I'm in Love With Books and I Feel Fine! What Are You Reading in Autumn 2023?

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Time to put aside the sultry pastimes of summer and say farewell to Everything is Whirling and Twirling! What Are You Reading this Summer 2023?. I recommend you settle down in a corner where the light is adequate for reading. You don't want to ruin your eyes, do you?

I'm partway into Persuasion, Jane Austen's final completed book -- according to the overly long Introduction that I hurriedly skipped past. Unlike its tedious Introduction, this book slaps!

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Saturday, 23 September 2023 16:11 (two months ago) link

i just read havana glam, attributed to wu ming 5. a series of epigraphs begins the second part of the novel, ectopistes migratorius, including one attributed to johnny rotten in a 1977 nme interview: "david bowie's cuban period represents the first serious attempt to make socialism sexy." alternate history. in 2045, president alfred albert wank is supporting a project by theoretical physicists jurgen grabowski and peter hans goldbaum to send temponauts back to 1944 to force the americans to carry out the plans they drafted to obliterate the soviet union with nuclear weapons. this is the only way to halt the vietnam war, the rise of the counterculture, leftist movements around the world, and the final war of 2022. first part: chrome-spangled americana and jazz on the radio, a tender european evocation of the golden age, occasionally channeling philip k. dick, with the first temponaut pursued by the oss as a nazi spy, then running afoul of james forrestal, and materializing among the navajo (i will stereotype: europeans love american indians, jazz, reggae, which will come in later, all of which they romanticize as noble savagery). second part, second temponaut, after the wank government learns of his failure reading the ripples of time through official archives, goes back to complete the job. there is a lengthy interlude in jamaica, with the second temponaut, having decided to continue his fight against communism within the intelligence community, taking part in jlp/pnp street fights (dueling agencies, cia and cuban intelligence), with wank's own political struggle in the background (dueling parties, reconstruction vs. tradition). third part, third temponaut, third attempt in the form of a cultural atomic bomb. the results of the instability in time are listed: this is lengthy, and includes not only the return of the passenger pigeon, ectopistes migratorius, but also david bowie's conversion to communism. this—sending bowie to havana—was part of the wank scheme, it seems, to disrupt cuban communism with individualism, hedonism, rebellious fashion, and music celebrating chemical and sexual excess. wank falls. bowie meets the first temponaut on navajo land. skip to the epilogue. good pulpy sci-fi whatever the political message if there was one.

XxxxxxxXxxxxxxxxXxxxx (dylannn), Saturday, 23 September 2023 16:20 (two months ago) link

now reading Thomas Seethaler's The Tobacconist, an affecting but somewhat ominous coming-of-age story set in Vienna in 1937

Dan S, Saturday, 23 September 2023 23:43 (two months ago) link

About to start Lark Ascending, by Silas House. Another book club book I had never heard of till this month's host picked it.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Saturday, 23 September 2023 23:53 (two months ago) link

David Olusoga Black & British
Long history of black presence in Great Britain and some British presence elsewhere. I like Olusoga's writing and this is really good. Gives more depth to some stories I've come across elsewhere.
Don't think I'd quite come across the interwoven story of British loyalist blacks from the American colonies, Nova Scotia, the Sierra Leone settlement attempts, Equiano, what a scam the initial set up was, proximity of slaving network and on in quite this depth before.
There's probably at least one book fully dedicated to the story though. &;here it's one story out of many from 500+ years covered. Book is 500+ pages long so I shouldn't have backburnered it to the extent that I did

For The Many Not The Few
Graphic novel looking at popular uprisings in Britain over 700 odd years.
With a linking narrative of a white grandfather talking to his part Indian granddaughter and telling her about these events.

Stevo, Sunday, 24 September 2023 05:11 (two months ago) link

Lark Ascending is a very quick read; I started it yesterday and am halfway through it. It's a dystopian novel that owes a huge debt of gratitude to The Handmaid's Tale, both the book and the show. It's not bad. He writes well enough to make me want to know what happens next.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Monday, 25 September 2023 19:53 (two months ago) link

Have read a few things large and small since my last check-in, but am currently reading Loop, a book of poetry by John Taggart. I had never read him before, but a friend gave this to me, and I’ve taken to it— strange, insistent poems and repeated images in a wide variety of forms. Hypnotic, in a way. A new poet to investigate more!

butt dumb tight my boners got boners (the table is the table), Tuesday, 26 September 2023 01:55 (two months ago) link

Flaubert - Madame Bovary. The books canon is good.

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 26 September 2023 07:56 (two months ago) link

I read Galveston by Nic Pizzolato, the creator of True Detective. It was riddled with cliché but he writes place beautifully and that was enough to carry the relatively thin storyline.

To stay with the TD world for a bit longer, I started a book of Thomas Ligotti short stories. The story I read last night, 'The Frolic', is a curious thing. There was a Cheever vibe in the uneasy middle-class calm of the set and setting but everything was underlit by this kind of diseased atmosphere that built as the story progressed. I fell asleep pretty much directly after I'd finished the story and had the most intense bout of sleep paralysis, where I was being consumed by a sallow, clinging fog. Which is a 100% recommend in my book.

