(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
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
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.https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2020/03/31/the-fabulous-forgotten-life-of-vita-sackville-west
― 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
Finished A Place of Greater Safety, that French Revolution was a doozy and a half huh
― silby, Monday, 6 April 2020 03:43 (one month ago) link
To paraphrase Tom Lehrer, when Saint-Just was my age, he had been dead for four years.
― silby, Monday, 6 April 2020 04:40 (one month ago) link
In on the The Mirror And The Light reading club too. Previously my reading was done almost exclusively on public transport, so I'm using the shutdown to tackle some hardcover doorstops that would be a pain to lug around.
― Daniel_Rf, Monday, 6 April 2020 09:27 (one month ago) link
a collection of rober walser's short stories including, and titled after, the walk. my first time reading walser despite him being an influence on several of my favourite writers. most of the 'stories' are two page sketches and ideas than conventional short stories, have found these more interesting than enjoyable. the walk itself is magnificent; a bipolar odyssey of the magic and mundanity of living.
― devvvine, Monday, 6 April 2020 09:44 (one month ago) link
I finished War and Peace. Good novel imo.
About to start a Metternich bio published last year.
― TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 6 April 2020 10:18 (one month ago) link
I overcame my reader's block, to a degree, by reading Alan Sillitoe.
I'd had a copy of THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG-DISTANCE RUNNER on the shelf for years. I finally got round to reading the title story. It's told by a criminal, and he's thus unpleasant. Yet the actual writing is strong, bold. I've read about 3 other stories that follow it, and again what strikes me is that Sillitoe isn't really quite what people might imagine - Ecky Thump tough brassy Northerner or something (well, he was from Nottingham anyway, but it seems all to have been conflated into the North) - but bolder, darker, more exploratory. A relevant period term is 'Existentialism'. The stories can be a bit disturbing. But they're easy enough to read, for me to get back into reading a bit.
― the pinefox, Monday, 6 April 2020 11:00 (one month ago) link
I've been looking for a copy of Travels in Nihilon forever
― Οὖτις, Monday, 6 April 2020 14:57 (one month ago) link
just finished Helen Eustis's The Horizontal Man. Patton Oswalt recommended it alongside Tey's the daughter of time (which I love) in one of his books. it's a rare mystery novel that gets inside the head of many different characters, where they all have different ways of thinking. Too bad the mystery solution becomes obvious to modern readers as soon as the first clue come up. I bet Alfred Hitchcock read it.
halfway through Elizabeth Kolbert - The Sixth Extinctionhttps://i.imgur.com/m5FOWxJ.pngshould have been 100 pages max. she needs to go on a travel adventure for each chapter, describing what the lab looks like where they study coral reefs, etc. so much filler for such a big topic.
― wasdnuos (abanana), Wednesday, 8 April 2020 18:09 (one month ago) link
I finished Sillitoe. 177 pages, a way out of my Reader's Block.
Then back to Jennifer Egan, LOOK AT ME - now page 50, a long way to go, but a lot more user-friendly than Conrad was. I think I'll keep at this and finish it.
― the pinefox, Thursday, 9 April 2020 18:18 (one month ago) link
I paused that to begin, at last, Michael White: POPKISS: THE LIFE & AFTERLIFE OF SARAH RECORDS, as a Good Friday treat.
Happily easy to read. 80 pages or so in a day: a relief to be finding a way to read again.
― the pinefox, Saturday, 11 April 2020 09:08 (one month ago) link
JUst had It Was a New Day Yesterday arrive yesterday. So have read the first chapter of that.So may not get to finish Adventures in The Screen Trade quite so fast.
Still readeing the Philosopher's Stone book on Alchemy through various cultures which si very interesting. Gone from China into India and possibly onto another Asian tradition
― Stevolende, Saturday, 11 April 2020 10:18 (one month ago) link
mark haber's reinhardt's garden, really fun sort of anglo take on bernhard and the zeal which certain writers find in 'melancholia' as a theme.
that benet sounds fantastic xyzzzz__. i keep meaning to read gadda too.
― vivian dark, Sunday, 12 April 2020 03:31 (one month ago) link
I'm Afraid That's All We've Got Time For by Jen Calleja, collection of short stories just issued by prototype publishing. really interesting, by which i probably mean i'm not entirely sure what to make of it, of them. for some subterranean reason throughout reading the word algebra,al-jabra kept springing to mind, along with the image of bones poorly set or deliberately dislocated or asunder. that was the feeling of the prose.
using that as a key gets you somewhere with these stories: their parts are not connected. a story starts with a flood coming into a girl's school, moves through an incipient sexual relationship between a male teacher and a student, and vatic advice by dead and decaying farm animals.
it may take place in France. there is here a sense of dislocation as well. a story about crab fishermen *felt* like it took place in the states, but on going back i realised this may just have been projection on my part. some stories *seem* to take place in the future, without quite specifying it; they could just be taking place in a slightly de-ranged mentality.
