Poetry uncovered, Fiction you never saw, All new writing delivered, Courtesy WINTER: 2019/2020 reading thread

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The March of Folly - Barbara Tuchman

This was a book where I also think she faltered badly. The concept was born straight out of an historian's desire to use her prestige to disseminate those infamous "lessons of Vietnam" and perhaps instruct the nation. The concept was too broad and too shallowly executed. The book fails in its stated objective.

A is for (Aimless), Friday, 20 December 2019 02:18 (one month ago) link

"Garlicky" reminds me of Martin Amis writing about Antony Burgess's "garlicky puns": the phrase seems vividly memorable but irritatingly opaque. I was never sure if that made it a success or a failure.

Recently more Maigret, The Abbess of Crewe (very characteristic of Spark in her more idiosyncratic mode but only partially successful) The Driver's Seat (coming from the same place but much better, quite brilliant).

Now reading The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead. Psychological it's wonderful but with self-indulgences that make it an occasionally stodgy read: given its length I'm not sure I'll stay with it to the end. It's a pity I didn't read it when younger when I'd have had much more tolerance for its weaknesses.

frankiemachine, Friday, 20 December 2019 14:00 (one month ago) link

that may even have been where i picked it up actually.

Fizzles, Friday, 20 December 2019 14:03 (one month ago) link

Fizzles: your description of Pynchon has reminded me of my dislike of him.

Chinaski: yes - agree on the prose and everything - but where exactly do you see the DUBLINERS element? Something about things unstated or understated?

the pinefox, Friday, 20 December 2019 14:05 (one month ago) link

I don't think I can think of one thing in Pynchon that is funny.

the pinefox, Friday, 20 December 2019 14:05 (one month ago) link

I'd say stick with the Stead. It is maddeningly self-indulgent in places, but it's part of the imitative function of the prose alongside Pollit's manic, wheeling character. And there's something almost Roth-like in the way it ends.

Pinefox - the Joyce thing is a more a feeling, really. I don't think Fitzgerald has Joyce's frigid intelligence and what remains unsaid is very much more foregrounded in Gatsby. Instead, I think it's in Fitzgerald's rhythms as much as anything. Joyce's voice isn't sui generis, exactly, but there's something new in Dubliners that seems to flower in Fitzgerald, albeit with more opulence. It's not an exact opinion by any means!

Life is a meaningless nightmare of suffering...save string (Chinaski), Friday, 20 December 2019 14:30 (one month ago) link

'Frigid intelligence' is like Amis' 'garlicky puns' in its opaqueness but it's the best I got.

Life is a meaningless nightmare of suffering...save string (Chinaski), Friday, 20 December 2019 14:32 (one month ago) link

Last night I picked up The Dog of the South, Charles Portis. I've been looking for lighter entertainment to shake off the after effects of imbibing too much information about the James Madison Administration. This fits the bill.

A is for (Aimless), Friday, 20 December 2019 16:39 (one month ago) link

Fizzles: your description of Pynchon has reminded me of my dislike of him.


ha! i always quite like it when criticisms of a thing remind me why i like it and i guess this is the reverse of that.

Fizzles, Friday, 20 December 2019 16:50 (one month ago) link

Last night I picked up /The Dog of the South/, Charles Portis. I've been looking for lighter entertainment to shake off the after effects of imbibing too much information about the James Madison Administration. This fits the bill.


karl malone put me on to portia, which was a great service. haven’t read this one, but it’s good to know there’s more there for me to read.

Fizzles, Friday, 20 December 2019 16:51 (one month ago) link

I don't think I can think of one thing in Pynchon that is funny.


i mean the image of you forcing your unsmiling way through pynchon’s ouevre made me laugh does that count?

Fizzles, Friday, 20 December 2019 16:55 (one month ago) link

_Last night I picked up /The Dog of the South/, Charles Portis. I've been looking for lighter entertainment to shake off the after effects of imbibing too much information about the James Madison Administration. This fits the bill._


karl malone put me on to portia, which was a great service. haven’t read this one, but it’s good to know there’s more there for me to read.


portis autocorrecting to portia is oddly literary of my phone.

