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

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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 (one month 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 (one month 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 (one month 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 (one month 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 (one month 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 (one month ago) link

All fitzcarraldo ed books look like that

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

The fiction ones are blue and non fiction are white

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

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

koogs, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 19:17 (one month 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 (one month 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 (one month 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 (one month 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 (one month 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 (one month ago) link

paraphrasing - he makes the point better than I can

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 19:51 (one month 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 (one month ago) link

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

dow, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 20:16 (one month 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 (one month ago) link

ha, that's good

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 20:25 (one month 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 (one month 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 (one month 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 (one month ago) link

Good posting, Chinaski, thanks.

the pinefox, Thursday, 2 April 2020 12:54 (one month ago) link

Juan Benet - A Meditation.

There were times when I was reading this 365 page one paragraph monster that I felt like it was consuming me rather than the other way around.* Maybe one day -- whenever I've dared to re-read this? -- I will put up a thread called crappily titled "Undercover Canon" where we could talk about novels like this**, just bizarro examples of the written word, that have been consigned to the dustbin (this was the cheapest novel, £2 quid on amazon). In one way it isn't at all that weird, this is a post-Faulkner -- Region is modelled on Yoknapatawpha County -- post-Proust world where people interact and reminisce about relationships, war, exile and whatever the fuck else, coming in and out of Region's geography. The narrator recounts in a series of episodes of narrative that switch to meditations on all manner of abstractions -- and back again.

A Meditation is probably coming from the greatest Spanish modernist writer. But its a very lonely voice. In the main Spanish writers like to do other things altogether, more into a sense of play (thinking of Vila-Matas) (if not fun) with er stuff, or they were into their dictators (Inclan's Tyrant Banderas however Benet isn't one for doing the obvious -- you couldn't get a digestible line out of him about the Spanish civil war or on anything else for that matter). What you do get is what I can only describe as these rational hallucinations (something very calculated, but you feel the mind that is writing these sections is seeking to expand but not quite explode your undertanding of the world and people in it, maybe like a bomb that goes off now and then, then has its mechanism put back together again to only go off again later, on and on till the end)

* I spent a month with it, even though I read about a quarter of it in a day. The horror of covid-19 'got in the way', and then other distractions. Even so its a novel that can be very exhausting and yet just drags you down to a hole. Thomas Bernhard (its not at all like him btw) is actually really easy to read, and he makes it so. This lacks a music that Bernhard has, but makes it up by willing a sense of forward motion (that's my way of saying that I think the guy could write). I couldn't put it down for long strecthes of time, but when I did put it down it would stay down for days, and I couldn't pick up anything else as nothing would or could equal it. I was stuck but it didn't feel like it, because it was so enjoyable.

** So I think Carlo Emilio Gadda's The Experience of Pain is possibly most like it (both this and Benet share a pain, both also happened to be engineers too), Saer's La Grande, Broch's The Death of Virgil, to name a few other forgotten ones that draw on the same models form the 20s and 30s.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 3 April 2020 23:02 (one month ago) link

That sounds both exhausting and weirdly intriguing.

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Saturday, 4 April 2020 10:20 (one month ago) link

Finished At Dusk, and yeah, it got really good. I was quite astonished at how much space there was for different voices in such a little book. At one point one of the main characters is telling a story she heard from a friend, that the friend heard from a colleague, that the colleague heard from a former cellmate. The plot really is nearly nothing, it's just voices and stories from the fringes, and from the past, which the architect has tried to pave over and leave behind. Very touching.

Capital and Ideology is also really good. I'm still just at how the French Revolutionaries dealt with ancient unequal privileges, but it's so interesting.

Frederik B, Sunday, 5 April 2020 15:37 (one month ago) link

What should I read by her?

