"And sport no more seen / On the darkening green" -- What are you reading SPRING 2020?

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

I'm around halfway through The Left Hand of Darkness. I let my momentum slack a bit with this one and I was afraid I would find it hard going when I returned (so many confusing character names to keep track of!), but I'm trying to let go of my anxiety about possibly 'missing something important' and just have faith in Le Guin to keep telling the story. Plus, I'm reading it for a book club, so I can always count on other folks to fill in the gaps in my understanding..... assuming we ever have another meeting!

I'm on Part 2 of Dostoevsky's The Idiot, and just reached the first mention of the Holbein painting. I have no sense of where the author might be going with all this; Nastasya Filippovna exhausts me, and Prince Myshkin annoys me; but for some reason I'm unable to put it down.

And yesterday I started one that's been on my to-read pile for a while, The Unnameable Present by Ernesto Calasso. The first part, on "Terrorism and Tourism," wasn't doing it for me, so I skipped ahead to part 2, "The Vienna Gas Works," which is a chronicle of literary anecdotes, letters, and journal entries by various well-known European authors (Celine, Ernst Junger, Beckett, to name a few) from the time of Hitler's election through the end of the Second World War. The form is an interesting one, offering a sort of a narrative pressure that reins in some of Calasso's digressive tendencies; none of the ideas presented here seem new, but the atmosphere makes for an unusually effective presentation.

handsome boy modelling software (bernard snowy), Wednesday, 25 March 2020 16:23 (two months ago) link

reading balzac's history of the thirteen which is pleasurably light and langorous for the current climate. my first time, do people have balzac faves?

devvvine, Wednesday, 25 March 2020 16:30 (two months ago) link

also been dipping into the collection of boyd macdonald's film 'criticism', cruising the movies, for work stuff; remains some of the most gloriously lewd and fascinating film writing

devvvine, Wednesday, 25 March 2020 16:34 (two months ago) link

How have I never heard of MacDonald or this book?! Will be picking it up as soon as it is safe to go out into the world again.

Maria Edgelord (cryptosicko), Wednesday, 25 March 2020 16:39 (two months ago) link

cannot recommend strongly enough

devvvine, Wednesday, 25 March 2020 16:40 (two months ago) link

boyd macdonald pic.twitter.com/DGR60DCkQA

— james devine (@devvvine) March 23, 2020

devvvine, Wednesday, 25 March 2020 16:40 (two months ago) link

this year's Big Foreign Book is Anna Karenina, which is surprisingly readable (normally i struggle with all the names in russian books, everybody has 4 names and they swap between them). it's over 1000 pages, but split into 8 friendly parts.

(good thread etiquette btw, bernard, thanks)

koogs, Wednesday, 25 March 2020 16:47 (two months ago) link

i've got a compendium of all of R.A. Lafferty's short stories which is very much the mood of the moment

Let's kill the Queen and be legends (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 25 March 2020 16:48 (two months ago) link

The last 100 pages or so of The Left Hand of Darkness are up there with the most extraordinary things I've read. Damn.

I'm reading Normal People by Sally Rooney. What's the name for the style this is written in - like Wolf Hall, the Rabbit Books etc? I'm sure there's a name beyond 'present tense' but buggered if I can remember it. Anyway, it's hard not to compare this to Mantel, despite the obvious divergence in subject matter, and it naturally suffers next to her alchemical force. I like being this 'close' to a character's inner weather and it's suitably claustrophobic for a coming-of-age story but I'm not sure I fully believe (in) them. Connell, the well-read, walled-off working class boy is too on the nose and Marianne equally a type. It's compelling, all the same, and Rooney has a nice way with metaphor.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Wednesday, 25 March 2020 17:12 (two months ago) link

I remember watching Kill List and Down Terrace and thinking 'everyone involved is clearly incredibly talented and they're going to go on and make a career full of brilliant work' - that's the feeling I get from this.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Wednesday, 25 March 2020 17:16 (two months ago) link

I just finished The Left Hand Of Darkness, shamefully the first Le Guin I've read - absolutely loved it. Not sure what you're worried about missing, though, bernard?

