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

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Braudel reminds of how much is required to maintain refrigeration, and get it all to the fridge.

dow, Sunday, 12 April 2020 17:36 (two months ago) link

Excited and daunted by the prospect of reading the latest dispatch from Fizzles, let alone books the books themselves.

Someone mentioned Two Serious Ladies in the last thread, so I bought it, just read it, what a weird and troublesome thing this book is, straightforwardly concerned with the abject complexities of desire.

silby, Sunday, 12 April 2020 23:56 (two months ago) link

Also reread The Great Gatsby, 15 years later, FScott writes the good sentences, inarguably

silby, Monday, 13 April 2020 00:01 (two months ago) link

You might also enjoy the short stories, play (In The Summer House, which got a rave from Tennessee Williams), letters, hell you might well check around for a nicely priced copy of this collection, the most complete I know of (still not that long, alas), put together by Bowles biographer Millicent Dillon: https://www.loa.org/books/531-collected-writings

dow, Monday, 13 April 2020 01:52 (two months ago) link

Reread Colm Toibin's The Empty Family, who understands characters alienated from but still drawn to their families, especially if they're queer.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 13 April 2020 01:53 (two months ago) link

I read Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking so you don't have to.

Now reading my first Iris Murdoch - The Bell. It's set in a lay community, attached to an abbey housing an order of Benedectine nuns, which of course it is, and it has this odd tonal mix of vast existential crises and an episode of Midsomer Murders. I'm in.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Monday, 13 April 2020 10:11 (two months ago) link

I made POPKISS my Easter reading and I finished it in the middle of last night. Reflections:

I welcome a breezy, readable book (after my failure with NOSTROMO etc) and this does fly by fine. But it also contains many infelicities - emphatic or colourful adjectives that are wrong, as in many music writers (Simon Goddard's Smiths book the classic example), and any number of dangling modifiers. This is a Bloomsbury book. Why isn't it edited?

I look at the C87, C88 etc CD compilations and notice how few among the 60+ tracks are from Sarah bands. In other words there were actually *lots* of other indiepop labels at the same time. How did they compare? Was Sarah different from them, or were they copying its methods? I realize this is a book about one label, but something more on that ecology of indie labels would be relevant to a real understanding here.

Sarah as a business. I puzzled over this at times, sometimes bemused by how the emphasis was on saving money (buying the cheapest parcel tape, etc) while also charging as little as possible ... I had to remind myself that what it sounded like was doing things for a hobby: like when Pamela Berry and I, 20 years ago, recorded our first single and sent a cassette of the tracks to a bunch of indie labels around the world. We probably wanted to save money, and certainly weren't looking to make money. Lots of the Sarah activities make sense if you see them as someone not running a business, but just doing something they liked do, for their friends.

But then ... they also keep giving a band, say, £400 to go and make a record - which was even more money then (in fact it's apparently £900 now). So they *were* a business, and that money presumably came from sales. There's a slight tension, or at least relation, between these two things, that isn't fully explored.

The author says it won't be obsessively completist - fair enough - but some omissions are still notable. What's the greatest Sarah track of all? I think to me it's Secret Shine's 'Loveblind' - which isn't even mentioned in 250 pages! Still, the MBV context for that band is quite well introduced.

The chapter on Heavenly, Riot Grrrl, feminism gets dreary for me I'm afraid - in that I've reached a point where most claims about the gender politics of indiepop look overplayed, and too often they're pitching at straw targets.* Example: the band name Heavenly is described as 'A word *real* men are never heard to say'. Irony, of some kind, but not managing to make a very substantial point. The truth is, Heavenly is a much less 'fey' band name than Gentle Despite or The Sweetest Ache, if that's the competition you're in. The claim that Heavenly sounded like the Dixie Cups or Shangri-Las also seems like wishful thinking.

[* The exception to this is the much simpler and more direct fact, cited here p.172, that the label didn't put pictures of women on record covers.]

Certain rather significant things are picked up oddly in passing.

Example 1: a one-line footnote on page 203 (!) states that 'Sarah had no contracts and didn't demand exclusivity from any of its bands'. Maybe this fact, its significance and whether it was distinctive should have been discussed in, say ... the first 50 pages?

Example 2: the whole thing rests on Haynes and Wadd's relationship, sharing a flat and working from it, etc, and on p.243, in about 1995, they break up, and it's explained that it was a natural progression. Fine. But meanwhile, on p.109, we suddenly learn that half the Field Mice songs in one period were about Clare Wadd, with whom the songwriter had been involved - 'the by-product of an agreement between her and Haynes to see other people while remaining a couple'. Crikey !! Again, maybe this might have been worth mentioning ... a bit sooner?

That said, the Field Mice chapter is actually one of the strongest. Harvey Williams, Hit Parade are well enough covered, though the Orchids chapter confirms my sense that this is the most overrated band on the label - I can just never hear what everyone else can in them.