i think this is all managed through a mixture of exclusion and breaking language slightly. In A Town Called Distraction tenses and sentence structure are maimed:
I loosely calculated faint figures in my hand. The bridge to the east side of town would be down and crossable for a quarter of an hour from quarter past twelve, and for ten minutes at twelve forty-five. Even if I were to make the close of the first window, I would still be fifteen minutes late, yet the second window glowed in pink neon next to the faded twelve-fifteen. I knew I would be distracted by the world. The world requests time. I'd been listening to the news on the radio before leaving and had to spring back upstairs to note down names mentioned in the broadcast to look up later on. The bus pulled in while I was scanning the headlines in the newsagent's in front of the bus stop and I rushed out to meet it. I had been the wrong bus, so i waited and wondered how long ago the council had had the bus shelter repaired, if ever.
Causation and the connective conventional glue that holds together a lot of 'realism' is excluded. This produces a not-quite dream logic, but it is not delivered in any sort of dreamy way - the short directness of the sentences means that causation is, tonally, very much conveyed - ah there it is again, as I write, the sound or image in my head of bones being forcibly dislocated... the point is that this isn't quite dream logic. it's real world logic deprived of that set of social causative glue with which so much writing and visual media is conventionally held together.
Exclusion of this sort allows the reader to project into a very deep conceptual space, which I think gives an awful lot of the substance of feeling to reading these stories.
I guess I may need to unpack that a little. On twitter recently, I said the impact of Covid felt like it might be best understood by looking at one of those historical graphs, which takes a sudden and spectacular dip, or spikes suddenly, like in the 1530s with western European prices, or the consequences of the black death or the 30 years war, and then a hundred years later you see the consequences. i said i could imagine in 2134 'The Sack of Singapore' being the symbolic event of the fall of capitalism. Ignoring the whimsical analysis and looking only at the imaginative construction, for science-fiction purposes, I should probably have said something less obvious - so it couldn't be European cities ('sack' having very much that connotation of classical history) and Singapore was too obviously connected with capitalism. It needed to be something like Brazilia, or maybe Chandigarh. Making it obvious (Singapore) is very much the Black Mirror error (imv), what you want to do from an imaginative pov is produce a gap between what seems likely now, and the event itself, for the reader to project into.
It feels like Calleja is doing something like this at a conceptual, causation and sentence by sentence level. It is I think quite deliberately jarring <- that could almost be the aesthetic of the stories. It's hard to find similarities and I think this may be because they are each experiments at the level I just described.
In some of the stories separate events are tied together only by their proximity, so that you go searching for the other things that might be there - again that projection into an excluded middle.
this makes it very surprising when you come across a story like The Amnesty, a sort of gender monde renversé. It feels very direct on the basis of the previous stories - women occupy the hegemonic position in society and clearly have done historically. The directness means that Calleja can drive through with force beyond the obvious low-hanging fruit of such an idea, and treat the concepts at play quite violently. So another thing I would say characterises her writing is 'violence done to concepts'.
It's all quite off-putting and it's extremely welcome to be being 'put off' at this level, 'off-putting' as an aesthetic, again. 'what is this taste? why? i don't like it or do i?' etc.
― Fizzles, Sunday, 12 April 2020 09:48 (one month ago) link
Local Knowledge by Clifford Geertz. A re-read this - I go to Geertz when I want a cooling breeze of sanity in my mind. I feel, and I really want to explore this properly, that there is a deep reductiveness currently at work in how many people want to see the world. To throw a few things together to generate a congeries of what i mean: dominic cummings, thinking fast and slow, tim harford and 'economics', data science, the sort of watershed oppositional world that engenders culture wars, brexit, Trump.
What i get from Geertz is clear exploration of the spaces which are not only interpreted via their extreme point of conclusion; he can be intelligent about lines that are uncertain. In another of his collections he points out why he is 'anti-anti-relativist'. it's a very clear explanation why people who are anti-relativist are more of a problem than relativism is itself. I feel that needs to remembered as an important point, not at all difficult to understand with a little effort, in the state of things today.
the opening sentence of the first essay here – Blurred Genes: The Refrigeration of Social Thought – is a very good example of the tone: A number of things, I think, are true.
In fact I've just found a paragraph at the end of that essay, which states very clearly what I was trying to say at the beginning of this post (by 'refiguration' Geertz means use of theatre, play, symbolism, and other traditional terms of the humanities to explore the social so-called 'sciences', a move he welcomes):
One thing it means is that, however raggedly, a challenge is being mounted to some of the central assumptions of mainstream social science. The strict separation of theory and data, the "brute fact" idea; the effort to create a formal vocabulary of analysis purged of all subjective reference, the "ideal language" idea; and the claim to moral neutrality and the Olympian view, the "God's truth" idea – none of these can prosper when explanation comes to be regarded as a matter of connecting action to its sense rather than behavior to its determinants. The refiguration of social theory represents, or will if it continues, a sea change in our notion not so much of what knowledge is but of what it is we want to know. Social events do have causes and social institutions effects; but it just may be that the road to discovering what we assert in asserting this lies less through postulating forces and measuring them than through noting expressions and inspecting them.