Intended to start on Tokyo Ueno Station last night but I can't find where I put it! My bookshelves are all in an overstuffed spare room that's currently hard to navigate so I might have to read something else instead, bah.

emil.y, Wednesday, 25 March 2020 17:47 (two months ago) link

I am reading Joseph Conrad's NOSTROMO.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 25 March 2020 17:58 (two months ago) link

I'm still going through Booker International Prize nominees, so I've begun At Dusk by Hwang Sok-yong. So far it's not really anything special, but it's nice to get stories about living in South Korea. I've also read the introduction to Pikettys Capital and Ideology. I think I'm going to love it. And I'm finishing a collection of short texts by Sebald called Campo Santo. He works a lot better long form, but it's still interesting.

Frederik B, Wednesday, 25 March 2020 18:03 (two months ago) link

As mentioned in the previous thread, I am reading Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch. It is quite effectively letting my mind go to a place far from the current global pandemic for a couple of hours each evening.

A is for (Aimless), Wednesday, 25 March 2020 18:04 (two months ago) link

XP to Frederik: I rather liked Campo Santo -- not least because it got me to read Flaubert's wonderful "Legend of Saint Julian the Hospitalier," after many years during which I had owned a copy of Trois Contes but never read past the first story.

handsome boy modelling software (bernard snowy), Wednesday, 25 March 2020 23:38 (two months ago) link

I found At Dusk very moving. The architect realising that his work has contributed to the destruction of the community he grew up in. Reminded me of Taipei Story a bit.

My reading used to be done almost entirely on public transport, so I'm readjusting right now. Still dipping into that history of German romanticism - had previously been told that the nazi infatuation with Wagner distorted the man's ideas, but frankly if it did anti-semitism wasn't one of them, dude was all in on it. Also leafing through Jonathan Rigby's English Gothic in search of more Hammer gems to seek out.

Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 26 March 2020 10:38 (two months ago) link

Not sure what [in tLHoD] you're worried about missing, though, bernard?

Partly, I'm struggling to keep track of the intrigue among various factions in Orgoreyn, due to setting the book aside forgetting the names of all the minor characters; that's the minor stuff that I'm sure will come out in the wash.

I'm more concerned about connections I may fail to perceive between the main narrative and the heterogeneous chapters of lore and "world-building" material. I doubt any of that material is essential to following the plot, but holding it in mind adds to my enjoyment. (This is where I'm hoping the book club will be an asset.)

The biggest worry for me comes when e.g. Estraven refers back to an earlier conversation with Genly Ai and says "He must not have understood anything I said to him then," and I'm like... Not only did I share Genly's uncomprehending perspective on that earlier conversation, I don't even remember what was said! And because so much emphasis has been placed throughout the book on characters with different systems of meaning-making operating in tension with one another, I fear there are more such moments in store.

Oh well, that's what second readings are for :)

handsome boy modelling software (bernard snowy), Thursday, 26 March 2020 11:30 (two months ago) link

Ah, yeah, there are definitely connections between the lore and the main story - the lore chapters are super-short so could you just dip back into those to refresh your mind? It's not like you'd fail to understand anything crucial plot-wise, I think, but the resonances are quite important. Actually, one thing I didn't like about the book was right at the start I found it a little too infodumpy on the world-building, that's something that puts me off certain sci-fi styles and worried me - but it never went absolutely too far on that, and quickly won me over with everything else.

In other news, I found my book! Tokyo Ueno Station here I come.

emil.y, Thursday, 26 March 2020 17:04 (two months ago) link

The biggest worry for me comes when e.g. Estraven refers back to an earlier conversation with Genly Ai and says "He must not have understood anything I said to him then," and I'm like... Not only did I share Genly's uncomprehending perspective on that earlier conversation, I don't even remember what was said! And because so much emphasis has been placed throughout the book on characters with different systems of meaning-making operating in tension with one another, I fear there are more such moments in store.

I think it's less important for you to remember what was said and why that was important than to understand that characters with different systems of meaning-making are operating in tension with one another, so you're good there ^__^

emil.y, Thursday, 26 March 2020 17:06 (two months ago) link

John Peel's semi-autobio "margrave of the marshes" is a lot more disturbing than I was expecting. Harrowing stuff about the molestations and beatings (and a rape) he received as a kid in public school.