Fizzles, Friday, 20 December 2019 16:56 (one month ago) link

I’ve been wanting to read Dog of the South for a while. Curious to hear how you like it.

o. nate, Friday, 20 December 2019 18:08 (one month ago) link

"Garlicky" reminds me of Martin Amis writing about Antony Burgess's "garlicky puns": the phrase seems vividly memorable but irritatingly opaque.

When JG Ballard died amis wrote an obit where he praised JB’s “creamy prose” which struck me at the time as a very rong and blaggy description

Baby yoda laid an egg (wins), Friday, 20 December 2019 21:02 (one month ago) link

ugh that’s awful.

Fizzles, Friday, 20 December 2019 21:05 (one month ago) link

Ballard's prose isn't creamy at all! It's machine tooled.

Life is a meaningless nightmare of suffering...save string (Chinaski), Friday, 20 December 2019 21:06 (one month ago) link

right??

Baby yoda laid an egg (wins), Friday, 20 December 2019 22:47 (one month ago) link

If it had been Kingsley Amis who wrote that about Ballard's "creamy prose" I'd just figure he was drunk and didn't give a flip. I've never paid any attention to Martin.

A is for (Aimless), Saturday, 21 December 2019 00:34 (one month ago) link

Now reading The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead. Psychological it's wonderful but with self-indulgences that make it an occasionally stodgy read: given its length I'm not sure I'll stay with it to the end. It's a pity I didn't read it when younger when I'd have had much more tolerance for its weaknesses.

― frankiemachine, Friday, December 20, 2019 9:00 AM

Stick with it! One of the few novels about which I'll say its weaknesses improve its verisimilitude.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 21 December 2019 00:41 (one month ago) link

Chinaski: I like this about Joycean rhythms. I'd like to read that analysis at convincing length, from someone.

Fizzles: yes I think I see the humour in that. Though not in Pynchon.

I agree also that 'creamy' sounds wrong though I suppose MA was trying to get at unflappable smoothness of some kind - which would go with motorways, airports, function, in its own way?

But who really is 'creamy'? Maybe Proust? We'd need to decide what on earth the adjective really meant re: language anyway.

the pinefox, Saturday, 21 December 2019 12:10 (one month ago) link

I finished After Claude. Kind of a strange book in that the first half and the second half, despite featuring the same narrator and following a continuous sequence of events, feel so different in tone as to almost be separate books. The first half is scabrous and funny, and although you begin to feel there's something a bit off about the narrator, she still has your trust. In the second half, the same self-destructive tendencies that were funny in the first half become alarming and ominous. Thematically, it reminded me a bit of My Year of Rest and Relaxation. Now I'm reading Dreams from My Father by Obama.

o. nate, Thursday, 26 December 2019 03:25 (one month ago) link

I started the Nick Lowe bio and Joseph Roth's The Hundred Days.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 26 December 2019 11:44 (one month ago) link

Been thinking about buying that Nick Lowe bio for months but maybe now I’ll wait until you finish reading it tonight to see what you have to say.

The Soundtrack of Burl Ives (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 26 December 2019 13:40 (one month ago) link

Curious to hear how you like it.

The Dog of the South is not an easy book to describe, but I'll take a whack at it. All views are my own, unsupported by any authority or external evidence.

As I saw it, Portis created his characters and situations using the same techniques as a skilled caricaturist drawing a portrait, where everything typical is exaggerated and disproportioned, but the likeness is immediate, striking and unmistakable. His subjects are Americans whose lives are shaped by the paradox of marginal life in the USA, most often seen in rural areas, where there are profound constrictions and limitations in some directions, but nearly unlimited freedoms in other directions. So people may grow into crazy shapes, partly stunted and partly luxuriant.

In particular, the characters in Dog of the South have become untethered from any roots or responsibilities that might keep them stable, and all of them have drifted south through Mexico, converging on Belize. Metaphorically speaking, they are sinking toward their ultimately grotesque shapes. Their misadventures can be read as hilarious farce, but for me, their stories had too much truth hidden in them not to be taken somewhat soberly, too.

It's an odd book.

A is for (Aimless), Thursday, 26 December 2019 20:16 (one month ago) link

Began reading A Book of Common Prayer, Joan Didion. It was published in 1977 and very obviously plays off of the Patty Hearst situation for a large chunk of the plot. She employs some very sore-thumbish stylistic quirks. Mainly short sentences. Some repetition. But short, yes. These sit reasonably well within the overall compression and terseness of the exposition. Didion really pared away at this novel well past any brevity attempted by Hemingway. Outdid him.