I would prefer not to. (Chinaski), Tuesday, 26 September 2023 11:12 (two months ago) link

I think my reading of this would benefit from some knowledge of Lovecraft, of which mine is cursory at best. Is there a Lovecraft text I should start with or a book of criticism I could get?

I would prefer not to. (Chinaski), Tuesday, 26 September 2023 11:22 (two months ago) link

I need to reread Madame Bovary to recall the role of the pharmacist and the situation/place/setting/environment.

In Deacon King Kong, I am relishing the multi-generational and multicultural proximity, nicknames, differences in urgency (across and in spite of generational divides), but I am still reading and figuring out what the author has to say in his personal canon ... even if they are stories told and heard for pleasure ...

youn, Tuesday, 26 September 2023 11:52 (two months ago) link

which translation of bovary?

i'm rereading nazi literature in the americas by roberto bolaño with some friends. haven't read it in years but it's a surprisingly durable bit. not among his best but bolaño was a formative writer for me when i was in high school and returning to his work it always feels like a reservoir i can still tap.

vivian dark, Wednesday, 27 September 2023 00:48 (two months ago) link

i just finished middlemarch. i don't care what anyone says, and this might surprise you, but it was good. there i said it.

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Wednesday, 27 September 2023 02:27 (two months ago) link

Bruno Bettelheim Uses Of Enchantment
Mid 70s work where German psychologist looks at fairy tales as analogies of personal development. How the self matures at.
Pretty interesting I guess. I think that might just about fit with the ideaof folk tale as passer on of societal values and customs etc which is what they traditionally did. I haven't been fully convinced by bits of it like him talking about a class full of kids who were convinced that paper models of the comet Kohoutek somehow were the comet and treating them with a lot less respect after its pointed out that they're not. Seems like something missing in the retelling.
I'm finding it interesting anyway though not totally convinced.

Stevo, Wednesday, 27 September 2023 05:34 (two months ago) link

yeah, i'm going to request it from my library.

can anyone recommend a recent, tight, 200 pages or so crime book that's not a turn down for a long plane flight?

Western® with Bacon Flavor, Wednesday, 27 September 2023 05:55 (two months ago) link

"which translation of bovary?"


xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 27 September 2023 11:15 (two months ago) link

Has anyone attempted to read different translations of the same book side by side? After reading The Vegetarian by Han Kang, I became aware of mistakes that were simple vocabulary and made me question my understanding of the original text. I could have detected those errors (I think).

youn, Wednesday, 27 September 2023 12:23 (two months ago) link

I read that Han defended that translation after a lot of ppl criticised it, but that may just be professional courtesy

Boris Yitsbin (wins), Wednesday, 27 September 2023 12:28 (two months ago) link

That's interesting, re: Vegetarian. There hasn't been an evaluation of much Korean literature in translation, mostly because it's quite a recent thing to have this much Korean Lit in English.

Whereas there is much more Japanese literature in English over decades with some commentary on past translator's efforts.

As I don't know any source languages (the language I grew up with I've forgotten through lack of use) I just look at the literary fluency of the English I am reading.

xp - Deborah Smith has gone on to translate Kang's other books too..

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 27 September 2023 12:35 (two months ago) link

I'm wondering if choice of first language matters, and if the author has discretion (or influence or true freedom of agency) or whether it lies with the publisher.

youn, Wednesday, 27 September 2023 12:37 (two months ago) link

Interesting discussion about the translation of The Vegetarian here: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/01/15/han-kang-and-the-complexity-of-translation

I would prefer not to. (Chinaski), Wednesday, 27 September 2023 13:58 (two months ago) link

can anyone recommend a recent, tight, 200 pages or so crime book that's not a turn down for a long plane flight?
I've been meaning to check out Southern noir author S.A. Cosby. Blacktop Wasteland won several awards and hardcover is 285 pages; My Darkest Prayer paperback is 224. Razorblade Tears and this year's All The Sinners Bleed, are 300+.

dow, Wednesday, 27 September 2023 15:55 (two months ago) link

We read Blacktop Wasteland for book club. It's an entertaining read, although it does have a couple of scenes that make you go, "Oh, come ON!"