Saxophone Of Futility (Michael B), Thursday, 26 March 2020 22:31 (two months ago) link

Good discussion of Left Hand! Also enjoyed this---shine onl wiki:
The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia is a 1974 utopian science fiction novel by American writer Ursula K. Le Guin, set in the fictional universe of the seven novels of the Hainish Cycle, e.g. The Left Hand of Darkness, about anarchist and other societal structures. The book won the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1974,[1] won both the Hugo and Locus Awards in 1975,[2] and received a nomination for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award in 1975.[2] It achieved a degree of literary recognition unusual for science fiction due to its exploration of themes such as anarchism (on a planet called Anarres) and revolutionary societies, capitalism, and individualism and collectivism.

It features the development of the mathematical theory underlying the fictional ansible, an instantaneous communications device that plays a critical role in Le Guin's novels in the Hainish Cycle. The invention of the ansible places the novel first in the internal chronology of the Hainish Cycle, although it was the fifth published.[3] Mathematical, but the main appeal for me was the characterization, though emotional appeal was more subtle, re tides and waves of thought and and action in utopia at crossroads, which may be a kind of Rubicon, or stagnation, slowly sinking into corruption etc (without too much time to ponder big questions at hand).

dow, Friday, 27 March 2020 19:29 (two months ago) link

more subtle than in The Left Hand of Darkness, I meant.

dow, Friday, 27 March 2020 19:32 (two months ago) link

And thanks for the Harry Crews tips at end of Winter WAYR.

dow, Friday, 27 March 2020 19:38 (two months ago) link

I think that NOSTROMO has defeated me. It's too dense, too long, too impersonal. Even if I stepped up my reading and stopped doing other things, it would take me a while to get halfway through it.

I also think the truth is that this year I have focused so much on watching films, they have taken over my imagination and I have lost much of my patience or capacity for books -- the reverse of 2019. Odd as so many people are probably reading more during the crisis and lockdown.

I'll go back to some other book. Maybe short stories, maybe even poetry.

I'd also like to go back to Elvis Costello's memoir.

the pinefox, Monday, 30 March 2020 10:27 (two months ago) link

I've started The Mirror and The Light. It's like I've merely taken a breath since finishing Bring Up the Bodies and am now re-immersing myself in her pool.

This passage, where Cromwell seems to send himself out into the garden and into the consciousness of his cat as she straddles a branch in a tree and evades capture with a net, reminded me of Fizzles' in the other thread:

He imagines the world below her: through the prism of the great eye, the limbs of agitated men unfurl like ribbons, yearning through the darkness. Perhaps she thinks they are praying to her. Perhaps she thinks she has climbed up to the stars. Perhaps the darkness falls away from her in flecks and sparks of light, the roofs and gables like shadows in water; and when she studies the net there is no net, only the spaces in between.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Monday, 30 March 2020 19:13 (two months ago) link


(Am holding The Mirror and the Light off to prevent it from all ending, reading A Place of Greater Safety in lieu, have some other irons in the fire)

silby, Monday, 30 March 2020 19:19 (two months ago) link

have been reading early novels by elizabeths taylor (palladian) & bowen (to the north) and am now pondering on whether or not to start on a dance to the music of time

no lime tangier, Monday, 30 March 2020 20:19 (two months ago) link

last shift at work, no actual work to do so managed to read olga tokarczuk's Flights, liked it a lot.

oscar bravo, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 17:45 (two months ago) link

i've seen that twice today in various lists. the cover is remarkable. is there a reason for that?


koogs, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 17:51 (two months ago) link

All fitzcarraldo ed books look like that

Microbes oft teem (wins), Tuesday, 31 March 2020 17:52 (two months ago) link

The fiction ones are blue and non fiction are white

Microbes oft teem (wins), Tuesday, 31 March 2020 17:52 (two months ago) link

Fitzcarraldo Ed only the worldwide publisher of a few things in their list sadly, but happily including "This Little Art"

silby, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 17:56 (two months ago) link

I think I mentioned on the technological backward steps that I checked out flights from the library last year but couldn’t get more than about 30pp in because something about it (I think the illustrations) was causing the library e-reader to keep crashing. & it struck me that of all the reasons not to have finished a book “it crashed whenever I tried to turn the page” was a potential candidate for that thread

Microbes oft teem (wins), Tuesday, 31 March 2020 18:06 (two months ago) link

first pandemic book order finally arrived - Warren Zanes' Tom Petty bio. After that terribly written Clash bio (Marcus Grey's "The Last Gang in Town") was so gratifying to read opening paragraphs by someone who can really write and clearly has some insightful things to say about the subject, looking forward to this.