How preposterous is it that Vita Sackville-West, the best-selling bisexual baroness who wrote over thirty-five books that made an ingenious mockery of twenties societal norms, should be remembered today merely as a smoocher of Virginia Woolf? The reductive canonization of her affair with Woolf has elbowed out a more luxurious, strange story: Vita loved several women with exceptional ardor; simultaneously adored her also-bisexual husband, Harold; ultimately came to prefer the company of flora over fauna of any gender; and committed herself to a life of prolific creation (written and planted) that redefined passion itself.

dow, Monday, 6 April 2020 01:23 (one month ago) link

Been reading a bit of this and a bit of that: poems by Tagore, one of the vocation lectures by Max Weber (in the new NYRB translation), I finished One Lark, One Horse by Michael Hofmann (having been looping back and rereading a bunch - I may post one in the poetry thread). Not sure what to read next.

o. nate, Monday, 6 April 2020 01:35 (one month ago) link

I'm halfway through Parting the Waters. 1961. The sit-in movement is sweeping the Jim Crow south. It pries loose some minor concessions against strict segregation. Those little successes are spark off a wave of murderous Klan retaliatory violence, with bombings, beatings and lynching. I know this trend will get much worse before it gets any better.

The biggest surprise to me so far is how tiny the organizations of SCLC and SNCC were, compared to the breadth of the movement, which is being driven almost entirely by spontaneous local (mostly student-led) protests. Almost everything that happens occurs via loose informal networking, usually centered around black churches and colleges, with hardly any central planning or training. The movement is spreading and growing itself rapidly and King is somehow at the very core of everything, while having almost no power to steer anything.

A is for (Aimless), Monday, 6 April 2020 01:51 (one month ago) link

I'm re-reading "The Plague" by Camus. A bit on the nose, I guess, but I last read it at least 20 years ago, and have only vague memories of it.

o. nate, Saturday, 16 May 2020 01:35 (one week ago) link

I got a copy of "The Plague" again recently as I really wanted to read it again. It's probably been 20 years since I last read it too. Critics tried to make out its an allegory about fascism but no its about a FUCKING PLAGUE...but I guess if you aren't living through a plague it's hard to remember how central it can be to the human experience.

At the moment I am reading Steinbeck's "Tortilla Flat". 40 pages in and it's funny but some sort of story better develop cos right now it's "I'd love some wine, where can drink more?, the boys get wine, Pablo drinks a gallon of wine like hair growing on someone's forearm" etc etc

Saxophone Of Futility (Michael B), Saturday, 16 May 2020 23:26 (one week ago) link

Tbf it is ALSO an allegory for fascism. Books can do more than one thing at a time.

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Sunday, 17 May 2020 00:08 (one week ago) link

Tortilla Flat is mostly a string of moderately amusing stories about some endearing lowlifes, because Steinbeck knew some endearing lowlifes in Monterrey and some amusing stories about them that he could fictionalize. It's only slightly racier than the Saturday Evening Post, but kind of endearing and amusing. People like that.

A is for (Aimless), Sunday, 17 May 2020 00:48 (one week ago) link

https://s.ecrater.com/stores/75577/4a27f8a55ecd2_75577b.jpg otm

mookieproof, Sunday, 17 May 2020 01:36 (one week ago) link

I totally forgot about the "allegory of fascism" angle for reading "The Plague". I did notice however how much the shape and tone of the book is directly inspired by Defoe's "Journal of the Plague Year", having just recently read that. He even uses a quote by Defoe as the book's epigraph. I'm about half way through it now, so my thoughts on "what it's all about" are still gestating.

o. nate, Sunday, 17 May 2020 01:51 (one week ago) link

it says a great deal no matter how you read it

mookieproof, Sunday, 17 May 2020 02:12 (one week ago) link

it is about how humans think and act in dire circumstances where many basic social connections are broken, such as during a plague

A is for (Aimless), Sunday, 17 May 2020 02:48 (one week ago) link

or a fascism.

a slice of greater pastry (ledge), Sunday, 17 May 2020 07:10 (one week ago) link

Intrigued by recent New Yorker piece re Kierkegaard, who produced a stream of unclassifiable books---hybrids of philosophy, autobiography, fiction, and sermon. Where should I start with this hybridization? I confess to being more interested in this process than the philosophical and religious elements (though Adam Kirsch presents those well enough, as far as I know, never having read SK).

dow, Monday, 18 May 2020 04:20 (one week ago) link

But I mean what he does present seems clear as an overview of this length can be.

dow, Monday, 18 May 2020 04:22 (one week ago) link

I have started reading The Human Factor, Graham Greene. Early on it has a somewhat similar feel to Le Carre.

