considerations, scale of aftereffects as well.

dow, Friday, 22 September 2023 17:38 (eight months ago) link

(fwiw, wiki sez TWHT

won the 2006 National Book Award for Nonfiction[2][3] and the 2006 Washington State Book Award in History/Biography.
)

dow, Friday, 22 September 2023 17:42 (eight months ago) link

I recently read the Keith Richards autobiography (with James Fox), "Life". I found it pretty enjoyable. At 550+ pages, perhaps it could've been trimmed a bit. The stories about the early days were the most interesting to me, and even though that "imperial" phase of the Stones only took up the first decade of their now 6+ decade run (5 decades at the time of writing), the book never completely lost my interest. For someone whose public image is taciturn, Richards seems rather loquacious in print. Not only that, he's a pretty decent raconteur, with a dry sense of humor and an ear for pungent turns of phrase. It seems like his two great loves in life are music, esp. blues and rock, and drugs, and he writes at length about both. The music parts were the more interesting parts for me. It would take a far more introspective writer than Richards to find something interesting to relate about the numberless drug experiences, which tend to become repetitive. But any way you slice it, he has lived an interesting life and managed to relate enough of it to carry the book, no doubt with the indispensable assistance of his co-author.

o. nate, Friday, 22 September 2023 21:21 (eight months ago) link

There Will Be Fire - Rory Carroll

vv compelling read, covering the IRA's plan to/failed attempt to assassinate Margaret Thatcher by bombing the Grand Hotel in Brighton. Not having known much about this story, it's fairly astonishing just how close they got to pulling off the unthinkable. The before mostly covers Thatcher's policies w/r/t Northern Ireland, bomber Patrick Magee's path towards this event, other bombings carried out, and the during is a fairly horrifying recreation of what actually occurred. The after is the tracking of the suspects, and the race to track down an IRA operative in Scotland who is part of a seemingly separate plot (and he is, but they're connected.) It achieves a nice balance without being "actually, both sides are etc etc..."

omar little, Friday, 22 September 2023 21:35 (eight months ago) link

Like an old German I knew said of the failed plot to assassinate Hitler, the devil saved her.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Friday, 22 September 2023 21:41 (eight months ago) link

My third Richard powers, Bewilderment. kinda meh

calstars, Friday, 22 September 2023 21:42 (eight months ago) link

Also recently finished Robinson’s the dark beyond the stars. Way too long

calstars, Friday, 22 September 2023 21:43 (eight months ago) link

I am about 3/4 of the way through Harlem Shuffle. It's very well-written. Some passages are just gorgeous. However, if I'm comparing it to his last novel (which, tbf, won the Pulitzer), it seems a little . . . the words that come to mind are "light" and "directionless." It's more of a caper than anything weightier. I suppose it's unfair to expect every book from a writer to be as impactful as his or her best work.

― immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Saturday, September 16, 2023

Haven't read Harlem Shuffle yet, but it is apparently the first part of a trilogy. The second book, Crook Manifesto, was just published this summer.

I really loved the two books I've read by him, The Underground Railroad (which won the National Book Award) and The Nickel Boys (The Pulitzer)

Dan S, Saturday, 23 September 2023 00:40 (eight months ago) link

Going through Le Carré's books in order, I've now read or reread all of the Smiley novels - "Call for the Dead", "A Murder of Quality", "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold", "The Looking-Glass War", "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy", "The Honourable Schoolboy", and "Smiley's People".

I'm a long way away from "Legacy of Spies", the distant follow-up published in 2017

My next book is "The Little Drummer Girl" from 1983, which I remember being my favorite Le Carré at the time

Dan S, Saturday, 23 September 2023 01:02 (eight months ago) link

I've heard that The Crook Manifesto is better than Harlem Shuffle, maybe more of a genre/lit (or at least character study) balance, like his zombie-hunting Zone One(clean-up of v.valuable Manhattan real estate, cause you know the plague is over). I really enjoyed that one.

dow, Saturday, 23 September 2023 01:21 (eight months ago) link

still, the preview of Harlem Shuffle seemed promising: POV of a fence, usually a flat weasel in crime stories, here a scuffling small store owner lured into the shade.

dow, Saturday, 23 September 2023 01:25 (eight months ago) link

How did you find Smiley’s People? Got it on the shelf, tempted if put off by the size. Certainly it opens well.

Chuck_Tatum, Saturday, 23 September 2023 08:29 (eight months ago) link

It's time again to wind down this summertime thread and move into our shiny new digs at I'm in Love With Books and I Feel Fine! What Are You Reading in Autumn 2023?. See y'all there!

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Saturday, 23 September 2023 16:12 (eight months ago) link

xp I really liked Smiley's People, it seemed more coherent to me than The Honorable Schoolboy and less difficult to follow than Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy (the two previous books), and brought the original series to a nice conclusion

Dan S, Saturday, 23 September 2023 23:35 (eight months ago) link


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