Also dug out my copy of Nabokov's "Bend Sinister" for a re-read

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 18:25 (two months ago) link

Flights is so good. So many little stories have stuck with me, especially the letters about Angelo. I knew the story - there is a great film about him - but the way she uses it is so great.

Frederik B, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 18:55 (two months ago) link

it's cheap on amazon uk at the moment (which is where i saw it)

koogs, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 19:17 (two months ago) link

(but that might change in 4 hours when the month changes, because i think it was in the monthly deal for march)

koogs, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 19:18 (two months ago) link

Thanks for the comments on Flights--was wondering if it might be too esoteric, at least in translation, but sounds like you guys straight-up enjoyed it, without too much homework (not that I don't need and even want some headflexing, but not too much).
xp think I might check that Petty bio, though not the biggest fan----here's Zanes on the experience and process of writing a biography, being a biographer, and effects on subject, incl. a conversation not in the book: https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/tom-petty-death-biographer-warren-zanes-731414/

dow, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 19:25 (two months ago) link

Can't resist a few quotes: His unexpected death forced me to acknowledge, in a visceral way, the degree to which biographers bring their subjects in through the stomach as much as through the mind. Biographers consume their people to understand them...I hadn’t been alone when I went through the process of writing the Petty biography. There was a family around me, even if it had splintered by the time of Petty’s death.
...The second half of the book, involving divorce and heroin use and the blending of families, got some divided responses among Petty’s family members, some contention, some trouble. I think Petty found himself at the center of it, and in a way that proved uncomfortable. But my job, from the beginning, had been to tell the man’s story based on interviews, primarily those with him. And that’s what I’d done. But that going public part of the process changed things, brought some strain. If it hadn’t, I believe that the absence of strain would have been the sign that I’d failed in writing the book Petty wanted me to write. In some ways, I’d been ready for this. But I thought we’d have a few years to process it all, to move past it. He’d invited me to be a guest DJ on his radio show. There were signs of thawing. But then he was gone.

dow, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 19:27 (two months ago) link

I don't think Flight ever felt like homework. There is definitely a lot of references, but she uses real stories just like she uses fictional ones, so it's very readable. And then all of a sudden there was something where I went 'wait a minute...'

Frederik B, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 19:28 (two months ago) link

the thing that immediately grabbed me about Zanes in his intro was his pointing out how Petty differed from other singer-songwriters (Springsteen, Waits, etc.), that his songs drew listeners in with what was omitted or implied - they weren't about narrative sweep or detailed characters, he employed mythic strokes to create outlines that listeners could then step into.

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 19:49 (two months ago) link

paraphrasing - he makes the point better than I can

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 19:51 (two months ago) link

Yes, and that's hard to do, without nudging listeners/readers toward foregone conclusions, easiest associations---you have to trust your audience and yourself to be capable of more. Also reminds me of xgau once comparing earlier and then-current Randy Newman: once he brought you to think about his characters, now it's just what he thinks about them---"and that just isn't as interesting."

dow, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 20:15 (two months ago) link

Erm, sorry for repeating words, anyway Christgau's Newman take on his site.

dow, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 20:16 (two months ago) link

Born Again [Warner Bros., 1979]
This has more content and feeling than Little Criminals. But as with Little Criminals its highlight is a (great) joke--"The Story of a Rock and Roll Band," which ought to be called "E.L.O." and isn't, for the same reason supergroupie radio programmers have shied away from it. Hence, the content comprises ever more intricate convolutions of bad taste; rather than making you think about homophobes and heavy-metal toughs and me-decade assholes the way he once made you think about rednecks and slave traders and high school belles, he makes you think about how he feels about them. Which just isn't as interesting. B+

dow, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 20:20 (two months ago) link

ha, that's good

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 20:25 (two months ago) link

The Mirror and the Light is really fucking good. I think part of Mantel's power is that she's a misanthrope but also an incorrigible gossip - that and her sense of the proximal, her apprehension of the closeness of the spirit world and the voices of history. With 'novelist' swapped out for 'king', this ripe passage (being one of about ten I've wanted to copy down and share), strikes me as a decently hubristic manifesto for Mantel's vision of what a novelist is and does.