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Wednesday, 27 September 2023 16:02 (two months ago) link

I've really enjoyed the series by Caimh McDonnell, called somewhat tongue-in-cheek "the Dublin trilogy" (which is now up to something like 7 books). The first one is called A Man with One of Those Faces. I find him vastly entertaining.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Wednesday, 27 September 2023 16:04 (two months ago) link

i read both Blacktop Wasteland and Razorblade Tears. the guy writes plots where the narrative never stops moving and most people don't escape alive, based on that pair. he's a good one, though for sure the twists and turns of the tales are frequently outlandish. i'd recommend both, they're swift reads. i intend to read his other pair.

omar little, Wednesday, 27 September 2023 16:12 (two months ago) link

i'm reading All God's Children by Arthur Lyons, the second in his Jacob Asch series. thus far in the story, it's another '60s L.A. counterculture gone to '70s seed private eye tale (similar to the first novel The Dead Are Discreet), with Jake hunting down a missing girl caught between a religious cult, a post-religious cult deprogrammer, a drug-dealing biker gang, and several others. thanks to ian for the recommendation on this series, it's excellent. apparently Lyons wrote a lot about cults prior to tackling this detective series, and he seems to know the inner workings of them inside-out.

omar little, Wednesday, 27 September 2023 16:26 (two months ago) link

the twists and turns of the tales are frequently outlandish.
If he really is xpost noir, that's what I call for: spinning on black ice for a while, maybe even taking on an afterlife of its own, as in film ov The Big Sleep. (Other noir essentials, I realized while watching Act of Violence: the shit ypu can't take back, and someone else's thirst for revenge, which can be quite understandable in context, but also---crazy.)

dow, Wednesday, 27 September 2023 20:27 (two months ago) link

(Last night I dreamt that I couldn't figure out subject verb order from glosses of ancient Greek in textbooks because I was in front of people and skimming through grammars they handed to me. It was all very frustrating and pointless, the way most dreams seem to be once you get older, and I woke up late. I need to check out that link. I am still reading Deacon King Kong and making sense of it. Both books I've read by McBride point out that black slaves in the U.S. were kept from learning how to read; it seems to have lasted or had effects long after slavery ended.)

youn, Thursday, 28 September 2023 13:53 (two months ago) link

Lud in the Most Hope Mirrlees
Fantasy novel about a town on a frontier with Fairyland that I don't know if I'd guess came from as early as it does. May just be down to pervasive influence or something.
Doesnt seem overly dated though not sure exactly what I would think a book of its time that was would be like.
Trying to read it while half asleep and fluey. Think I'm enjoying it but not as deeply enchanted as it sounded from a description of it by Neil Gaiman had me hoping.
So hope it's something I can revisit.

Stevo, Thursday, 28 September 2023 21:31 (two months ago) link

That book seems to get namechecked a lot.

Dose of Thunderwords (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 28 September 2023 23:57 (two months ago) link

Finished Loop by John Taggart, moving onto Mohammed Zenia’s Tel Aviv, a book of poems that is doing a lot of interesting work around colonialism’s signifiers while also being very strangely beautiful. I don’t know the poet well, but have read with him twice in somewhat strange circumstances, and have always enjoyed his work— glad I found out he had a book!

butt dumb tight my boners got boners (the table is the table), Friday, 29 September 2023 00:11 (two months ago) link

I finished Lark Ascending, it was a lovely book. I also finished The Elegant Universe, which seemed like a real accomplishment. I started in on another of Greene's books, The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos, which is pretty much what it says on the tin. I find this stuff daunting but fascinating.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Friday, 29 September 2023 00:13 (two months ago) link

I'm reading A Month of Sundays, a candidate for some of the worst sex writing I've ever read.

hat trick of trashiness (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 29 September 2023 12:37 (two months ago) link

Just got Paul Crooks' Ancestors about him
Managing to trace his family back through Jamaican slavery. I know he eventually traced things back to Africa not sure that's covered here.
So analogous to Roots but by a working class British West Indian guy.
I've seen webinars by the author so am very interested in reading this.

Stevo, Friday, 29 September 2023 22:32 (two months ago) link

Slogging through Powers’ Bewilderment. Narrative is zzz but I am thinking differently about having respect for other sentient beings

calstars, Saturday, 30 September 2023 19:56 (two months ago) link

yeah it's a mistake

dow, Saturday, 30 September 2023 23:38 (two months ago) link

i wanted to respond to the wondering of youn. i will share my experience and general feeling. it is not unlikely especially when talking about a language pair like korean-english that nobody proficient in the language apart from the translator themselves ever looked at the text. even if they engage an editor that knows the language and/or has read the original, readability in english rather than fidelity is the focus. sometimes, a step earlier than this, submitting a translation to the author's own agent or when getting permission to translate, the agent or author might have quibbles over actual translation errors (these will be in a sample)(these might require overliteral translations that get reversed by an editor later) but that seems rare.

moving out of romance language to romance language, it's usually possible unless you have produced a text in english unreadably faithful to the original (this plagues asian languages in translation still, where translation is dominated not by writers but academics), to rip them apart line by line, looking for the infidelity required to produce something readable in english.