I think (perhaps a use of being a white middle class male is that you can sense inside you some of the worst impulses at play in the hegemonic situation) that the appeal of the "brute fact" is very great to the commentariat, and to many other people besides, who want very much to be shown to be *right*. It is i think to a degree sometimes difficult to understand an overriding impulse. They have even created their own ersatz "formal vocabulary of analysis" (call it "Sensiblese") to examine their own rightness.
To use a phrase he uses in another essay, with Geertz the appeal is that he explores clearly a world where "the matter is one of degree, not polar opposition" and just as importantly shows how you can still make working and workable observations and conclusions in such a world.
One challenge, politically, I think, is how in our abrasive and oppositional cultural world you ensure languages of degree do not, Laodicean like, backslide or get luke-warmed into radical centrism, but retain their necessary capacity for progressive action.
Anyway, regardless of the wider political challenges, reading Geertz is a great way of maintaining a certain intellectual freshness and elasticity. The fault is clearly mine that each time I read him I think 'ah yes, *this* is how it should be done'!
― Fizzles, Sunday, 12 April 2020 10:14 (one month ago) link
i've got The Wheels of Commerce by Fernand Braudel on the bookstand where I tend to eat, which means I will read a few paras every week. it's hardly a study but it's very pleasant reading about the development of markets in Europe, say. Despite the fact as a member of the Annales school of history he did exceptional work drawing together complicated statitistics into a coherent picture of European history, he is also a remarkably and pleasingly picturesque writer. So, for instance of how livestock and foodstuffs were got to the major markets of European capitals:
Thus Madrid in the eighteenth century drew to excess on the means of transport of Castile, to the point of disrupting the country's entire economy. In Lisbon, if one is to believe Tirso de Molina (1625) everything was simplicity itself: fruit, snow from the Serra d'Estrela, and food arrived by the all-providing sea: 'The inhabitants, as they sit eating at tale, can see the fishermen's nets fill with fish ... caught on their doorsteps.' It is a pleasure to the eyes, says an account of July-August 1633, to see the hundreds and thousand of fishermen's barks on the Tagus. Lazy, greedy, perhaps indifferent, the city seems from these accounts to be swallowing the sea. But the picture is too good too be true: in fact Lisbon and to labour endlessly to find enough grain for her daily bread. And the larger the population, the higher the degree of risk to supplies. Venice was already having to buy cattle for consumption from Hungary in the fifteenth century. Istanbul, which had a population in the sixteenth century of perhaps 700,000, at flocks of sheep from the Balkans, and grain from the Black Sea and Egypt.
Incidentally, I see someone has posted some reading notes from the wonderful Structures of Everyday Life (the first volume of Civilisation and Capitalism, of which The Wheels of Commerce is the second). Haven't been through them yet, and the name Tyler Cowen brings me out in authentic plague, but may well be worth a dip.
― Fizzles, Sunday, 12 April 2020 10:30 (one month ago) link
The Penguin Book of the Prose Poem - great christmas present from house mate.
SO MUCH to disagree with in the introduction as the editor (Jeremy Noel-Todd) tries to get to grips with defining rules for inclusion and exclusion for prose poems. But what made me extremely argumentative in the introduction makes for a superb collection of anything that slips between prose and poetry (you will, as surely as i did, disagree with many entries – oh come ON, that's just PROSE – but this is just part of the fun). It allows for a diverse collection continually working in peripheral spaces and so increasing one's range of imaginative perception.
it is, for reasons i cbf'd to go into, arranged in reverse chronological order. as yet another exercise in defamiliarisation it works well enough.
― Fizzles, Sunday, 12 April 2020 10:36 (one month ago) link
let's have some Peter Reading, from C (you know what C stands for):
The brass plate polished wordless. Stone steps hollowed by the frightened hopeful ascending, the terrified despairing descending. (Probably between three and four months, perhaps one hundred days.) Out of the surgeries in this Georgian street, and similar streets in similar cities, some of us issue daily, bearing the ghastly prognostications. How we hate you, busy, ordinary, undying – taxi-drive, purveyor of the Evening Star, secretary bouncing puddings of malleable flesh. Incongruously I plan 100 100-word unites. What do you expect me to do – break into bloody haiku?
Verse is for healthyarty-parties. The dyingand surgeons use prose.
Peter Reading (1984)
― Fizzles, Sunday, 12 April 2020 10:40 (one month ago) link
*taxi-driver - should have proof read and in case it wasn't obvious that's one of the pieces collected in the prose poem book.
― Fizzles, Sunday, 12 April 2020 10:41 (one month ago) link
great post on reading Benet, xyzzzz__ - will have to give it a go.
― Fizzles, Sunday, 12 April 2020 10:42 (one month 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.
― 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
― 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