Glad to have read the book. May yet refer to it in future.

the pinefox, Monday, 13 April 2020 10:38 (two months ago) link

I'm dipping back into my William James biography and a few things spring to mind: how easy it was for James to get his medical degree from Harvard (it took, basically, a year, at the end of which he had an MD and a license to practise. Christ alone knows what kind of stuff was going on behind surgery doors); the opportunities open to James: he travels, incessantly, including an amazing trip with Louis Aggasiz to the Amazon basin to collect specimens with the notion of disproving Darwin's theory of transmutation; how mad his dad is: a self-published writer on religion and philosophy who no-one read; how ILL everyone is - always: Henry's constipation, William's back, various friends and relatives dropping like flies (I know it's the 1860s but it's still shocking).

That's a lot of punctuation.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Tuesday, 14 April 2020 09:39 (two months ago) link

Interesting thoughts about Popkiss, PF - I like Michael a lot, and I think there are interesting discussions to be had about Sarah records, particularly its politics and its business model but I couldn't face reading the book. Mostly that was because I have my own more-or-less functional memories of how it was when it was, and I don't particularly feel the need for reminders (or contradictions).

Tim, Tuesday, 14 April 2020 09:55 (two months ago) link

I was hoping you'd see my post, Tim, as possibly the only ILB person who knew that stuff. I'm not surprised you wouldn't read the book.

I met the author once and he was friendly. He has constructed a readable and quite well-structured book, but one could wish for fewer basic errors in the writing.

It did make me dig out 'I'm in love with a girl who doesn't know I exist' on 7-inch.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 14 April 2020 11:40 (two months ago) link

how ILL everyone is - always: Henry's constipation, William's back, various friends and relatives dropping like flies (I know it's the 1860s but it's still shocking).

and poor Alice

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 14 April 2020 11:43 (two months ago) link

about halfway through the bostonians, absolutely loving it

devvvine, Tuesday, 14 April 2020 13:37 (two months ago) link

Wide-ranging, in-depth profile here: https://www.neh.gov/humanities/2018/winter/feature/the-thinker-who-believed-in-doing-0

dow, Tuesday, 14 April 2020 17:29 (two months ago) link

I'm dipping back into my William James biography and a few things spring to mind: how easy it was for James to get his medical degree from Harvard (it took, basically, a year, at the end of which he had an MD and a license to practise. Christ alone knows what kind of stuff was going on behind surgery doors); the opportunities open to James: he travels, incessantly, including an amazing trip with Louis Aggasiz to the Amazon basin to collect specimens with the notion of disproving Darwin's theory of transmutation; how mad his dad is: a self-published writer on religion and philosophy who no-one read; how ILL everyone is - always: Henry's constipation, William's back, various friends and relatives dropping like flies (I know it's the 1860s but it's still shocking).

That's a lot of punctuation.

― Vanishing Point (Chinaski),Tuesday, April 14, 2020 10:39 AM (thirteen hours ago) bookmarkflaglink

I listened to a Podcast earlier thsi week that said that up to a certain point US medical schools were all about making money and little to do with real accreditation and doctors with real integrity tended to go to Europe to get anything worthwhil ei terms of tuition/accreditation.
Now forgetting which one it was , possibly Ologies or Stuff you missed in History.

Stevolende, Tuesday, 14 April 2020 22:53 (two months ago) link

I've been reading Max Havelaar by Multatuli, in the recent NYRB translation. It's kind of an odd, but amusing, 19th century novel, apparently considered a classic in the Netherlands. It's set in the Dutch colonies of (what is now) Indonesia, and apparently prompted a political conversation that led to some reforms in the administration of the colonies. Since I spent a couple of years in that part of the world, I was kind of interested to learn more about that period of history.

o. nate, Wednesday, 15 April 2020 01:22 (two months ago) link

Oh it's a classic. A lock for top three Dutch books ever in the canon etc. It was a never before seen or heard indictment against (inequality in/because of) the colonial system. He longed for a new position as a clerk in the very same colonial system after he got fired. And he was offered a high position, coming with wealth and influence, on the condition he'd never publish his book. He turned down the offer.

I'm curious how they translated it into English now!

Well, whatever I expected from my first Iris Murdoch (The Bell) it wasn't an existential folk horror with an actual 'intrepid, amphibious nun', in which one of the three central characters learns that the true spiritual life has no story and is not tragic and another finds an ancient bell at the bottom of a lake.

