Keeping up with books

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All the things one has forgotten scream for help in dreams. 

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Saturday, 21 November 2020 11:09 (two months ago) link

That's Elias Canetti and it haunts me. But I also think we have to trust forgetfulness as much as we trust memory. Because what else can we do?

I'm in the anxious camp when it comes to reading. I'm currently managing between 40-50 books a year; say I've got 30 good years of reading in me, that's around 1500 books? We have to choose carefully!

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Saturday, 21 November 2020 11:11 (two months ago) link

so you're saying i shouldn't read the John Lanchester short stories this Christmas right?

Fizzles, Saturday, 21 November 2020 11:17 (two months ago) link

You must. It's a valuable service for the rest of us.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Saturday, 21 November 2020 11:30 (two months ago) link

does it come back to you later though?
Like if somebody talkks about the book elsewhere.


usually, though often not in detail - whether about the content, or what i thought about it, even though i might recall having had some kind of worthwhile thoughts beyond "ee that were good". and more than once I've read a plot summary of a book i read a small number of years ago without a single flicker of recollection.

the 120 days of sod 'em (ledge), Saturday, 21 November 2020 11:57 (two months ago) link

A few years of one book at a time, then some months of switching between a few books and now I try to rotate 15 to 20 and I'm enjoying things more this way. Some would warn it's less immersive but I think maybe it fits how my brain works better and takes off some of the pressure of worrying about so many books.

Robert Adam Gilmour, Monday, 23 November 2020 21:18 (two months ago) link

From Stoner: "Sometimes, immersed in his books, there would come to him the awareness of all that he did not know, of all that he had not read; and the serenity for which he labored was shattered as he realized the little time he had in life to read so much, to learn what he had to know."

I've become more brutal with abandoning books that I'm not immediately enjoying in recent years. I used to power through almost every book I started regardless of how much I was enjoying it, but now I just trust my reaction to something and put it down if it isn't touching something in me. I've abandoned 19 this year so far according to my reading journal. There's a bit of sunk-cost guilt when I do this though, especially when it's a book that I've actually paid money for, or have maybe invested a couple of hours in reading already.

triggercut, Tuesday, 24 November 2020 04:08 (two months ago) link

to learn what he had to know

this is what strikes a false note with me. books can teach a vast sea of things, but very little of that qualifies as necessary to one's life and potential happiness. imagining there is arcane knowledge which would lead you to some fundamental epiphany, and it can only be found by reading the right book, is a delusion. life is what is right in front of you. books can offer hints, advice, a differing perspective, and a certain amount of insight, but only living can teach you how to live. nothing vital is hidden from plain sight.

The Solace of Fortitude (Aimless), Tuesday, 24 November 2020 04:21 (two months ago) link

La chair est triste, hélas, etc.

pomenitul, Tuesday, 24 November 2020 04:28 (two months ago) link

this is what strikes a false note with me. books can teach a vast sea of things, but very little of that qualifies as necessary to one's life and potential happiness. imagining there is arcane knowledge which would lead you to some fundamental epiphany, and it can only be found by reading the right book, is a delusion. life is what is right in front of you. books can offer hints, advice, a differing perspective, and a certain amount of insight, but only living can teach you how to live. nothing vital is hidden from plain sight.

I suppose I can only speak for myself, but I believe reading does play a vital role in my own life and happiness, and has certainly lead me to some fundamental epiphanies that I wouldn't have had otherwise. I wish I was the kind of person who could learn everything needed about how to live just by living, and having sharp enough perceptions to just work it out from what's directly in front of me, but I'm not that smart or perceptive. I appreciate the wisdom and perspective that reading (philosophy and fiction in particular) has given me throughout my life, and continues to give me.

triggercut, Tuesday, 24 November 2020 04:50 (two months ago) link

I will not say that books can't accelerate discovery or teach useful lessons that would otherwise be difficult to access, but to say that only by reading vast numbers of books, more than could easily be read in a lifetime, could Stoner "learn what he had to know" tells me that Stoner had no idea what it was that "he had to know", but presumed he'd find in all those books. Wisdom is not so inaccessible as all that and knowledge is just a commodity.