XxxxxxxXxxxxxxxxXxxxx (dylannn), Sunday, 1 October 2023 06:12 (two months ago) link

I've run out of freebies, but translator of a (linked) Korean short story discusses it here: https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/this-week-in-fiction-yi-mun-yol
Han Kang on her own story: https://www.newyorker.com/books/this-week-in-fiction/han-kang-02-06-23
Which is also in this round-up of linked commentaries: https://www.newyorker.com/books/double-take/sunday-reading-lost-and-found-in-translation

dow, Sunday, 1 October 2023 16:50 (two months ago) link

Real grab bag on my bedside table at the moment:

Emmanuel Carrere - 97,196 Words: Essays
James Ellroy - Silent Terror
Polly Barton - Fifty Sounds

bain4z, Sunday, 1 October 2023 18:50 (two months ago) link

I'm reading a pop history book I picked up at my favorite charity bookshop, The Imperial Cruise, James Bradley. Its 'hook' is describing a large delegation of US government diplomats and legislators, more than 60 of them, including the Secretary of War Howard Taft, who sailed to Asia in 1905 in furtherance of President Teddy Roosevelt's intense desire to acquire more colonial possessions and expand a US empire across the Pacific. Its real purpose is to expose how deeply white supremacy was embedded in the highest levels of the US power structure, founded in the exact same Aryan mythology that the Nazis later made use of.

So far, it has delineated just what lying, racist pieces of shit everyone connected to the conquest and brutalization of the Philippines were -- which nastiness I had read about long ago in contemporary anti-imperialist tracts written by Mark Twain, but now with added disgusting details. It's an encouraging thought that books about the violent racism of late 19th century imperialism can become best sellers and their truths percolate into some fraction of the US consciousness. But it seems like popular national mythologies are almost impossible to dislodge once they become well-established.

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Sunday, 1 October 2023 18:55 (two months ago) link

I remember The Imperial Cruise being a good read.

hat trick of trashiness (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 1 October 2023 19:06 (two months ago) link

Here We are, Graham Swift (book club choice) - Kind of a big shrug for me. The stuff about being sent off as a kid during the war was good I guess. Nothing truly bad or hack about this I don't think but just kinda pointless?

Daniel_Rf, Monday, 2 October 2023 09:35 (two months ago) link

Finished The Swimming Pool Library. Will is an entirely tedious protagonist - "My vanity which was so constitutional that it had virtually ceased to be vanity", lol nice try - the sections from Charles' diaries are no consolation. There was a feeling of a gathering of energies towards the end, before the last little burp of plot. I'm aware that I complained about lack of plot in my last read, I know a book can be perfectly fine without one but I think I'm just craving a good substantial story right now.

behold the thump (ledge), Monday, 2 October 2023 13:11 (two months ago) link

Read a decent amount of things on vacation. Highlight was probably Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere by Jan Morris, which I mostly read while in Trieste, kind of corny I know but it was very enjoyable. Reflects on the strange history of the city and its pull upon her and a number of other writers despite its comparative lack of great sights and cultural/economic/historical importance. Found it tremendously moving towards the end, it was Morris's last book and it concludes with her musing on her own feelings about aging and irrelevance and how much that plays into her own perception of the city.

The Tartar Steppe, by Dino Buzzati - real bummer! But pretty incredible, the sort of novel that you can sum up in a brief sentence but is filled with odd, otherworldly detail and atmosphere that makes it hypnotic to read.

On The Marble Cliffs, by Ernst Junger - very odd semi-supernatural allegory that may or may not have been a swipe at the Nazis, didn't really get this tbh but it was pleasant enough to read.

The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor Lavalle - I really should have read the Lovecraft story it's riffing on but I thought it was a really compelling and surprising little horror novel.

still in the middle of The Garden of Seven Twilights, by Miquel de Palol - recently published by Dalkey Archive, long novel of stories within stories within stories, which I'm always kind of a sucker for. Most of the stories are pretty fun though there are some jarring shifts in tone and not a ton in the way of characters.

JoeStork, Tuesday, 3 October 2023 03:57 (two months ago) link

Travellers and The Settled Community: A Share Future John Heneghan, Mary(Warde) Moriarty , Michael O hAodha
book onIrish travellers . I wanted to get hold of some reading matter on the subject in teh wake of the Misleor festival last week. I think this has been on the shelves in teh local library for a while so I should have got to it faster. Came out in 2012.
Various essays on various factors on traveller life and interaction with settled community. I read the first couple of sections last night and it looks good.

Faith, Hope and Carnage Nick Cave and Sean O'Hagan
book based on several conversations between the two from the early days of the pandemic lockdown in 2020. Gives some insight into Cave's headspace. Glad I read it, would still like a memoir from him though

Stevo, Tuesday, 3 October 2023 10:15 (two months ago) link

Finished The Swimming Pool Library. Will is an entirely tedious protagonist - "My vanity which was so constitutional that it had virtually ceased to be vanity", lol nice try - the sections from Charles' diaries are no consolation. There was a feeling of a gathering of energies towards the end, before the last little burp of plot. I'm aware that I complained about lack of plot in my last read, I know a book can be perfectly fine without one but I think I'm just craving a good substantial story right now.

― behold the thump (ledge),

I read it after The Folding Star, The Spell, and especially The Line of Beauty, hence its slightness, its insularity.

hat trick of trashiness (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 3 October 2023 12:03 (two months ago) link

Good to know I picked the duffer (impulse charity shop purchase).

behold the thump (ledge), Tuesday, 3 October 2023 12:39 (two months ago) link

Might get round to those others (and reread TLoB) one day.

behold the thump (ledge), Tuesday, 3 October 2023 12:39 (two months ago) link

Having just recently learned of the existence of the Two Month Review podcast, I am rereading 2666 as I listen to their episodes discussing it.