He once said to Cranmer, the dreams of kings are not the dreams of other men. They are susceptible to visions, in which the figures of their ancestors come to speak to them of war, vengeance, law and power. Dead kings visit them; they say 'Do you know us Henry? We know you.' There are places in the realm where battles have been fought, places where, the wind in a certain direction, the moon waning, the night obscure, you can hear the thunder of hooves and the creak of harness, and the screams of the slain; and if you creep close - if you were thin air, suppose you were a spirit who could slide between blades of grass - then you would hear the aspirations of the dying, you would hear them cry to God for mercy. And all these, the souls of England, cry to *me*, the king tells him, to me and every king: each king carries the crimes of other kings, and the need for restitution rolls forward down the years.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Wednesday, 1 April 2020 18:01 (two months ago) link

So I finished the 2 books I was reading. Waning of the Middle Ages was mostly interesting, despite a few longeurs, such as the chapter trying to analyze why the visual arts of the Middle Ages seem more immediate and relatable to us than the literary works, which seemed to be not especially mysterious or worthy of such heavy analytical lifting. CivilWarLand in Bad Decline was fairly entertaining. I especially liked the author's note added to the 2012 reprinting, a nostalgia-tinted look back at how he came to write these stories and what his life was like at the time. It was interesting that he mentioned Dr. Seuss as an inspiration. I could see that, along with Mark Leyner, Mad Magazine and William S Burroughs.

o. nate, Thursday, 2 April 2020 02:27 (two months ago) link

Actually the author's note is available online if anyone's interested: https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2013/01/07/civilwarland-in-bad-decline-preface/

o. nate, Thursday, 2 April 2020 02:29 (two months ago) link

Good posting, Chinaski, thanks.

the pinefox, Thursday, 2 April 2020 12:54 (two months ago) link

you finished 25 books you didn't like???

silby, Thursday, 28 May 2020 03:13 (five days ago) link

s/the ones i liked:/the ones i rated highest.

i kind of regret finishing light in august and wuthering heights but the other books were all fine and worth reading and even worth recommending.

i didn't keep track of which ones i quit. probably about 5? most of those were terrible award winning scifi that was actually YA trash.

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Thursday, 28 May 2020 04:18 (five days ago) link

Lol Wuthering Heights sounds really appealing.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 28 May 2020 08:20 (five days ago) link

Started on David Roach's Masters Of British Comic Art

Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 28 May 2020 09:56 (five days ago) link

shiiit there's a reaganland coming?

the ghost of tom, choad (thomp), Thursday, 28 May 2020 13:10 (five days ago) link

Yup, out in August


𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Thursday, 28 May 2020 15:36 (five days ago) link

It looks long!

Today's REAGANLAND tidbit is a special video addition. pic.twitter.com/bnf4NHSeDh

— Rick Perlstein (@rickperlstein) May 28, 2020

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Thursday, 28 May 2020 17:32 (five days ago) link

I finished A Coffin for Dimitrios and for a light entertainment it was quite good. I would say that Eric Ambler went just a bit overboard in portraying the character of Mr. Peters as tendentious and tedious, to the point where he overshot the mark of simply indicating these traits so that Peters' several monologues were often so genuinely tedious and I was tempted to skip past them and miss the vital bits embedded in them. Otherwise, I applaud the book.

A is for (Aimless), Thursday, 28 May 2020 18:40 (five days ago) link

wuthering heights kicks ass

mellon collie and the infinite bradness (BradNelson), Thursday, 28 May 2020 18:47 (five days ago) link

man given the size of that thing (reaganland) already I’m glad it’s not a hardback. i never read his third , wonder if I have time to get to that one before the new one is out

the ghost of tom, choad (thomp), Thursday, 28 May 2020 23:14 (five days ago) link

those are probably review copies. The retail version on amazon for pre order is hardback.

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Friday, 29 May 2020 00:17 (four days ago) link

Wuthering Heights is an epic poem of hate. There's nothing like in prose or poetry in English lit.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 29 May 2020 00:22 (four days ago) link

*like it.