I love that feeling of being in the presence of a giant intellect and knowing you need to read everything they've written.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Wednesday, 15 April 2020 19:22 (two months ago) link

reading hurricane season by fernanda melchor, which keeps getting (aptly imo) compared to 2666. it's the same sort of storytelling-at-the-edges trying to catch violence/horror traveling scales. anyone here reading?

vivian dark, Wednesday, 15 April 2020 23:14 (two months ago) link

Afraid not. Kiberd, IRISH CLASSICS: finished the chapter on Yeats (again) and started one on George Moore -- now here's a writer that I have never read and really should.

the pinefox, Thursday, 16 April 2020 10:34 (two months ago) link

(I started on Monday by reading the chapter on CASTLE RACKRENT - a book that we have discussed here before - then one on Synge's THE ARAN ISLANDS: another book I should try to read.)

the pinefox, Thursday, 16 April 2020 10:35 (two months ago) link

George Moore - 'A drama in muslin'

late 19th century writer who never really got the kudos he deserved. the libraries of the time wouldnt stock his books and Yeats wrote an essay after Moore died which ripped him to shreds. the book has similar themes to Jane Austen (young women preparing themselves for the marriage market) but its more biting and satirical.

― Michael B,Wednesday, November 18, 2009 1:54 PM (ten years ago)

He gets compared to Turgenev a lot also

Saxophone Of Futility (Michael B), Thursday, 16 April 2020 10:41 (two months ago) link

Indeed that's Kiberd's chapter!

Maybe I should resolve to read Moore.

the pinefox, Thursday, 16 April 2020 10:46 (two months ago) link

TS: George Moore vs Lorrie Moore

the pinefox, Thursday, 16 April 2020 10:46 (two months ago) link

i have been reading james barr's a line in the sand, a popular history of the incompetent and immoral british and french mandates in the middle east.

i am finding it tedious. this bit, on one of the leaders of the druze revolt, seemed to exemplify some of what's bothering me about it:

"Sultan (Atrash) cut a menacing figure, even twenty years later. When the British explorer and soldier Wilfred Thesiger met the man he called his 'boyhood hero' in 1941, he was delighted to see that even in middle age Sultan surpassed his expectations. 'His face, framed in a white headcloth, was austere and authoritative; his body, wrapped in a black cloth of finest weave, was lean and upright,' Thesiger recalled. A photograph from the 1920s shows Sultan, then a wary outlaw, staring alertly at the camera. He sports a debonair mustache and, befitting his then status as a fugitive, several days' stubble."

a bit of ekphrasis; a bit of triangulation from a recognisable english name. nothing about how atrash might have described himself, or his aims as a nationalist, nor of how anyone, bar thesinger, outside the colonialist apparatus regarded him. and this is true of all of the arab figures in the book: we only get them through the lens of the british and french, not in their own versions, nor in how the arabic voices of the time or later have seen them. (there are something like two dozen british or french papers listed in the index, and not one arabic-language one.)

yes, the book's purview is narrowly defined, but proceeding in this fashion means that everyone in it who never met churchill just disappears into a kind of orientalist murk, occasionally emerging behind a rifle or an explosive.

the ghost of tom, choad (thomp), Thursday, 16 April 2020 12:56 (two months ago) link

Synge's THE ARAN ISLANDS

I read this first in the late 1970s, then again in 2018. It is a pleasant, refreshing little book and an important one in its miniature field of interest. Pampooties!

A is for (Aimless), Thursday, 16 April 2020 17:55 (two months ago) link

Virginia Woolf - Three Guineas
Elizabeth Gilbert - City of Girls

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 16 April 2020 17:56 (two months ago) link

btw, I finished Parting the Waters last night. It is quite harrowing to read and still barely touched the breadth of the sacrifice, courage, and brutality involved in the movement during the 10 years it covered. As could be expected, J. Edgar Hoover comes off as one of the worst humans on the planet. Robert Moses and Septima Clark, otoh, are names which should be much better known and appreciated for their amazing steadfast contributions.

A is for (Aimless), Thursday, 16 April 2020 21:29 (two months ago) link

reading sic-fi this year. less critical theory and history, more entertainment. this was my view at the start of the year and if anything reality has reinforced that this was a good idea for my brain. finished dune and then in short order read sirens of titan - my first Vonnegut - and a scanner darkly - my first dick (ha). enjoyed them all tremendously. Vonnegut definitely the writer of the 3 on this small sample of evidence.