The king of the demo (bernard snowy), Tuesday, 3 October 2023 16:42 (two months ago) link

To stay with the TD world for a bit longer, I started a book of Thomas Ligotti short stories. The story I read last night, 'The Frolic', is a curious thing. There was a Cheever vibe in the uneasy middle-class calm of the set and setting but everything was underlit by this kind of diseased atmosphere that built as the story progressed. I fell asleep pretty much directly after I'd finished the story and had the most intense bout of sleep paralysis, where I was being consumed by a sallow, clinging fog. Which is a 100% recommend in my book.

― I would prefer not to. (Chinaski), Tuesday, September 26, 2023 11:12 AM (one week ago)

I've read many of the stories in my Ligotti penguin volume, but that first one stays with me. I still don't really know whether I like his work or not, but it certainly has power to estrange and unsettle, in a way that owes very little (afaict) to Lovecraft.

The king of the demo (bernard snowy), Tuesday, 3 October 2023 16:51 (two months ago) link

Definitely read The Third Policeman. I need to reread that too.

mojo dojo casas house (gyac), Wednesday, 22 November 2023 16:05 (two weeks ago) link

A pint of plain is your only man.

Shifty Henry’s Swing Club (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 22 November 2023 16:20 (two weeks ago) link

Yu Miri - The End of August. A 700 page book around the Korean experience in Japan/parts of East Asia, roughy from the '20s through to World War, touching onto the present day. Centers around the author's family, and her marathon-running grandfather, who pretty much ran through life though the peak of the book is a train journey in the last third of the book, undertaken by one of the women in it. Lots of striking writing around food, and the way prayer is incorporated in the language of the book.

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 22 November 2023 23:06 (two weeks ago) link

And the many deaths, as well as many births!

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 22 November 2023 23:21 (two weeks ago) link

I'm reading Zadie Smith's The Fraud at my wife's request, she was finding it quite oblique and wanted my opinion. Well, here's how we find out - with so far very little other supporting evidence or confirmation - that the lead character and her cousin's wife have become lovers (the two things referred to at the start are, as far as i can make out, 'a home of women and girls at ease with one another' and the husband's continued absence):

One thing permitted and made possible the other, even if the logic was too shrouded, too mysterious to penetrate. Like a finger. Like two penetrating fingers. Like two fingers penetrating a flower. In complete, candleless darkness. As if the fingers and the flower were not separate but one, and so incapable of meaning the one against the other. Two fingers entering a bloom not unlike the wild ones in the hedgerow – layered like those, with the same overlapping folds – yet miraculously warm and wet, pulsing, made of flesh. Like a tongue. Like the bud of a mouth. Like another bud, apparently made for a tongue, lower down.

organ doner (ledge), Thursday, 23 November 2023 12:14 (two weeks ago) link

Doesn’t seem that oblique to me

mojo dojo casas house (gyac), Thursday, 23 November 2023 12:42 (two weeks ago) link

Goodbye Columbus

Always meant to read this! So enjoyable. Roth writing in his early 20s - the voice is already so developed and confident - frightening.

Chuck_Tatum, Thursday, 23 November 2023 15:15 (two weeks ago) link

That's just Zadie trying to avoid the normal pitfalls around writing a sex scene and instead getting more of a faux Victorian orientalism mashup.

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Thursday, 23 November 2023 17:33 (two weeks ago) link

Thomas Bernhard - Gargoyles. Not one to start with, though it's really interesting to see the great man developing his technique as this book culminates in a thirty page paragraph of bile.

William Shakespeare - Julius Caesar

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 23 November 2023 21:35 (two weeks ago) link

hi gyac, your presentation of Oscar and Lucinda (which I think local library still has, will check tomorrow) has me wondering if you've read Marilynne Robison's Gilead? If you like that, check the follow-ups---Alfred didn't approve the last/latest, Jack, but is sadly rong.

dow, Saturday, 25 November 2023 04:29 (one week ago) link

Marilynne *Robinson*, that is.

dow, Saturday, 25 November 2023 04:32 (one week ago) link

Racing through Bernhard's Woodcutters - every other attempt I've made at Bernhard (Extinction, The Loser, Old Masters) has fallen by the wayside about 20 pages in, but Woodcutters is really doing it for me.

bain4z, Saturday, 25 November 2023 10:05 (one week ago) link

Footnotes in Gaza Joe Sacco
Collection of comics from early 00ieswhere American cartoonist depicts his trip to Palestine. This time he's an accredited journalist and he's looking for information for a story on a massacre in 1956.

Fair Future Wolfgang Sachs
Book on resources distribution and ethics.
Gets a little technical but only a little.& isn't overly dry.
Based on information gathered in Germany so that's where the statistics come from.
Decent translation.