The Solace of Fortitude (Aimless), Tuesday, 24 November 2020 05:13 (two months ago) link

i probably have the healthiest reading regimen of my life rn. ive never been a true bookworm but often wished i was and felt anxiety about not reading more. now im into living a life of varied tangible and intellectual activities and couldn’t care less about dying without having read another great novel

anyway here’s my sched

i read one poem per day, one non fiction book per month (i underline and take notes in my journal as i read then go back over them to write a goodreads review within a week of finishing so that i don’t lose everything), skim dozens of academic papers per week and log summaries on my ipad through an app that integrates to bibliography organizer software zotero, and burn a weekend plowing through a novel once in a blue moon. i watch tv or movies with my gf at night. i block Twitter between 8am and 10pm on weekdays and usually spend an hour in bed catching up on tweets. recently started audiobooks while jogging and walking (i usually go on one or two 2-3 hour walks per week). currently listening to The Anarchy by William Dalrymple, a history of the British East Indies company. it’s really good but i find it hard to remember all the names phonetically and i get kinda stressed out whenever i lost the thread

flopson, Tuesday, 24 November 2020 08:02 (two months ago) link

I think that quote speaks to Stoner's fault as it were - his inability to connect, to find a way to live. His bookishness is a retreat from the world, isn't it? The sentiment does have a ring of truth though.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Tuesday, 24 November 2020 09:07 (two months ago) link

this is what strikes a false note with me. books can teach a vast sea of things, but very little of that qualifies as necessary to one's life and potential happiness. imagining there is arcane knowledge which would lead you to some fundamental epiphany, and it can only be found by reading the right book, is a delusion. life is what is right in front of you. books can offer hints, advice, a differing perspective, and a certain amount of insight, but only living can teach you how to live. nothing vital is hidden from plain sight.

Great statement!

the pinefox, Tuesday, 24 November 2020 09:59 (two months ago) link

Funnily enough I skimmed thru this piece on Stoner a couple of days ago, a lot of ppl to eager to sell this one as literature puts me off.

"Some of you might think, 'briefly noted in The New Yorker, some sales, and he has a pension—not all bad?' In the annals of writers, there are certainly far more tragic stories, especially for a book with such a quiet plot and a non-celebrity author." https://t.co/LXNdQmki7J

— The Millions (@The_Millions) November 22, 2020

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 24 November 2020 10:11 (two months ago) link

"life is what is right in front of you." Vs "to learn what he had to know" as poll options.

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 24 November 2020 10:21 (two months ago) link

this is what strikes a false note with me. books can teach a vast sea of things, but very little of that qualifies as necessary to one's life and potential happiness. imagining there is arcane knowledge which would lead you to some fundamental epiphany, and it can only be found by reading the right book, is a delusion. life is what is right in front of you. books can offer hints, advice, a differing perspective, and a certain amount of insight, but only living can teach you how to live. nothing vital is hidden from plain sight.

kind of for the hell of it – because this is true, but so are most things – i feel like disagreeing the hell out of this. books are totally arcane knowledge. even where that knowledge is... what can we call it?... an optical illusion ("where an interesting complexity of thought is kept in tone and right value to the dominating idea so that it is understandable and still ungraspable"). i'm not even sure that 'life is that which is in front of you' is even trivially correct, but i'm certain it's more wildly wrong than it is right. fundamental epiphanies do happen because of books. that which qualifies as necessary to life and happiness? o! reason not the need.

they change our operating space, detail new maps of emotion and experience, sometimes more immediately than our own, they relieve pain, they range on the intellect, the spirit and the imagination. they are arcane, mystical objects to the nth degree, and we may find ourselves drawing upon them even for things that are right in front of us.

Fizzles, Wednesday, 25 November 2020 18:52 (one month ago) link

Welcome to the Stoner Resistance, xyzzzz__.