And "hate" and "love" come from the same place.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 29 May 2020 00:23 (four days ago) link

/Wuthering Heights/ is an epic poem of hate. There's nothing like in prose or poetry in English lit.

Have you seen eastenders?

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Friday, 29 May 2020 00:25 (four days ago) link

I've still never read any Faulkner. I guess I should do something about that before I get too old to care. I'm currently reading Submission by Michel Houellebecq. I've only read Elementary Particles before this. Kinda feels like he's coasting.

o. nate, Friday, 29 May 2020 01:20 (four days ago) link

I'm now reading The Crock of Gold, James Stephens. This is an entertaining oddity from pre-WWI and the Celtic Revival. It's a long comic-philosophic fable, featuring leprechauns, fairies, the God Pan, a Philosopher, and a Thin Woman. It was popular enough to be reprinted often, but seems mostly forgotten now. I won't attempt to describe it.

A is for (Aimless), Friday, 29 May 2020 15:32 (four days ago) link

Jonathan Swift - Tha Major Works
Victor Serge - Memoirs of a Revolutionary

Swift's Major works compilation are exhaustive in terms of the range of material -- poetry, correspondence to several pamphlets and 'A Tale of a Tub', all thoroughly annotated -- not a lot more to add to what I said TS Heavy Hitters: Powerhouses of Prose (knife-drawer edition): Jonathan Swift vs Mark Twain"">in this thread except I saved A Modest Proposal as one of the final pieces and it really has a bite, as the rich still eat us for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

And so onto Serge's recollections of life as a militant, looking back to struggles fought in mainland Europe to his years in Russia (among Trotsky's Left Opposition), then his expulsion back to France and finally into Mexico just as the Nazis were hitting town. One aspect that is pretty much unique to this book is paragraph after paragraph that starts as a recollection of a person, their physical and psychological characteristics with a dashed narrative of their encounter, all ending with a "they died in a camp/committed suicide/were shot/disappeared/I don't know what happened to them/this almost certainly happened to them". Just pages of the stuff. As the last chapter says (almost as an apology) it was written on the run (he was almost always on the run), it shows and yet circumstances combine here in a really unique manner. Its almost a thriller (via Bolano's 2666)! The positive note at the end is something else. I may need to re-read, just to make sure I wasn't dreaming it.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 29 May 2020 19:01 (four days ago) link

The Case of Comrade Tulayev impressed the hell out of me last fall.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 29 May 2020 19:09 (four days ago) link

xxpost o.nate, if you ever do try Faulkner, maybe start with The Portable Faulkner: well-chosen set pieces from novels, along with many whole shorter things, in chronological order of the stories' settings, from early 1800s to 1950s. Chunky but handy, and certainly portable. (Also has some of the author's maps of where his characters live.)

dow, Friday, 29 May 2020 19:12 (four days ago) link

Tulayev was written (or finished in Mexico) and I forgot to say that so much of the material in that novel obviosuly makes its way in The Memoirs..., a very good counterpart.

I've had my ups and downs with Faulkner - Light in August was tough but I reckon it wasn't my time for that...it did put me off him for years till I picked As I lay Dying last year so want to try Absalom, Absalom next.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 29 May 2020 19:35 (four days ago) link

I'd recommend Light in August or the interconnected story collection Go Down, Moses as a starting point, or even a straightforward narrative like The Unvanquished if you're feeling less frisky.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 29 May 2020 19:40 (four days ago) link

light in august was also where i was told to start fwiw. it certainly was *very* faulknery in the sense i understand the term.

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Friday, 29 May 2020 19:45 (four days ago) link

The time shifts aren't disorienting for tyros like in TS&TF and Absalom, Absalom though.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 29 May 2020 19:45 (four days ago) link

my first attempt was the sound & the fury, which was suboptimal

mookieproof, Friday, 29 May 2020 21:21 (four days ago) link

Finally could not withhold The Mirror and the Light from myself any longer and dove in. I’m as intoxicated as ever. Hook line sinker etc.

silby, Friday, 29 May 2020 21:46 (four days ago) link

IMPOSTURES by al Ḥarîri, translated by Michael Cooperson
-- Absolutely astonishing book--850 years old, collection of 50 stories about a wandering conman all written with various proto-Oulipan constraints (palindromes, anagrams, lipograms, etc), each of the 50 translated by Cooperson in a different way (Australian English, Singlish, Nigerian English, Patwa, Virgina Woolf, Jonathan Swift, Joyce, Kempe, Aphra Behn, etc etc) which is thematically suggested by the story.