I expect I'll finish this quickly, in spite of all the diversions and distractions that come at this time of the year. It is extremely short and moves fast. Time to post to the What did you read in 2019? thread. No way will I finish another book after this one and before New Year's Day.

A is for (Aimless), Friday, 27 December 2019 20:35 (one month ago) link

I read it two weeks ago -- the only Didion novel I finished and found effective.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 27 December 2019 20:36 (one month ago) link

The Caravaners, Elizabeth Von Arnim - Very funny, though the protagonist's non-native sentence constructions make it somewhat opaque for a light entertainment. The Prussian main character a total chauvinist militarist asshole, all Brits depicted as meek, progressive proto-hippies. How times change, eh?

My Friend Maigret, Simenon - Maigret takes off to an island in the South of France, accompanied by a Brit tasked with analyzing his methods. Solid as always, tho I think I have a problem with Maigret's post-resolution endings - I'm always expecting some slice of life bow at the end, because the mundane is what keeps me coming back to these, but instead it always seems to end with an angsty reflection on the horribleness of the crime, when mostly through the books Maigret doesn't seem too bothered.

Now reading: The Doomed City by the Strugatsky Bros - More magic realism or maybe weird fiction than sci-fi. There's an Experiment, involving a City, and the protagonist, an idealist from Stalin era Russia, has been brought to said City, where he interacts with ppl from all around the world and different periods of 20th century history. No one knows what the Experiment actually is, some believe it's controlled by aliens, some think it's already been a failure. Obviously a handy metaphor for the Soviet Union itself, but a lot of fun also comes from seeing ppl with different political orientations trying to make sense of it; our protagonist just assumes it's a continuation of the road to communism. Also people are asked to change jobs at random, so far he's been a garbage collector, police inspector and journalist. Tiyl Kafka, China Mieville.

Daniel_Rf, Sunday, 29 December 2019 11:12 (one month ago) link

I have read 2 or 3 Didion novels, including that one, and sadly never been convinced by any!

I finished THE LIFE AND DEATH OF HARRIETT FREAN, by May Sinclair. A study of self-denial, isolation, frustration. Chilling in a way. As a depiction of childhood, quite interestingly comparable to Joyce's PORTRAIT.

I then read a bunch of Sherlock Holmes stories: A Scandal in Bohemia, The Copper Beeches, The Red-Headed League, a couple more. I started to realise that they were a bit more formulaic than I'd hoped. Slightly relevant to a recent discussion of detective fiction with Fizzles and Tim of ILB fame.

I have finally started a book I have meant to read for months: Jane Austen, NORTHANGER ABBEY.

the pinefox, Monday, 30 December 2019 09:48 (one month ago) link

Sadly, this Didion novel is turning out to be deeply flawed to the point where I am only finishing it out of a misplaced sense of duty. Also, I am 3/4 of the way through it already and the sunk cost fallacy is in play.

A is for (Aimless), Monday, 30 December 2019 19:20 (one month ago) link

Inexplicably, I spent the hour between 5 am and 6 am this morning trying to summarize in my mind what I found lacking in A Book of Common Prayer, so I could pass it along in I Love Books. It's not like it is that important to anyone.

My central thought was about her first person narrator, who starts out very strong, but after when the scene of the book moves location the narrator rather abruptly becomes omniscient(!), while all the time maintaining the exact same writing style as before, then just as abruptly switching back to a limited first person perspective. Moreover, Didion makes the narrator's character be an anthropologist-turned-microbiologist, but she clearly knew nothing at all about microbiology and drops in some details that are not just ignorant, but weren't even necessary.

The upshot of all this is to make it more than usually plain that there is really only one voice and one character in the book and it is Joan Didion. The image that kept recurring to me is a girl having an imaginary tea party with a dozen stuffed animals and pretending to talk for all of them.

So, then the question comes down to whether Joan Didion has anything interesting to say about life, using this story as her vehicle. For me the answer is, god, no.

I could go on and critique the plot and her style and how these give only a superficial and highly artificial impression, suggesting a meaning or depth they do not possess, but I've already driven this post into the tl:dr weeds. Let's just say I didn't like the book, ok?