COVID and the Gang (jim in vancouver), Thursday, 16 April 2020 23:37 (two months ago) link

Read Le Guin next and leave them all well to the back

silby, Friday, 17 April 2020 00:13 (two months ago) link

I don't have my usual access to books so just been reading from my gf's collection but I don't think she has any le Guin sadly, once books are easier to come by I will acquire some of her books

COVID and the Gang (jim in vancouver), Friday, 17 April 2020 00:15 (two months ago) link

i prefer dick to vonnegut but that was more to do with a teenage identification with his themes, methods; certainly vonnegut writes better sentences. read herbert's whipping star if she has that one, though, what a bizarre book that one is.

the ghost of tom, choad (thomp), Friday, 17 April 2020 07:05 (two months ago) link

Aimless: *The* Robert Moses?

the pinefox, Friday, 17 April 2020 10:40 (two months ago) link

The grey security cam footage sentences always went well w Dick's themes etc: go tromping with him and he'll take you places, often pretty briskly. Not w/o modulation, and he went through several phases on 30 years of professional writing and sometimes desperate living.

dow, Friday, 17 April 2020 16:43 (two months ago) link

*in* 30 years of professional writing, not like mine. He's like a good pro pathologist on a cop show, but takes it much further.

dow, Friday, 17 April 2020 16:48 (two months ago) link

Aimless: *The* Robert Moses?

*This* Robert Moses.

A is for (Aimless), Friday, 17 April 2020 17:39 (two months ago) link

Elena Ferrante - Troubling Love
Colette - The Last of Cheri

xyzzzz__, Friday, 17 April 2020 20:09 (two months ago) link

I took a 'break' and read Gideon Haigh's book on Shane Warne. Haigh has a deep knowledge of his subject and writes well. I know these are bland statements but they're all I've got.

So, my question is, something like: what do you read that is the closest to not-reading, ie that still gives nourishment but isn't immediately draining or demanding?

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Friday, 17 April 2020 22:13 (two months ago) link

I'm now reading Penelope Fitzgerald's Innocence, set in 1950s Italy. As usual, it is strongly imagined and creates its world using a minimum of verbiage, where every sentence is like a stone set by a master stonemason in a dry stone wall that will last a century.

A is for (Aimless), Friday, 17 April 2020 23:20 (two months ago) link

Elena Ferrante - Troubling Love
Colette - The Last of Cheri

― xyzzzz__, Friday, April 17, 2020

The Ferrante is moving, another attempt to parse a sexually liberated woman whose instincts clash with her upbringing.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 17 April 2020 23:21 (two months ago) link

For sure, and in a very compressed way. Very impressed how she was able to expand these themes out in the Quartet, and losing only a little of its power when doing so.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 17 April 2020 23:32 (two months ago) link

There was a fascinating lost/excised chapter from Innocence published in the LRB a couple months ago.

Chuck_Tatum, Friday, 17 April 2020 23:48 (two months ago) link

I just finished Excellent Women, my first Pym, exceptional lockdown comfort read, v. tempted to read all the rest now

Chuck_Tatum, Friday, 17 April 2020 23:49 (two months ago) link

Gideon Haigh's book on Shane Warne

lol i'm a yank and know nothing of cricket but happened to be in australia during warne's 2006-7 ashes finale and yikes

not sure if it was warne or a mate who compared retiring from cricket to leaving your mistress to go back to your wife

mookieproof, Saturday, 18 April 2020 02:37 (two months ago) link

I was hoping you'd see my post, Tim, as possibly the only ILB person who knew that stuff.

Hold up now : ) I remember enjoying reading Popkiss around the time it came out, but the information in it sorta evaporated from my memory, and it's still for me (as Tim says) what it was when it was... something I experienced from a far distance, mostly in my imagination. The reality of it seems unreal to me.

avellano medio inglés (f. hazel), Saturday, 18 April 2020 04:54 (two months ago) link

I was also a fan but never bothered with the book or the film. I don't really need to know what's in those sausages.

koogs, Saturday, 18 April 2020 05:01 (two months ago) link

(btw, Clare's tweeting them out, one a day, with a little sentence about each at the moment)

koogs, Saturday, 18 April 2020 05:03 (two months ago) link

I didn't know about another Bob Moses.

Chinaski: non-draining reading for me? Maybe Terry Eagleton.

Oddly I heard that EXCELLENT WOMEN was overrated and not as good as had been hoped. Maybe that was wrong. Maybe I should read her one day.

F. Hazel, I don't think I know you, hence my omission of you re: C86 matters.

I very much take Koogs' point that if you like something, you might NOT want to know how it was made. This can make a lot of sense.

Koogs' last post, at first I thought he meant she was tweeting out the book a sentence at a time! Now I understand it I wish I were on Twitter.

the pinefox, Saturday, 18 April 2020 10:10 (two months ago) link

I thought she was tweeting sausages.

Tim, Saturday, 18 April 2020 10:17 (two months ago) link

twitter is available (to read) via the web... (which is how you can see all the embedded tweets on ilx)

https://twitter.com/Sarah_Records

it's a bit noisy with all the retweets and all but...

and it's ok, they'd be vegetarian sausages.

koogs, Saturday, 18 April 2020 10:37 (two months ago) link

(and with me there's also a massive feeling that all that was The Past and, well, my passport is expired. i will dig out the odd thing from time to time but the compilations are minefields)

koogs, Saturday, 18 April 2020 10:39 (two months ago) link


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