If I were in an uncharitable frame of mind I'd say Le Carre's entire career is basically an attempt to ape Greene.

Daniel_Rf, Monday, 18 May 2020 10:14 (one week ago) link


TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 18 May 2020 10:44 (one week ago) link

I started Knut Hamsun's Mysteries

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 18 May 2020 10:44 (one week ago) link

Ages ago when I read Mysteries I never could decide if its ultra-romanticism was satire or not. It was much too late in the century for unironic Byronism, but I found the tone was hard to gauge.

I finished The Human Factor. It was fine, although the women characters seemed created only to justify the actions of the male characters. About halfway through I began to get twinges that I'd read it before, but so long ago it had disappeared from any viable lingering memory. Probably before 1985.

To finish the evening I picked up Joseph and His Brothers and read two dozen pages, but I suspect its too big a commitment for me to pursue right now and I'll fall back to a shorter easier book tonight.

A is for (Aimless), Tuesday, 19 May 2020 19:38 (one week ago) link

Most books are easier and shorter, so good range for hunting.
Haven't read many Greene novels (The Power and the Glory for school, but long ago, which may be why I don't remember it). Brighton Rock grabbed me, as a melding of what he called his "entertainments" and what he considered his more serious, spiritual (in)quests. Otherwise: 21 Stories, Collected Essays (mostly reviews/tripping on eccentrics and other beloveds of earlier Brit lit, with occasional references to Great Depression and early Battle of Britain in the world outside: pre-Covidtainment), and Graham Greene on Film: Collected Film Reviews 1935-40--think that's the version I read, def. minus the one that got him in trouble, where he accuses Shirley Temple's bosses of pimping her out on screen---but there's also The Graham Greene Film Reader: Reviews Essays Interviews & Film Stories, which I want to get, though I already know his fiction better via film. (Thought The Tenth Man, written for film but never produced, worked as a stand-alone thriller novel, though He thought The Third Man didn't; I haven't read that one). His memoir A Sort of Life lives up to its title. (He got some good material, and more thrills, from using his literary celebrity to get into places he wasn't supposed to go, like war zones.)(Here or elsewhere, he refers to himself in passing as "manic depressive," which seems plausible from an amateur's POV.)

dow, Tuesday, 19 May 2020 21:41 (one week ago) link

"he thought," not "He."

dow, Tuesday, 19 May 2020 21:43 (one week ago) link

to dow's recommendations I would add Our Man In Havana (short comical spy novel about a dude who gets recruited to provide info, just makes it all up - and then it starts happening...). Doctor Fisher Of Geneva is an uncharacteristically sour final novella for such a humanist author, almost nihilistic. The Captain & The Enemy is a strange one, too, centred very much on childhood trauma. Speaking of which...

def. minus the one that got him in trouble, where he accuses Shirley Temple's bosses of pimping her out on screen

Had an acquaintance post scandalized excerpts from that review and suggest Greene was basically a closeted paedophile. I think his aim was true but they do read pretty gross.

Daniel_Rf, Wednesday, 20 May 2020 09:51 (one week ago) link

I'd felt unable to read a book, again, for a while. Yesterday I took LOOK AT ME out in the sun and shade and managed 60 pages, which was impressive by my standards. I'm now halfway through.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 20 May 2020 14:57 (one week ago) link

have just started frigyes karinthy's a journey around my skull. 50 pages in i'm enjoying his tone, very light and entertaining so far for something dealing with a brain tumour. as i've read a novel written by his son, ferenc karinthy, it led me to the conclusion they'd be the first father and son duo who i'd have read a book by. then again the only other such combination i could think of were the alexandre dumas père et fils and i've not read any by the fils.

Jibe, Wednesday, 20 May 2020 16:29 (one week ago) link

the koran, the nj dawood translation, the content is presented chronologically instead of, as traditionally, from the longest shura to the shortest. the translation reads well.