Robert Gotopieces (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 25 November 2020 22:30 (one month ago) link

i love stoner, it's a well-written novel

mellon collie and the infinite bradness (BradNelson), Wednesday, 25 November 2020 22:33 (one month ago) link

augustus is good as hell too

mellon collie and the infinite bradness (BradNelson), Wednesday, 25 November 2020 22:33 (one month ago) link

modern literature is mostly terrible so i do not keep up on purpose. the book that put me off keeping up forever was a visit from the goon squad

mellon collie and the infinite bradness (BradNelson), Wednesday, 25 November 2020 22:34 (one month ago) link

really impressed by flopson's routines

2020 has been the best reading year in a long time for me but i'll only finish maybe 20 books. i had a job that caused me a lot of fatigue and attention problems. new job and covid have left me with a lot less of at least the same kind of stress and more time and more desire to learn things. i used to feel anxious that i'd never get through my book collection, and i still won't because i bought a lot of new books this year, but i'm making progress and don't care anymore. i don't remember much of what i read, i never have, except that there are things i absorb from every book that are secretly built into my brain and help me understand things in the future. it doesn't matter to me that i couldn't answer trivia questions about the book.

and i don't read much new fiction either, most times i have tried i've felt like i wasted my time

superdeep borehole (harbl), Wednesday, 25 November 2020 22:42 (one month ago) link

FWIW I think there are maybe at most a half-dozen ILB0rs who resist the otherwise universal appeal of Stoner. And maybe a few more who don't like A Visit from the Goon Squad.

Robert Gotopieces (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 25 November 2020 23:02 (one month ago) link

I thought Goon Squad was not good and in particular the last couple bits were embarrassing for the author.

is right unfortunately (silby), Wednesday, 25 November 2020 23:04 (one month ago) link

A very silly thing to have been a buzzy book overall.

is right unfortunately (silby), Wednesday, 25 November 2020 23:05 (one month ago) link

modern literature is mostly terrible so i do not keep up on purpose. the book that put me off keeping up forever was a visit from the goon squad

― mellon collie and the infinite bradness (BradNelson), Wednesday, November 25, 2020 2:34 PM (thirty minutes ago) bookmarkflaglink

basically same except exclusively for anglo writers

Politically homely (jim in vancouver), Wednesday, 25 November 2020 23:05 (one month ago) link

really impressed by flopson's routines

wow yeah

mellon collie and the infinite bradness (BradNelson), Wednesday, 25 November 2020 23:10 (one month ago) link

i should block ilx from 8am-10pm

mellon collie and the infinite bradness (BradNelson), Wednesday, 25 November 2020 23:10 (one month ago) link

I thought the PowerPoint chapter of Goon Squad was pretty good! The rest sucked, I agree.

Lily Dale, Wednesday, 25 November 2020 23:59 (one month ago) link

i should block ilx from 8am-10pm

Works wonders:

https://getcoldturkey.com/

pomenitul, Thursday, 26 November 2020 00:01 (one month ago) link

i'm not even sure that 'life is that which is in front of you' is even trivially correct, but i'm certain it's more wildly wrong than it is right.

Strongly Disagree

the pinefox, Thursday, 26 November 2020 10:04 (one month ago) link

What next, Life is like a box of chocolates?

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 26 November 2020 10:52 (one month ago) link

I do read a lot less current fiction than I should, partly because, with all ILXish caveats about canons and subjectivity and all that, if you mostly read books that have stuck around for a century or two at least, the drop in quality amongst books that people have been excited for a few months is quite steep. There's also always a certain need to Have An Opinion when it comes to recent books which gets in the way of enjoyment, which isn't there so much with the canon - like, do I believe this Dickens novel is as good as its standing? Doesn't matter, it'll be there regardless.

Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 26 November 2020 11:51 (one month ago) link

The idea of "keeping up with" current lit, be it genre or literary, in the way ppl keep up with music or cinema sounds frankly terrifying. It would take so much time, and so much of it spent reading total rubbish.

Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 26 November 2020 11:52 (one month ago) link

Anyway, good two posts, Daniel_Rf

Robert Gotopieces (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 26 November 2020 14:06 (one month ago) link

To echo what others have said, the idea of "keeping up" with books seems utterly absurd to me, and I teach literature and facilitate creative writing workshops for a living. If I read every fiction book that made an appearance on the NYTimes bestseller list, or even every starred review in Publishers Weekly, I would have little time for much else, and I'd also read a load of absolute bullshit that holds little interest for me.