Nick Drake Richard Morton Jack.
Very good detailed biography of introvert acoustic artist. I've got as far as him getting to University in Cambridge.
I should be concentrating on it more but am reading a stack of things at the same time.
Well will get through rest of it over couple of weeks after I get back to Galway.

Stevo, Saturday, 25 November 2023 13:02 (one week ago) link

I am almost straight in the middle of Jed Rasula’s American Poetry Wax Museum, and I wish the pinefox were here so that we could talk about this passage regarding Robert Lowell:

“Lowell's work is compulsively fascinating precisely because it takes on the waxwork character of the freak show, the exhibit of a human life assuming monstrous pro-portions. What is "monstrous," I should clarify, comes from the root monstrum and monere, portent and warning: Lowell warns us, by self-exhibition, of the pitfalls of life lived on a pedestal, in the show-case; life as continual self-dramatization; poetry as public monument. His celebrated jawbreaker lines have an integrity that detaches them from the very poems they inhabit, bringing to mind Albert Speer's penchant for designing Third Reich buildings for the elegance of the rubble that would eventually be left of them.”

Rasula, via other critics as well as his own incisive wit, gets down what I dislike so much about Lowell’s poems— they often feel as if brokered between an image of what a poem should be and what the poem actually is, flattened and unyielding in their flatness.

In any case, any who are interested in post-war poetic culture and politics in the US should read this book— it is fascinating and quite funny at moments, too.

butt dumb tight my boners got boners (the table is the table), Monday, 27 November 2023 13:49 (one week ago) link

He had me until the Speer comparison.

Lowell inspired so many better poets that I gotta wonder how they didn't peck out letters to each other with "Cal sucks, doesn't he lol" at the top.

They did!

butt dumb tight my boners got boners (the table is the table), Monday, 27 November 2023 15:10 (one week ago) link

I'm intrigued -- who and what else is covered in American Poetry Wax Museum?


“Oscillating between documentary and polemic, The American Poetry Wax Museum is a study of the canonizing assumptions and obsessions that animate postwar American poetry. Highly public literary controversies, such as the Pound affair of 1949, or the anthology wars of the early 1960s, are chronicled in a precise, detailed, and theoretically inflected account redefines the project of literary history. Rasula's analysis moves from the of New Criticism, through the ascendancy of Robert Lowell and confessional poetics, into the current period of multiculturalism and the avant-garde provocations of the language poets. Drawing upon an impressive array of sources—ranging from the history of museum display to the institutional and cultural processes by which American poets have been canonized—Rasula combines literary criticism, cultural studies, and social history in an analysis that works to disrupt prevailing myths about poets and poetry in the public sphere and in the academy. This innovative and irreverent book…will be an important resource not only for scholars of the period but for writers and teachers of poetry as well.
It stands as an invitation for all of us to consider what it means to assemble and police a national canon of poetry.”

butt dumb tight my boners got boners (the table is the table), Monday, 27 November 2023 15:41 (one week ago) link

A friend recommended it because we were talking about poets no one reads anymore and the false economy of “visibility “— he brought up Peter Viereck, whom no one except a very few have ever heard of, but who won the Pulitzer in 1949 and a Guggenheim a while after that. Rasula’s book helps explain who and what has been canonized and why… and some of the details are pretty damning.

butt dumb tight my boners got boners (the table is the table), Monday, 27 November 2023 15:45 (one week ago) link

Sold! My uni library doesn't carry it, alas.

I think of people like Muriel Rukeyser and Karl Shapiro.

Shapiro is especially prominent

butt dumb tight my boners got boners (the table is the table), Monday, 27 November 2023 15:50 (one week ago) link

I finally finished The Jokers, Albert Cossery, but it was (for me) rather a dud, which is unusual for an NYRB edition; they're normally pretty reliable for me. This novel felt didactic in intent and sadly sophomoric, displaying the laziness in thought and execution that often springs from overconfidence in one's innate brilliance. Too bad. It did have the virtue of a setting in a culture that is underrepresented in English translation.

Now I'm reading A Gambler's Anatomy, a Jonathan Lethem novel from 2016.

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Monday, 27 November 2023 18:28 (one week ago) link

^, ^^ Have you read any of the "bake-off" books of Robert Peters?

alimosina, Monday, 27 November 2023 19:31 (one week ago) link

(xxxxpost--re: Lowell and other waxed p.s)
When I finally got the nerve to show Gert my poetry, she stood up, clapped me on the shoulders, and said, "Pablo, go home and paint!" So I did, and boy was I glad. See, that was constructive criticism, guys.

dow, Tuesday, 28 November 2023 04:14 (one week ago) link

The Fraud was not that good. Full of research, you could go down all sorts of rabbit holes if you wanted - the once popular and now forgotten William Ainsworth Harrison (I thought at first he was a fictional version of a typical 19th century author) plus Dickens, Thackeray, Cruickshank and others; slavery, the abolition movement and slave revolts; the Tichborne claimant; the corn laws, the Cato Street Conspiracy, land reform, the rights of women... but it was all very slight and unengaging. At least it was a quick read, most chapters were only 3-4 pages so you couldn't get bogged down.