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Saturday, 30 May 2020 01:05 (three days ago) link


silby, Saturday, 30 May 2020 01:37 (three days ago) link

That sounds interesting.

I ought to try THE CROCK OF GOLD one day.

Only 80pp or so to go in LOOK AT ME. A lot goes on in this novel.

the pinefox, Saturday, 30 May 2020 08:36 (three days ago) link

I read O Pioneers! by Willa Cather. It's so perfectly edited - like an epic novel hiding in a slim volume (a bit like JL Carr's A Month in the Country). I liked it very much.

Now, in an absurd switch up, I'm reading Hyperion by Dan Simmons. I've not read any epic science fiction in for a good long while and am acutely aware of the politics of it and how much it feels like a big kid wanking over his drawings of inter-galactic genocide.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Saturday, 30 May 2020 16:20 (three days ago) link

Like what others have said, As I Lay Dying seems like a decent place to start with Faulkner.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Saturday, 30 May 2020 16:21 (three days ago) link

More than decent, it's one of his best, among those that I've read, with the balance of clarity and chance-taking narrative structure. Also could start with The Hamlet(my gateway), "The Bear," or "Old Man," with psychedelic special SFX which are historically appropriate, re the Great Flood of 1927. Yeah, xp Go Down Moses too.

dow, Saturday, 30 May 2020 18:15 (three days ago) link

Will keep promoting Cather over Hemingway as the American writer whom young male wannabes should emulate.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 30 May 2020 18:22 (three days ago) link

I'm pretty sure Hemingway's idol has been demoted to a decorative curiosity among the deities of young male wannabes. lord knows who they're all imitating these days, but I don't think Papa is in the running.

A is for (Aimless), Saturday, 30 May 2020 18:27 (three days ago) link

+1 for As I Lay Dying as a good entry point for Faulkner: it's not very long, the use of multiple points of view is classic, and the horror and comedy of rural poverty are turned up to 11

Absalom, Absalom! is better but denser and full of those half-page-long sentences that exhaust the patience of many readers

long ago I was a research drone for a professor preparing an annotated edition of Light in August and I remember he had a note explaining that

I have come from Alabama: a fur piece.

referred to a considerable distance rather than an article of apparel worn around the neck

Brad C., Saturday, 30 May 2020 18:57 (three days ago) link

All the good recommendations for Faulkner have been noted - maybe starting with stories would be less intimidating for me. I finished Submission. It got better by the end, though still a bit patchy. I was impressed by the way Houellebecq was able to find a way to interweave his usual preoccupations (male status anxiety, lust, contempt for liberals, misogyny) into something topical and politically au courant. The parts where he attempts something like a traditional political thriller I think are the least successful. He's on firmer ground when he's in his ruminative anthropological mode, jumping smoothly from literary history to philosophy, gourmandise, and the taxonomy of social status.

o. nate, Saturday, 30 May 2020 21:16 (three days ago) link

Now, in an absurd switch up, I'm reading Hyperion by Dan Simmons. I've not read any epic science fiction in for a good long while and am acutely aware of the politics of it and how much it feels like a big kid wanking over his drawings of inter-galactic genocide.

wait so is that good or bad

Chuck_Tatum, Sunday, 31 May 2020 01:18 (two days ago) link

I'm pretty sure Hemingway's idol has been demoted to a decorative curiosity among the deities of young male wannabes. lord knows who they're all imitating these days, but I don't think Papa is in the running.

― A is for (Aimless)

Not true in creative writing depts

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 31 May 2020 03:07 (two days ago) link

Christ on a cracker! do creative writing students still use typewriters w/ carbon paper, too?