What is better to do is to find one's interests and plunge into them, while also allowing for detours and pleasurable whims to take hold, too.

healthy cocaine off perfect butts (the table is the table), Saturday, 28 November 2020 18:52 (one month ago) link

i should block ilx from 8am-10pm

― mellon collie and the infinite bradness (BradNelson), Wednesday, November 25, 2020 6:10 PM (three days ago) bookmarkflaglink

the content blocker includes ilx haha

flopson, Saturday, 28 November 2020 19:49 (one month ago) link

really impressed by flopson's routines

― superdeep borehole (harbl), Wednesday, November 25, 2020 5:42 PM (three days ago) bookmarkflaglink

helps to be in 4th year of phd, no coursework and minimal duties other than to “work” on my “research”

although ironically the other best reading year of my life was the first year i worked a real 9-to-5 office job. i lived an hour and a half long bus ride to work (i don’t drive) and read the whole way there and back every day. i worked that job for 2 years but the second year was the year i bought a smartphone, don’t think i finished more than 4 books lol

flopson, Saturday, 28 November 2020 19:54 (one month ago) link

I’m already several millennia behind on books and I can’t see myself getting caught up.

is right unfortunately (silby), Saturday, 28 November 2020 19:59 (one month ago) link

I take the Stoner quote as characterization; some people argues w Stoner rather than Stoner. Also I've never understood ilx objections to Goon Squad.
tables keeps up w modern poetry better than most of us, but some good prose that comes to mind right away incl. Helen DeWitt'sThe Last Samurai, Miranda July's The First Bad Man, Colson Whitehead's Zone One, Ha Jin's Waiting, Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union, ZZ Packer's Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, David Grossman's A Horse Walks Into A Bar, Luc Sante's Maybe The People Would Be The Times, Franz Kafka's The Lost Writings, Franciso Cantú's The Line Becomes A River, Ronan Farrow's Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators, Kelly Link's Get In Trouble, Karen Russell's Vampires In The Lemon Grove, Karen Joy Fowler's We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, and Mary Gaitskill's Because They Wanted To.

dow, Saturday, 28 November 2020 20:36 (one month ago) link

oh some people *argue*, sry!

dow, Saturday, 28 November 2020 20:37 (one month ago) link

*Francisco*!

dow, Saturday, 28 November 2020 20:38 (one month ago) link

I think part of what keeps up the idea of Keeping Up is the awards, lists and the general conversation per genre. I would like to keep up with my favourite genres and publishers.

Sort of unrelated question: I don't follow the realist literary stuff but it always seemed from my distance that booker prize kind of stuff was dominated by major publishers. Is this the case?

Robert Adam Gilmour, Saturday, 28 November 2020 20:46 (one month ago) link

this quote by lydia davis seems like the correct approach to keeping up with contemporary fiction:

Read the best writers from all different periods; keep your reading of contemporaries in proportion—you do not want a steady diet of contemporary literature. You already belong to your time.

flopson, Saturday, 28 November 2020 21:19 (one month ago) link

one of the things im an anti-woke dad about is i think hyper-contemporary literature (like, since 2015 ish) has been ruined by woke strictitudes. i once met a young novelist who quite candidly admitted that he writes autofiction because it’s deemed too problematic in the current market to write about any identity other than your own

flopson, Saturday, 28 November 2020 21:22 (one month ago) link

he also read a steady diet of contemporary literature to the exclusion of anything else contra davis, and his writing is quite bad

flopson, Saturday, 28 November 2020 21:23 (one month ago) link

The idea of "keeping up with" current lit, be it genre or literary, in the way ppl keep up with music or cinema sounds frankly terrifying. It would take so much time, and so much of it spent reading total rubbish.

― Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 26 November 2020 11:52 (two days ago) bookmarkflaglink

TV is like this now basically too imo

Li'l Brexit (Tracer Hand), Saturday, 28 November 2020 21:27 (one month ago) link

i once met a young novelist who quite candidly admitted that he writes autofiction because it’s deemed too problematic in the current market to write about any identity other than your own

the only possible downside to this is more books by white dudes about white dudes.

ledge, Saturday, 28 November 2020 21:33 (one month ago) link

TV sucks complete ass now. the end of the ‘golden era’/prestige tv ended so swiftly with the rise of netflix and now everything is like hallmark movie quality and yet we just lap it up

flopson, Saturday, 28 November 2020 21:33 (one month ago) link

the fact of the matter is that it’s best not to worry about what lies beyond your control and simply go about your solitary business, which is toil enough.

― pomenitul, Saturday, November 28, 2020 10:34 PM

I'd like to add to this that I'm not as pessimistic as most readers about spreading the word about books we love. I'm tired of seeing people hoping for a movie adaptation as their ticket to more readers, that just keeps people relying on films but more documentaries on youtube and video essays would be nice.

Robert Adam Gilmour, Saturday, 28 November 2020 23:16 (one month ago) link

flopson, Sebastian is amazing, we trade emails back and forth sometimes. He recently sent me an excellent story by another writer that was composed entirely of phrases from bumper stickers.

― healthy cocaine off perfect butts (the table is the table), Saturday, November 28, 2020 5:56 PM (thirty-seven minutes ago) bookmarkflaglink

nice :)

i really enjoyed this recent story of his http://magazine.nytyrant.com/local-favorite-sebastian-castillo/

flopson, Saturday, 28 November 2020 23:37 (one month ago) link

that old n+1 piece by elif batuman where she destroys mfa-style contemporary lit while going thru ‘best american short stories of 2006’ is one of my fav essays ever

flopson, Saturday, 28 November 2020 23:43 (one month ago) link

this one https://nplusonemag.com/issue-4/essays/short-story-novel/

flopson, Saturday, 28 November 2020 23:44 (one month ago) link

poet molly brodak who died this year tragically at the age of 42, and who wrote an incredible memoir about growing up with a father who was a bank robber.O SHIT Molly Bordak died?! I felt like I knew her, from reading Bandit: A Daughter's Memoir, which was even more about her and her sister and mother than him and how he (maybe) got that way: pellucid and fluid and affecting---I haven't found my way into her poetry per se, but can see how her training and other experience w that came in handy prose-wise. Also some excellent tweets, her photos etc. O shit.
Came back to add The Neapolitan Novels and 2666, also Cather and Woolf and Dusty and Melville and some outcat genre heads like Simenon and Cordwainer Smith.
James, I haven't commented on Stoner because haven't read, but that quote and others I've seen do read like characterization rather than lecturing the reader etc.
Yes I liked the Cantu book; it's like the title says.

dow, Sunday, 29 November 2020 00:08 (one month ago) link

BRODAK, sorry, fuk

dow, Sunday, 29 November 2020 00:09 (one month ago) link

ya. real sad :(

flopson, Sunday, 29 November 2020 00:11 (one month ago) link

Neapolitan trilogy kinda sucked imo? i loved ‘the days of abandonment’ but i really don’t get what ppl liked about the trilogy

still gotta read 2666

flopson, Sunday, 29 November 2020 00:12 (one month ago) link

Not really keeping up, just forever catching up, to whatever extent, and all the ones I mentioned were read in the past 8-9 years or so. (Oh yeah and In Search of Lost Time, series ed. Lydia Davis.)(Several by Borges too.)

dow, Sunday, 29 November 2020 00:14 (one month ago) link

Neapolitan Novels=quartet. If it sucked for you, so be it.

dow, Sunday, 29 November 2020 00:15 (one month ago) link

I think i read it’s going to be 5 now?

flopson, Sunday, 29 November 2020 00:16 (one month ago) link

In a feature on NPR's All Things Considered, Brodak described the ethical process of Bandit's subject, which detailed her experience as the daughter of a multiple felon bankrobber in Detroit, Michigan: "Every family has darkness and heaviness that people would prefer to not talk about. And when you choose to become the person who's going to bring light to the dark family secrets, you can sometimes be perceived as the betrayer."[5] An excerpt from Bandit appeared in Best American Nonrequired Reading 2016.[6] In 2018, she was a recipient of an NEA fellowship for prose.[7]

Brodak's poems appeared widely, including in Granta, Poetry, Fence, Map Literary, NY Tyrant, Diode, New Orleans Review, Ninth Letter, Colorado Review, Bateau, and Hayden's Ferry Review.