A is for (Aimless), Tuesday, 31 December 2019 22:46 (one month ago) link

I liked the random observations and, yeah, I realized by pg. 50 it's a Didion-esque narrator telling the story, and that's fine. She never wrote a great novel.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 31 December 2019 23:05 (one month ago) link

i finished parable of the sower over the holiday and i'm just blown away. i can't stop thinking about it. of course i'll be picking up the second in the series and everything else butler wrote, but if anyone has any other suggestions in this vein i'd really appreciate them: prescient books that deal with the disaster of now, that understand social reality outside protected bubbles and point ways forward, from queer povs a bonus.

i'm about 2/3s through stoner by john williams and finding it increasingly repulsive. it's going in my goodwill pile.

i read more over the last week than i have all year. i'd really like to keep it up but it feels like a challenge to find promising material. at least i have the rest of butler i can dig into.

xp ah joan didion - speaking of protected bubbles...

ingredience (map), Tuesday, 31 December 2019 23:11 (one month ago) link

re: reading more in a week than a year - I've been like that with films in the last week!

the pinefox, Wednesday, 1 January 2020 14:30 (one month ago) link

That post about Didion's bad novel being like an imaginary tea party is hilarious !!

the pinefox, Wednesday, 1 January 2020 14:31 (one month ago) link

I read Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising for the first time. I liked it - the landscape writing in particular and the way it totally nails the delirium and eldritch whack of the Christmas period - but I do wish I'd read it when I was in my early teens. Credulity, innit.

Speaking of landscape writing, I've been re-reading Blood Meridian. It's a hoary old tale and beyond parody in lots of ways but jesus christ, some parts of the midsection are extraordinary in their world-building and brutality.

Life is a meaningless nightmare of suffering...save string (Chinaski), Thursday, 2 January 2020 22:45 (one month ago) link

for landscape writing D.H. Lawrence can't be beat; his travel writing has a lightness that his novels often lack. I've owned and treasured Sea and Sardinia for years; now NYRBC published this delectable collection.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 2 January 2020 22:50 (one month ago) link

Frederic Jameson came up with a word to describe Barthes' writing - scriptible - because it makes one want to write further sentences in that style. McCarthy is like this. I find myself narrating, say, a trip to buy shoes and making it into a comma-less hellscape with a sagacious cobbler thrown in for good measure.

Life is a meaningless nightmare of suffering...save string (Chinaski), Thursday, 2 January 2020 22:53 (one month ago) link

Totally agree on Sea and Sardinia - what a beautiful book. That edition looks amazing.

Wonderful to go out on a frozen road, to see the grass in shadow bluish with hoar-frost, to the grass in the yellow winter-sunrise beams melting and going cold-twinkly. Wonderful the bluish, cold air, and things standing up in the cold distance. After two southern winters, with roses blooming all the time, this bleakness and this touch of frost in the ringing morning goes to my soul like an intoxication. I am so glad on this lonely naked road, I don't know what to do with myself. I walk down in the shallow grassy ditches under the loose stone walls, I walk on the little ridge of glass, the little bank on which the wall is built, I cross the road across the frozen cow-droppings; and it is all so familiar to my feet, my very feet in contact, that I am wild as if I have made a discovery.

Life is a meaningless nightmare of suffering...save string (Chinaski), Thursday, 2 January 2020 22:55 (one month ago) link

available in the uk/commonwealth in this form:
https://cdn2.penguin.com.au/covers/original/9780241344606.jpg

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Friday, 3 January 2020 10:15 (one month ago) link

His writing on New Mexico is some of my favourite Lawrence.

If I was going to choose one book for landscape writing perfection, I think I'd go for Dorothy Carrington's book about Corsica, Granite Island.