COVID and the Gang (jim in vancouver), Wednesday, 20 May 2020 16:33 (one week ago) link

i finished reading Doxology by Nell Zink and I've been reading Home: Social Essays by LeRoi Jones and also Margaret Bourke-White's autobiography Portrait Of Myself.

scott seward, Thursday, 21 May 2020 19:57 (one week ago) link

After fiddling around for a night with Henry James' The Ambassadors, whose prolixity turned out to be more than I could bear atm, I have gone the opposite direction and am reading A Coffin for Dimitrios, Eric Ambler.

A is for (Aimless), Thursday, 21 May 2020 20:14 (one week ago) link

I found The Ambassadors less prolix and with cleaner architectural lines than the books published before and after it, but ymmv.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 21 May 2020 21:03 (one week ago) link

Page 333 of LOOK AT ME. Surprised how quickly I can get through this book with a little effort.

It's readable, I suppose, sometimes too mysterious (the terrorist-ish figure out of DeLillo) but sometimes manages to be funny almost like Lorrie Moore. It's certainly in some kind of zone of 1990s-mediated-world influence from DeLillo, maybe DFW, and very parallel with Franzen, but possibly has a different angle because written by a woman.

the pinefox, Friday, 22 May 2020 09:00 (six days ago) link

I can only assume that isn't Anita Brookner's Look At Me?! I'd love to see her take on DeLillo, fwiw.

I read Carol Shields' The Stone Diaries. I've read quite a lot of austere stuff recently so it was quite nice to have something with such loose and tumbling sentences. It's of its time, I think, and probably a little too folksy for me but it eventually won me over. It's superbly constructed, with a strange ventriloquised central voice, that adds a layer of complexity to an already unreliable narrative, and the final section, a meditation on finality and the closing down of consciousness, is really quite beautiful.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Friday, 22 May 2020 09:07 (six days ago) link

finished a journey around my skull last night. quite enjoyable overall, some entertaining parts - the crazy number of doctors he goes to see though most seem happy to discuss literature or science rather than diagnose him; all his friends sending him to see this or that expert, or dropping in to entertain him (and how he realises at a certain point that their laughs are all similar and strained, that they're forcing themselves to be happy around him, the condemned man); his swedish surgeon wondering who he is because what feels like half of hungary to him has contacted the clinic to know how the operation went.
the chapter where he describes his surgery is painful to read, as he is kept awake though it all ("improves chances by 25%" says his surgeon). it is tough not to wince when he describes the drill opening his skull, the sounds of the surgery going on etc.
the version i read includes a preface by the author, where he develops what led him to write this book and which could definitely have been written now: it finishes with him saying he'd read in a far right newspaper that he'd faked his illness and surgery just to get some free publicity and that he could have responded either by not saying a thing or by writing a whole volume.

Jibe, Friday, 22 May 2020 09:25 (six days ago) link

Chinaski: this LOOK AT ME is by Jennifer Egan.

the pinefox, Friday, 22 May 2020 12:40 (six days ago) link

That Karinthy is wonderful. I wish more by him was available in English.

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Saturday, 23 May 2020 02:08 (five days ago) link

So I finished reading Camus's The Plague. My view is that it's not an allegory of fascism, though it's easy to see how people could read it that way, coming as it did right at the end of WWII, and inspired at least to some extent by Camus's personal experience in the French resistance. I would say that it depicts bravery under fire and a situation somewhat analogous to France under the German occupation, but it takes a stronger correspondence than that to qualify as an allegory in my view. I guess the situation is analogous to any situation in which people put themselves in harm's way to help others in need. I would say the book has an uplifting moral, creates a memorable atmosphere, and is masterfully crafted, but the heroic Dr. Rieux remains largely a cipher, lacking the human qualities, say, of the narrator of Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year, who gets "volunteered" for a dangerous plague duty, scrambles to get out of it as soon as possible, but lets himself off the hook by telling himself the duty would be ineffective anyway.

o. nate, Sunday, 24 May 2020 02:11 (four days ago) link

I ordered Hernán Diaz's In the Distance as a surprise gift for a friend who is the most avid reader I know (whereas I am the most avid book-buyer I know); we read it at the same time and were both very impressed. Gave my copy dad last time I saw him, and it sounds like he's hooked. Anybody here read it?