Brodak was also the founder of Kookie House, a baking company that specializes in unique cookies and cakes. In 2018, she appeared as a finalist on the Great American Baking Show.

Death
Brodak died on March 8, 2020.[8] According to the New York Times, her husband, Blake Butler, gave the cause of death as suicide and she had struggled with depression since childhood.[9]
I didn't get that kind of major depression from the book, maybe because the writing seemed such an exemplary way of dealing w such experiences, incl. thoughts. But now I almost feel guilty, like a friend who didn't see enough. I don't think of myself as naive about the curative powers of art, or anything else, but goes to show once again that you can never be too sure of these things. No great lesson learned, it's just another loss. But I'm gladder than ever for the book, that she was able to get that far (also w the relationship and baking).

dow, Sunday, 29 November 2020 00:27 (one month ago) link

(Also meant to mention Richard Wright and W.E.B. DuBois.)

dow, Sunday, 29 November 2020 00:39 (one month ago) link

Neapolitan trilogy kinda sucked imo? i loved ‘the days of abandonment’ but i really don’t get what ppl liked about the trilogy


I like to read about people doin stuff and so forth

is right unfortunately (silby), Sunday, 29 November 2020 01:00 (one month ago) link

this is my Stoner

flopson, Sunday, 29 November 2020 01:06 (one month ago) link

Lol

Robert Gotopieces (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 29 November 2020 01:12 (one month ago) link

this one https://nplusonemag.com/issue-4/essays/short-story-novel🕸/


Good one, thanks

calstars, Sunday, 29 November 2020 02:11 (one month ago) link

I basically agree with Aimless and the pinefox upthread. I don’t think it is an anti-literature position, it is more of a way to free oneself of the misconception that reading a certain set of books will provide one with THE Meaning of Life or something to that effect. See also this quote from Saul Bellow’s “Him With His Foot in His Mouth.”

The heavy library doors were open, and within there were green reading lamps and polished heavy tables, and books massed up to the gallery and above. A few of those books were exalted, some were usefully informative, the majority of them would only congest the mind. My Swedenborgian old lady says that angels do not read books. Why should they? Nor, I imagine, can librarians be great readers. They have too many books, most of them burdensome. The crowded shelves give off an inviting, consoling, seductive odor that is also tinctured faintly with something pernicious, with poison and doom. Human beings can lose their lives in libraries. They ought to be warned.

Robert Gotopieces (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 29 November 2020 04:08 (one month ago) link

Is there any point in subscribing to a book summary app or is that just going to take up time one could spend reading.
I read that the book review in newspapers was introduced to provide a similar service. Allow one to have a summary of the current popular books so that one could keep up with polite conversation when with good company. Would have been at a time before other media were vying for one's attention though.

Stevolende, Sunday, 29 November 2020 08:08 (one month ago) link

I didn't read the question as 'keeping up with contemporary lit' so much as maintaining a healthy amount of reading full stop. Whatever 'healthy' means in that context. But as the conversation has taken a turn toward the existential, in the scheme of a life, will I look back and wish I'd read more? I genuinely think I will. I mean, it's on a continuum with spending time with the people I love and walking in the hills but it's definitely right up there.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Sunday, 29 November 2020 11:28 (one month ago) link

yeah I had rethought my understanding of what the question was about since first seeing it. Can't see how you could really keep up with reading if its supposed to be all the important books taht are released. Which would really seem impossible . I think there's always going to be books that books turn you onto that it's going to be difficult to catch up with.
Also read Ford Maddox Ford's The March of Literature a few years ago, copied the list of books to read and haven't really got anywhere with it. I think he can't be alone in creating a canon of books that need to be read. & catching up surely must include all of those too surely, I mean surely?

I heard after he died taht My father used to buy boxes of books and his house in his home village was full of these things. His wife gave a speech at the funeral including some despairing on the subject of books he bought and how she'd rather be in the other house they lived in .
I thought it was interesting to hear that we shared something of a trait about buying books to a degree that we'd porobably never get through.
& if you're reading one book then you're not reading another. Shame you can't osmose them really.