organ doner (ledge), Tuesday, 28 November 2023 09:00 (one week ago) link

Another one from the bottom of the library stack: Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer and Turned Its Back on the Middle Classs, by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson. Recommended by the same deceased relative who recommended The Elegant Universe. Maybe a little out of date now, but I think still worth reading, as an examination of how, starting in the 70s, the U.S. political system was turned so completely to the service of the very wealthiest.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Tuesday, 28 November 2023 13:59 (one week ago) link

November is female month, when i look back and realise I've just read men for the first 10 months and try and make amends... (it's not that bad this year)

Anne Tyler - celestial navigation
Issy Sutie - jane is trying
Ali Smith - companion piece
Shirley Jackson - haunting of hill house

Ali Smith was an extension to her Seasons quadrology and is fun and insightful and angry

Hill House is a reread and I'm 25% through and it's a classic, obv.

the first two were a bit light tbh.

koogs, Wednesday, 29 November 2023 20:43 (one week ago) link

(dug out my copy of Danse Macabre as well so reading the relevant bits of that alongside the Jackson)

koogs, Wednesday, 29 November 2023 20:44 (one week ago) link

Roberto Bolaño - The Savage Detectives
J.L. Carr - A Mouth in the Country
Robert Glück - About Ed
Robert C. Rosbottom - When Paris went dark : the City of Light under German occupation, 1940-1944

journeys end in lovers meeting. the thing that always pops into my head in railway stations etc, it's from Hill House, which I'd forgotten.

koogs, Wednesday, 29 November 2023 21:05 (one week ago) link

(originally from twelfth night)

koogs, Wednesday, 29 November 2023 21:07 (one week ago) link

forgot one - Ariadne by Jennifer Saint. another Greek myth retold

koogs, Wednesday, 29 November 2023 21:42 (one week ago) link

What did you make of the Carr, Alfred? I am going to dig into Bob’s new one when the semester ends, too

butt dumb tight my boners got boners (the table is the table), Wednesday, 29 November 2023 22:34 (one week ago) link

let's fucking go you miserable bastards


mookieproof, Friday, 1 December 2023 08:41 (one week ago) link

What Iris Murdoch should I start with??

dow, Saturday, 2 December 2023 01:29 (six days ago) link

What did you make of the Carr, Alfred? I am going to dig into Bob’s new one when the semester ends, too

― butt dumb tight my boners got boners (the table is the table)

The Carr? Mildly dull. I liked most of About Ed.

Oh man. Love A Month in the Country, sorry you found it dull!

butt dumb tight my boners got boners (the table is the table), Saturday, 2 December 2023 02:21 (six days ago) link

A Month in the Country is perfect!

I read Héctor Tobar's *Deep Down Dark* about the Chilean mining disaster. I've started Richard Holmes' monster biography of Shelley but not sure I have the stamina.

I would prefer not to. (Chinaski), Saturday, 2 December 2023 11:59 (six days ago) link

v belated answer to fizzles (long after he needs it; long after others have decoded it accurately) re "the road is up"

i: yes, i have encountered this now and then -- very possibly in early 20th century crime fiction (wimsey etc)
ii: i had half-reasoned (i.e. w/o applying much genuine thought and no research) that somehow it derived from the era of e.g. plank roads and such, where the surface would be something you could lift up and lean at the side when digging holes was necessary? (not that plank roads were ever much of a phenomenon in the uk as far as i know)
iii: … at the unreasoning edge of my mind i also had the notion that a safety barrier in front of a roadworks was somehow like the drawbridge being up
iv: "it's been dug up" makes much more sense but i don't think i ever got that far

mark s, Saturday, 2 December 2023 12:37 (six days ago) link

Oh man. Love A Month in the Country, sorry you found it dull!

― butt dumb tight my boners got boners (the table is the table), Friday, December 1, 2023 9:21 PM (yesterday) bookmarkflaglink

A Month in the Country is perfect!

I usually love mid-century UK/Irish fiction (Pym, Bowen, Taylor, etc.) or the same fiction set in the early to mid-century.

I’m almost done with Henderson the Rain King. I would rate it as lesser Bellow. This may be a terrible thing to say but I think Bellow is more fun to read in his cranky, misanthropic mode. I’m not really sure what he was trying to accomplish with this sort of Joseph Campbell slash The Golden Bough type of exploration of myth, ritual and archetype; lots of it is less compelling to me than he seems to find it. And after Henderson arrives in Africa, the laughs get fewer and further between as Henderson becomes less of a satirical antihero and more of a straightforward hero.

o. nate, Saturday, 2 December 2023 15:21 (six days ago) link

I finished A Gambler's Anatomy, Lethem. I can't say I loved it, but it was weirdly compelling because he writes so vividly, creates an unfamiliar but convincingly detailed world, and he kept driving the story and characters ahead at a hard pace in unpredictable directions. Those were its virtues.