Life is a meaningless nightmare of suffering...save string (Chinaski), Friday, 3 January 2020 10:51 (one month ago) link

have a copy of that sitting around which i've yet to start on^

at the moment i'm reading alfred doblin's massive panoramic trilogy NOVEMBER 1918. have finished the first part which switched between demobbed/invalided soldiers, deserters & racketeers, sdp vs sparticists, worker/soldier/sailor councils and a duplicitous military command playing the different groups against each other. all this is set to the menacing beat of the remnants of the defeated army marching back from the various fronts to a berlin experiencing food shortages and mass unemployment. the second part sees their return... and somewhat annoyingly it looks like the third & final part doesn't seem to have ever been translated into english!

no lime tangier, Friday, 3 January 2020 11:52 (one month ago) link

Chinaski, surely it was Barthes himself who introduced that term? At the start of S/Z, as far as I know. But I know that Jameson essay you mean, if it's 'Pleasure: A Political Issue'. And I'm not sure how well I've ever understood this aspect of Barthes.

I have taken another copy of NORTHANGER ABBEY out of the library and it is growing on me. Beautiful Bath; very deliberate comic irony; metafictional reflections about novels, heroines, etc -- a lot to enjoy.

the pinefox, Friday, 3 January 2020 18:43 (one month ago) link

I didn't know ANY of that Doblin had been Englished!

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Saturday, 4 January 2020 02:22 (one month ago) link

neither did i till i came face to face with it... mid-eighties translation published as a people betrayed; november 1918: a german revolution. doesn't have the concentrated power of berlin alexanderplatz but still worth a read. also a reminder to myself that i need to get the nyrb collection of stories.

no lime tangier, Saturday, 4 January 2020 08:04 (one month ago) link

Last night I started reading Iceland's Bell, Haldor Laxness. Everyone is starving, except the gentry.

A is for (Aimless), Saturday, 4 January 2020 17:09 (one month ago) link

eric hobsbawm, "the age of extremes"

||||||||, Saturday, 4 January 2020 17:40 (one month ago) link

Which used to be called AGE OF EXTREMES !

the pinefox, Saturday, 4 January 2020 18:06 (one month ago) link

age of exxxtremes

i am actually about to jump into 'the age of capital', having both started and ended 2019 finishing 'the age of revolution'

the ghost of tom, choad (thomp), Sunday, 5 January 2020 10:39 (one month ago) link

You're right, pinefox. I didn't have the Jameson or Barthes to hand and was too lazy to search for them! (And I kind of assumed I'd get away with it. Story of my life.)

In between alternately recoiling and laughing at Cormac, I've been reading Robert Richardson's biography of William James. The things I love about this (and the same with the Emerson bio) are pretty simple: being embedded in the ideas and events of the time: the Civil War, the impact of Darwin, the rise of positivism. Interesting to note that when James went to Harvard it was actually at its lowest ebb as an institution: poorly run, lacking in vision, a tiny student body. James didn't last long and returned to being self-taught.

Life is a meaningless nightmare of suffering...save string (Chinaski), Sunday, 5 January 2020 10:59 (one month ago) link

JUst got heavily into Viv Albertine's To Throw Away Unopened after not touching it when I was in London. Her mother's been dying so far and she's just been called away from a launch of presumably her first book to go to the death bed. & she's having her siter acting weird.
Also finding it very difficult to find a dating partner taht isn't an ossified adolescent
THink this is about as good a read as that first book with the repetitive title.
THough far less about music and the punk subculture.

THis after having finished Defying Gravity Jordan's Story by Jordan Mooney.
The memoir of the one time Westwood/McClaren shop assistant and later Adam and the Ants manager.
Which was very good on the punk subculture too.
Very interesting book, not sure how much of this is down to cowriter Cathi Unsworth or at least in asmuch as wanting to hear more of this voice. Would be interested in reading more if there was more taht read like this though.

Tristan Gooley The Walker’s Guide to Outdoor Clues and Signs
book I was recommended by a speaker doing a talk on how to read weather during a workshop in the last Tulca festival.
Enjoying it a lot so gave a copy to my mother for Xmas.
& you can get copies in the 3 for £5 offer in FOPP. Alongside 2 of his others . So grabbed How To Read Water from there and had already started teh copy of Wild Signs and Star Paths I'd bought for her before realising that the writing style of The Walker's Guide was probably a better cold introduction to him. & more likely therefore to get her to read the thing through instead of just shelving it.