Are people actually living in situations where they don't have distractions from reading.

Stevolende, Sunday, 29 November 2020 11:59 (one month ago) link

Ironically, after her excellent nonfiction book, Elif Batuman went on to write a bad novel.

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Sunday, 29 November 2020 12:08 (one month ago) link

poet molly brodak who died this year tragically at the age of 42, and who wrote an incredible memoir about growing up with a father who was a bank robber.O SHIT Molly Bordak died?! I felt like I knew her, from reading Bandit: A Daughter's Memoir, which was even more about her and her sister and mother than him and how he (maybe) got that way: pellucid and fluid and affecting---I haven't found my way into her poetry per se, but can see how her training and other experience w that came in handy prose-wise. Also some excellent tweets, her photos etc. O shit.

― dow, Saturday, November 28, 2020 7:08 PM (five days ago) bookmarkflaglink

enormous trigger warning but this piece by blake is... one of the roughest things I’ve ever read https://thevolta.org/im-bbutler.html

flopson, Thursday, 3 December 2020 07:08 (one month ago) link

I didn't read the question as 'keeping up with contemporary lit' so much as maintaining a healthy amount of reading full stop. Whatever 'healthy' means in that context. But as the conversation has taken a turn toward the existential, in the scheme of a life, will I look back and wish I'd read more? I genuinely think I will. I mean, it's on a continuum with spending time with the people I love and walking in the hills but it's definitely right up there.

Had a convo w/ my mum some time ago where she talked about how when she was a young philosophy student she got the complete works of Kant, thinking "when I'm old I'll be able to give these my full attention" and now she knows that's So Not Gonna Happen.

Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 3 December 2020 11:41 (one month ago) link

At least TV is less likely to unfold in a starless vacuum, whereas the vast majority of published written material will forever languish in quasi absolute obscurity. The light that is periodically shed on recognizable authorial figures and their works is microscopic when set against the boundless dormant library that makes up the space of literature, which is less and less distinguishable from a virtual garbage dump with each passing year. Major publishing houses, prestigious prizes, interviews with established authors, academic canons, etc., all exist to put a face on the anonymous abyss where creative works go to die as soon as they come into being. And while a handful of remarkable specimens do indeed rise to the top, it would be risible to assume that ours is a literary (or artistic) meritocracy.

Keeping up with seldom read books, while impossible, is therefore a moral imperative, and any dent made in the writerly institutions that be (especially their more venal manifestations), any gaze laid upon their invisible margins, is a small triumph. Or so I tell myself in my more seditious moods; the fact of the matter is that it’s best not to worry about what lies beyond your control and simply go about your solitary business, which is toil enough.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Books_published_per_country_per_year

― pomenitul, zaterdag 28 november 2020 23:34 (five days ago) bookmarkflaglink

Putting this on my wall in a golden frame, so otm. I'm way more 'relaxed' about 'keeping up' with literature or books than with music, with which I get something akin to fomo way earlier and more stressful (which is daft, but.. true, at times). I don't ever feel 'out of the loop' with literature or books though. Where with music I'd like to keep up with what happens in at least some genres important to me, I just don't feel this w/ books. Perhaps it's also to do with the vast amount of books of yore I'd still like to read, books that are written hundreds if not a thousand years ago.

Music feels too much at times because we're (trapped) in this yearly cycle that's being rushed on by aoty-list-season (which I enjoy!) and being on the pulse way, way more than literature. Or at least that's how I perceive it.

I subscribe to five or six literary magazines (the usual suspects plus some Dutch ones), read the supplements in various papers, and on top of that get a lot of reading tips from other books! (a side-project of sorts is working through the books lauded in Huysmans' 'A Rebours', for example, I'm about to start 'La Faustin') Those will lead to other books I want to read again.

It's not 'keeping up', but knowing I won't run out of books I'd like to read, and knowing also that I probably won't even be reading the book I thought I'd be reading after 'La Faustin', because so much can entice me before I pick it up I will have changed course, is just a pleasant feeling.