My eventual difficulties with it were fairly central. Lethem seemed to know exactly what he wanted to write about but his main interest in the book wasn't the story or the characters. Those existed as throwaways, just contrivances that allowed him to write about his real interest, which was stitching together two extremely specialized worlds: high stakes backroom gambling on backgammon and a particularly exotic branch of neurosurgery. Once he'd accomplished this virtuoso feat in the first half of the book, he just sort of winged it for the remainder and let the characters collide rather aimlessly until they reached a dead end.

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Saturday, 2 December 2023 19:10 (six days ago) link

Front Lines, Juliet Jacques - Compilation of her journalism. Was expecting it to be much more of a chronicling of the UK's descent into terf island, but it doesn't really get too granular on that, good for my blood pressure. The early pieces really drive home how much has changed, both in terms of vocabulary but also of things that now seem obvious still needing so much explaining at the time. It also gets a bit repetitive - Jacques herself in the foreword makes a joke about there being a potential drinking game here where you take a swig every time Sandy Stone's "The 'Empire' Strikes Back" gets namedropped. I really enjoyed an essay on being stuck in a train with some fellow footie supporters and having to negotiate all the conflicting impulses - did they clock she's trans, will it code too male if she gets deep into the trivia, will she be reinforcing sexism if she pretends she just knows a few names. Also, lots of good stuff about queer groups in Eastern Europe and sundry trans and queer artists.

Mystery Of The Yellow Room, Gaston Leroux - Book club pick. Fine as far as this kind of thing goes - gotta admit that if you start including maps of the building in order to further detail your mystery you've lost me, I just don't care enough about the whodunnit - but fascinating to me due to an unfortunate purchase: local bookstore said it was only available in hardcover, and when I went to pick it up...it turned out to be one of those shoddy jobs ILX's own James Morrison sometimes details, with the cover clearly a GIS result for yellow + room. Anyway as someone who's used to a Criterion/NYRB/Fantagraphics mode of cultural consumption I actually found it quite novel to read something where the original text has NOT been lovingly treated. Turned out to not be too bad, though the translation was clearly done by someone better at French than English - thus the detective asking that nothing in the room "be deranged", for example. Aside from that, only one other note of the bizarre - an observation that was clearly supposed to be a translator's note just showing up in the middle of the text, letting the reader that "in the original translation" the word was translated into killed but you can safely use murdered. Ok!

Daniel_Rf, Tuesday, 5 December 2023 15:19 (three days ago) link

I have a nice hardcover reprint of Mystery of the Yellow Room, part of a facsimile series from 'the Collins Crime Club'. Appears to be the original 1909 (uncredited) English language translation. An introduction notes that Hercule Poirot enthuses about Yellow Room in the 1963 mystery The Clocks, so I'm guessing it was a formative favourite of Christie's too. Talking of whom, I'm also a sucker for secondhand copies of those Christie first edition hardcover facsimiles that Collins issued in the last decade or so - some great covers, Christie p much always had good covers on her bks, h/c and s/c - an underestimated part of her appeal imho.

Maps are p much as fundamental to the whodunnit as they are to the fantasy epic.

Ward Fowler, Tuesday, 5 December 2023 15:52 (three days ago) link

I finally finished Dostoyevsky's The Idiot which took me a long time to read. I was enthralled at times and completely lost at others. The ending was great though.

I've now picked up Little Dorrit again after putting it down for a year and I've started War & Peace. I'm hoping to make good progress over Winter.

I've also read a bunch of Simenon's Maigrets recently - quite fun!

cajunsunday, Tuesday, 5 December 2023 16:24 (three days ago) link

I’ve started reading book 5 of Knausgaard’s My Struggle. Jon Fosse, of recent Nobel fame, makes an early appearance as one of his writing instructors.

o. nate, Tuesday, 5 December 2023 23:55 (three days ago) link

I've bought Jon Fosse's The Other Name: Septology I-II as an audiobook but haven't listened to it yet.

As part of my book club (now in its 29th year!) I read Tan Twang Eng's Book of Doors, a fictional account of W. Somerset Maugham's year in Penang on the Malay Peninsula in 1920-1921.

It was fine. My 10 book club compatriots overall voted it as the third best of the 8 books we read together and discussed in 2023 (following Tom Crewe's The New Life and Aleksandar Hemon's The World and All That It Holds. My favorite was Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five

Dan S, Wednesday, 6 December 2023 00:37 (two days ago) link

I'm currently splitting my reading each evening. First I read some of the recent new translation of Homer's Iliad from Emily Watson. After which I read some poems from Wsilawa Szymborska's Poems New and Collected: 1957-1997 for some lighter fare before trying to sleep.

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Wednesday, 6 December 2023 19:17 (two days ago) link

Emily Wilson! serves me right for relying on my memory

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Wednesday, 6 December 2023 19:24 (two days ago) link

And while you are it, make sure you also fix in your mind that her father is A.N. Wilson and not, say, Angus Wilson.

Blecch’s POLLero (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 7 December 2023 15:15 (yesterday) link

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