Masters of Deception: Escher, Dali, and the Artists of Optical Illusion
by Al Seckel,
which si more about the visuals but does give biographies of the artists involved.
Also gives a list of other artists whose work wouldn't have worked as well on the printed page in book form which is worth exploring too.
I looked at theis in a bookshop at a launch for another book and was impressed, back a couple of months ago.
It has some interesting stuff in including a japanese artist having made 3D sculptures of some of Escher's impossible architecture

Stevolende, Sunday, 5 January 2020 13:09 (one month ago) link

Phineas Finn, which like all long Trollope feels rather peristaltic: sometimes nothing happens for a little while, and then the plot lurches into motion for a dozen pages, and then everything relaxes for another fifty. Not sure I am on board for another four books of this.

recently, The Bonfire of the Vanities, which was not as bad as I expected it to be in some ways, but bad in a few ways I didn't expect

the ghost of tom, choad (thomp), Saturday, 15 February 2020 21:20 (four days ago) link

Long time no see, thomp. Your peristaltic experience is close to mine re some (not all) volumes of In Search of Lost Time, but I stayed with it and the last volume was sufficient reward.
Have you read The Way We Live Now? Enough momentum to pull me right through that doorstop, with no slow-downs---no speed-reading either, but the pace schooled me.

dow, Sunday, 16 February 2020 03:30 (three days ago) link

Reading it at the beginning of the Trump Administration may have helped.

dow, Sunday, 16 February 2020 03:32 (three days ago) link

I think of going back to Elizabeth Bishop. All over again? Well, quite apart from the poetry, there's so much prose to read, that I've never touched.

the pinefox, Sunday, 16 February 2020 12:41 (three days ago) link

Elijah Wald Dylan Goes Electric!: Newport, Seeger, Dylan, and the Night That Split the Sixties

book on Dyaln up to Newport '65 and the other folk artists around at the time. Running through Dylan's stylistic evolution of the early 60s so far.
Want to read a few more of Wald's books did really enjoy his book on the delta blues, Escaping The Delta when I read it a while back.
Very interesting.

Stevolende, Sunday, 16 February 2020 12:54 (three days ago) link

Phineas Finn, which like all long Trollope feels rather peristaltic: sometimes nothing happens for a little while, and then the plot lurches into motion for a dozen pages, and then everything relaxes for another fifty. Not sure I am on board for another four books of this.

PF was my first Trollope too! Not the best intro. I next read The Way We Live Now, after which I was hooked.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 16 February 2020 13:03 (three days ago) link

Have finished Rachel Cusk's Kudos and now I want to read the trilogy again (and her other works for the first time) - just spellbinding. This one maybe slightly less compelling than the first two, but only slightly, it leans harder into the literary circuit critique and seems almost dreamlike in places - a journalist interviews the narrator, speaks non stop for four pages without the narrator saying a word, then finishes the interview saying "well I think I've got enough!"

Also Olga Tokarczuk's Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead, somewhat more blackly comic than the title suggests, I love the narrator's theory of "testosterone autism" where old men's capacity for social intelligence declines, they develop an interest in "various tools and machinery" and "the second world war and the biographies of famous people, mainly politicians and villains". Full of great lines like "It's strange how the Night erases all colours, as if it didn't give a damn about such worldly extravagance."

Paperbag raita (ledge), Monday, 17 February 2020 12:25 (two days ago) link

I am now reading a narrowly focused history called Money Mountain: The Story of Cripple Creek Gold, Marshall Sprague. It details the more lurid parts of the history of the Cripple Creek, Colorado mining district from the earliest cattle ranching homestead in the area, up through the boom years in the early 1890s and on into the 1930s. Like any confined place that generates masses of wealth, a lot happened, more than enough to fill 300 pages.

I'm considering reading Trollope's The Way We Live Now as an apt follow-on to this one.

A is for (Aimless), Monday, 17 February 2020 18:14 (two days ago) link

Yeah, go for it. Don't let its size intimidate you. What Trollope lacks in Eliot and James' psychologizing he compensates with momentum and portraiture.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 17 February 2020 18:59 (two days ago) link

The Trollope I've read so far has been centered on ecclesiastic politics, which against all probability, he managed to make entertaining, so I expect he'll do just fine with much juicier material.