I'm now reading two very strange experimental novels: Wittgenstein's Mistress by David Markson, which I read at the start of college a dozen years ago, lent to a friend (who read it multiple times and loved it!) and finally had returned to me this past year; and Slater Orchard by Darcie Dennigan, brought out last year by University of Alabama Press, which I was lucky enough to find in the used section of a book store where the cashier likes me and gave me a discount.

Wittgenstein's Mistress is annoying me, and I don't know whether I will have the patience to see it through to the end. Slater Orchard is captivating, and its evocation of life's terrified persistence in the wake of industrial catastrophe feels timely ("I no longer wish for a face mask. A mask is a mockery. The poison is everywhere. When I lie down in the cab of the dumpster truck the engine is running. The fumes fill the cab. I open my mouth. Poison is a drink. I open my mouth and poison runs down my throat. [...] I open my mouth. Poison is a drink. But the word orchard is always also in my mouth. The poison runs down my throat. Orchard stays in my mouth.")

handsome boy modelling software (bernard snowy), Sunday, 24 May 2020 12:48 (four days ago) link

I read John Berger's Ways of Seeing and it wasn't what I was expecting at all! Short version: it should be taught in schools.

Berger's bibliography is dizzying: where does one start?

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Wednesday, 27 May 2020 12:16 (yesterday) link

I had trouble getting through the first essay. It's structured like a logical argument but a lot of the connective tissue is missing. I don't know why he used that Franz Hals essay for his example of mystification -- I guess it ignores the Marxist materialism of class structure, but I'd say taking into account the "fashion of the times", such as wearing hats tipped, is not mystification. I wasn't convinced that the painting was critical of the subjects.

wasdnous (abanana), Wednesday, 27 May 2020 13:38 (yesterday) link

The PORTRAITS and LANDSCAPES collections are full of lovely things.

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Wednesday, 27 May 2020 22:16 (yesterday) link

currently reading The Corner That Held Them (NYRB). occasionally extremely funny, but mostly a bit of a slog.

i meant to read 30 books this year. i've read 37 so far. lol pandemic.

the ones i liked:

distant mirror: the calamitous 14 century by barbara tuchman. what a world!

this america: the case for the nation by jill lepore (long essay that i guess was cut from her "these truths" single volume history of the united states). makes a "Liberal" tactical case for redefining and promoting "nationalism" quite well. these truths is better IMO.

a single man by isherwood. very good on the british experience of los angeles. who else does that? geoff dyer?

say nothing: true history of murder in northern ireland by patrick radden keefe. mixture of an unsolved murder podcast (gross) and a good introductory history of the IRA for an american audience.

dept of speculation by jenny offil. i loved reading this but i can't remember much about it.

before the storm: barry goldwater and the unmaking of the american consensus by rick perlstein. not quite as interesting as nixonland, but i'm reading all his stuff in preparation for reaganland.

cities of the plain by cormac mccarthy. the best of the trilogy IMO. magical ending.

the spy and the traitor by ben macintyre. oleg gordievsky's exfiltration story. i posted about it on the TTSS thread.

uncanny valley by anna weiner. very smart look at silicon valley. as everyone has said, the indirect references to companies ("the social network everyone hates", etc). are maddening.

remains of the day. i also read never let me go and much preferred remains.

crudo by olivia laing.

west by carys davies

the most infuriating books i have read this year so far are wuthering heights (eastenders but everyone has TB) and light in august (just awful prose). i guess they're "better" than some of the books i liked but i hated reading them so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Wednesday, 27 May 2020 22:56 (yesterday) link

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

silby, Thursday, 28 May 2020 03:13 (eighteen hours 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 (seventeen hours ago) link

Lol Wuthering Heights sounds really appealing.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 28 May 2020 08:20 (thirteen hours ago) link

Started on David Roach's Masters Of British Comic Art

Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 28 May 2020 09:56 (twelve hours ago) link

shiiit there's a reaganland coming?

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

Yup, out in August


𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Thursday, 28 May 2020 15:36 (six hours 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 (four hours 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 (three hours ago) link

wuthering heights kicks ass

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

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