Tl;dr what Pom said, learn to stop worrying and embrace the infinite amount of books, and see where it takes you next, one book at a time.

A Scampo Darkly (Le Bateau Ivre), Thursday, 3 December 2020 12:04 (one month ago) link

I'm way more 'relaxed' about 'keeping up' with literature or books than with music, with which I get something akin to fomo way earlier and more stressful

cosign

Part of it for me is that it's easy to absent-mindedly 'listen' to music as I go about my daily business, so I fall prey to the quixotic call of exhaustivity because it almost seems achievable, whereas with books it's so obviously a non-starter that I'd rather not go down that route at all. That said, every once in a while I will manically devour as many acclaimed contemporary-ish (published in the last five years) books as possible so I can get a better sense of what the current 'scene' looks like and tbh it does actually quench my latent FOMO because it makes me realize I don't care for the majority of it, whereas with music, gluttony just gives rise to more gluttony.

pomenitul, Thursday, 3 December 2020 14:43 (one month ago) link

xxxxxxpost, thanks for the link, flopson! It is a grueling read, but I think I understand better now. What a brave and eloquent writer. I'll check more of his, incl. the novel, Alice Knott.

dow, Thursday, 3 December 2020 20:20 (one month ago) link

He's...okay.

healthy cocaine off perfect butts (the table is the table), Thursday, 3 December 2020 20:23 (one month ago) link

What he writes about Molly is more than okay.

dow, Thursday, 3 December 2020 20:35 (one month ago) link

But if not for you, so be it.

dow, Thursday, 3 December 2020 20:37 (one month ago) link

No, I like his writing on Molly.

His other writing is just okay.

healthy cocaine off perfect butts (the table is the table), Thursday, 3 December 2020 21:31 (one month ago) link

I just want to put it out there that while this isn't the case with Butler's writing on Brodak, just because an established writer loses someone in a tragic way doesn't make them writing about it "good writing." Case in point: the J0yelle McSweeney book about losing her infant daughter, which is...really rigid, unfeeling, boring even.

healthy cocaine off perfect butts (the table is the table), Thursday, 3 December 2020 21:33 (one month ago) link

As someone who usually reads books fairly quickly, I would be a hell of a lot more anxious if I only read say 6 or so a year. How the hell do you decide what to read next when there are so few opportunities to choose?

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Friday, 4 December 2020 03:33 (one month ago) link

i don't understand this question! there are fewer opportunities but so many books available that it's the same difficulty regardless. but times i have read only a few books in a year i've been so busy/tired/destroyed that everything was difficult so it made no difference. people who read less for other reasons such as not caring about reading as much could also have an easier time because they just never feel anxious about how many books there are.

i'm about to finish a 500 page book i started last week though so things are going much better

superdeep borehole (harbl), Friday, 4 December 2020 12:54 (one month ago) link

the number of books i’m currently “reading” but haven’t finished has risen dangerously over the last couple of weeks

Li'l Brexit (Tracer Hand), Friday, 4 December 2020 12:57 (one month ago) link

just reviewed this stat myself. disastrous. utterly disastrous.

Fizzles, Friday, 4 December 2020 13:06 (one month ago) link

every year i say finish before you move onto the next one and every year i do that for two short books and then it all falls apart.

Fizzles, Friday, 4 December 2020 13:08 (one month ago) link

Happy to read multiple non-fiction books simultaneously, but can only manage one fiction at a time - except *maybe* if I have some short stories on the go.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Friday, 4 December 2020 16:40 (one month ago) link

I'm a book monogamist but that hardly keeps the fomo away - if anything it's worse with all those shelves of unread books staring at me.

Daniel_Rf, Friday, 4 December 2020 16:42 (one month ago) link

finishing a book is part of what motivates me to read another so i have learned not to pick up multiple books so i don't end up with 10 half read books and finish 0 of them, also do best when i finish something faster

superdeep borehole (harbl), Friday, 4 December 2020 16:44 (one month ago) link

I often read one longer fiction or non-fiction book at the same time as reading one poetry book. Multiple books within the same genre is a but much for me!

healthy cocaine off perfect butts (the table is the table), Friday, 4 December 2020 16:51 (one month ago) link


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