A is for (Aimless), Sunday, 31 May 2020 04:10 (two days ago) link

My impression is that most of the Hemingwayism in creative writing departments is fourth-hand.

the ghost of tom, choad (thomp), Sunday, 31 May 2020 05:06 (two days ago) link

I've been reading Richard Ford's The Sportswriter and dear lord it is insufferable.

the ghost of tom, choad (thomp), Sunday, 31 May 2020 05:09 (two days ago) link

I took a break to read Mike Royko's Boss, an account of Richard Daley's life running up to the Democratic Convention and the shooting of Fred Hampton, and it was ... refreshing

the ghost of tom, choad (thomp), Sunday, 31 May 2020 05:10 (two days ago) link

Though getting to the section on the riots after MLK Jr's death did bring on a feeling of dread.

the ghost of tom, choad (thomp), Sunday, 31 May 2020 05:11 (two days ago) link

According to this thread I started Jennifer Egan's LOOK AT ME in early April. I finished it today - about 517pp. Not a good speed.

A long novel; engaging, sometimes well written and alert; perhaps somehow a little youthful in its interest in fashion models, NYC nightclubs, teenagers, even a private detective (I wonder very slightly if Egan introduced the detective because she was impressed by Lethem's, which she definitely was in 1999 - but this book was probably planned well before that).

The novel runs two or three parallel threads and somewhat unites them by the end. It includes a kind of premonition of social media or rather of 'influencers' or whatever people on YouTube do nowadays. (An evident link with the last chapter of GOON SQUAD which was speculative fiction about social media influence.) Such premonitions are usually, I suppose, a hostage to fortune, but here how much the premonition, written in the late 1990s, gets right is more interesting than what it doesn't.

There is a great deal of DeLillo here - New York; ideas of image and simulation; and especially, a terrorist who wants to destroy 'the conspiracy' of America. But the writing isn't much like DeLillo - it's warmer and more down to earth. At moments, to my surprise, the humour can even approach the zing of Lorrie Moore.

Overall I think it's creditable.

the pinefox, Sunday, 31 May 2020 15:04 (two days ago) link

I finished The Crock of Gold last night. It has many fine moments, but the author had a tendency to take off about once every 50 pages into a page or two of high-flown nonsense masquerading as ecstatic wisdom. When it managed to stay closer to the ground it was often quite clever in a pleasant way. Be warned: it contains much confusion about the 'true' natures of men and women, as if people were archetypes, and not human.

A is for (Aimless), Monday, 1 June 2020 16:39 (yesterday) link

I read another delight of a Pym novel, The Sweet Dove Died. Not as sharp as the last, but I relished the portrait of a young gay man on the make (about whom she's quite explicit in showing him in sexual scenarios).

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 1 June 2020 16:42 (yesterday) link

I just finished the quiet american. Very good!

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Tuesday, 2 June 2020 00:00 (twenty hours ago) link

Finished Egan's short story collection, Emerald City - also lots of stories about models and kids and gap year holidays. Kind of middle-of-the-road but lots of incidental pleasures. I still think Manhattan Beach is her best book by a long distance.

I picked up some Pym's to support my local bookstore: Glass of Blessings, Less Than Angels, Jane & Prudence, and Quartet in Autumn, plus another Dumas telephone book translated by Robin Buss, The Women's War.

Also just finished The Secret Commonwealth - it's probably Pullman's sloppiest book, with a lot of generic blockbuster writing and no visible editing, but very enjoyable - it's a lot more fun than "Amber Spyglass".

Chuck_Tatum, Tuesday, 2 June 2020 15:09 (five hours ago) link

Ford seems pretty insufferable himself

Chuck_Tatum, Tuesday, 2 June 2020 15:12 (five hours ago) link

Just before bed on Sunday, I cracked open the new translation of Michael Kohlhaas that New Directions brought out this year, which has become unexpectedly timely.

I don't have my copy of the Penguin Kleist volume handy to compare the translations, but there were several baffling choices just in the first few pages (including a confusing mixing of direct speech in quotation marks and narrated speech without quotes in the span of a single paragraph). No introduction or other editorial content, so no way to know whether there was, e.g., a deliberate choice to use awkward English in places for faithfulness to un-idiomatic German... These are just minor annoyances, they don't detract much from such an obviously great work, and I look forward to flying through the remaining ~100 pages once my boss stops asking me to work late.

handsome boy modelling software (bernard snowy), Tuesday, 2 June 2020 15:31 (five hours ago) link

Read some nice pieces on Kleist as a result of that new volume even though I'm not getting it (v happy with the edition on Archipelago)

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 2 June 2020 15:33 (five hours ago) link

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