A is for (Aimless), Monday, 17 February 2020 19:07 (two days ago) link

I finished the two books I was reading: The Odyssey (tr. Fagles) and Life is Meals by James and Kay Salter. LIM was a unique mish mash of anecdotes, food-related facts, historical trivia and the odd recipe, all united by the themes of cookery and entertaining. It's a bit breezy, but it makes a cumulative case for a particular theory of the good life (and gains some emotional punch from coming near the end of what was by all appearances a long and happy relationship). In that sense, it could almost be read as a companion to Salter's All That Is. I'm guessing everyone's read The Odyssey. I found it quite enjoyable. More fun and less grim than The Iliad, but in its own way just as bloodthirsty. The gory climax should appeal to anyone who's ever had house guests overstay their welcome.

o. nate, Tuesday, 18 February 2020 02:41 (yesterday) link

Odyssey is a deep fave. Has all the cool high fantasy stuff you want in a good mythological epic + yes gore climax

Iliad always felt more normcore. Still cool and all but needs moar giants & lotuseaters

terminators of endearment (VegemiteGrrl), Tuesday, 18 February 2020 06:00 (yesterday) link

hi dow, alfred

PF was my first Trollope too

no this is my ... tenth? trollope; i'm just wondering if it's time to get off the bus. i don't know, once the shape of it (victorian fuckboy discovers personal integrity in Parliament, of all things) revealed itself to me i was more on board. to mix transit metaphors.

i will read the way we live now if i ever get to the end of the pallisers. i did see both the eustace diamonds and phineas redux in an oxfam store yesterday but i couldn't quite bring myself to pull the trigger.

i gave phineas finn to my sister-in-law; she'd said her father described it as 'something you absolutely MUST' read. and, i mean, really? okay, i guess. if that's your thing.

the ghost of tom, choad (thomp), Tuesday, 18 February 2020 07:42 (yesterday) link

"notes from a coma" was excellent, the ultimate celtic tiger novel in many ways. so more mike mccormack its is, im onto his latest one "solar bones" right now

Saxophone Of Futility (Michael B), Tuesday, 18 February 2020 11:57 (yesterday) link

Nanni Balestrini - The Unseen
Agatha Christie - The Secret Adversary

This pair were lent to me by two ilb-ers, and I liked reading them side-by-side. In their different ways you see the fear of the red wave (one written from a v pro-, one from a v anti-). The Balestrini is almost a carbon-copy of the style in which Joyce set the last chapter of Ulysses in an attempt to capture the energy of anarcho-libertarian politics and its moment in Italian society (Autonomy). The other is just a very bog-standard potboiler that centers on the hunt for the man who is behind The 'Bolshovits', and its like we need to go back to the Balestrini again to even begin to scare the shit out -- if not kill -- the people in the 2nd book. Mad world.

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 18 February 2020 21:46 (yesterday) link

Oh yeah now I remember the good Solar Lottey talk on a prev WAYR! Notes From a Coma v appealing title, will also check. Ditto The Unseen (not because of the title but description).

Think intro to edition of The Way mentioned that some of Trollope's old fans found this one way dark, which it is, though with pre-Wodehouse sense of ridic x also implicit (pre-Dawn Powell?) humor (some juxtaposed descriptions of non-twit characters, for inst), and those who start silly but become deeper and/or more sympathetic, also sillys and sympathetics becoming darker or at least more volatile, problematic, in plausible ways.

dow, Tuesday, 18 February 2020 22:57 (yesterday) link

just about done with Muir's "My First Summer in the Sierra" (and other selected writings)
current bus reading is Kelly Link's latest "Get in Trouble", which is on par with her earlier work. Embarrassed to be reading something with a Neil Gaiman blurb on the cover, esp when it seems to me like she does everything Gaiman wishes he was doing, except with actual depth and inventiveness.

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 18 February 2020 23:00 (yesterday) link

also idly reading Arendt's "The Human Condition" which is a bit of a slog, occasionally obscure and outdated, but then intermittently insightful too.

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 18 February 2020 23:01 (yesterday) link

yeah it's her most tedious book

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 18 February 2020 23:02 (yesterday) link

bit of a letdown after Eichmann in Jerusalem re-piqued my interest about her last year

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 18 February 2020 23:04 (yesterday) link

read On Revolution, still her sharpest

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 18 February 2020 23:05 (yesterday) link

had that on my list too, but the Human Condition was the one that arrived first :(

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 18 February 2020 23:09 (yesterday) link


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