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 The Literature Thread 
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crumbsroom wrote:
After reading Wind Up Bird Chronicles, I felt I had to read everything this guy ever wrote.

Then I read Kafka on the Shore and promptly stopped.
Aw. I don't blame you. But he really has written a lot of good stuff. Maybe try A Wild Sheep Chase? It's relatively short, and seriously one of the best things I've ever read.

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Sun Sep 23, 2018 2:53 am
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1Q84 didn't do much for me, personally. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is much better, though it's an uneven ride. Those are the only two I've read, aside from a few shorter pieces. ("On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning" might be my favorite thing I've read by him.)

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Sun Sep 23, 2018 3:00 am
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Macrology wrote:
1Q84 didn't do much for me, personally. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is much better, though it's an uneven ride. Those are the only two I've read, aside from a few shorter pieces. ("On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning" might be my favorite thing I've read by him.)

One of his best stories:

https://www.acschools.org/cms/lib07/PA01916405/Centricity/Domain/399/Seventh%20Man.pdf

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Sun Sep 23, 2018 3:08 am
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Thanks! I'll give it a read soon.

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Sun Sep 23, 2018 3:18 am
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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle was very good, although I thought it could have used some (further) editing.

I'm thinking I should tackle Hard-Boiled Wonderland next, since that one sounds the most intriguing to me.


Mon Sep 24, 2018 2:37 am
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Ubik (1969) - 8/10
I found this to be an effective horror novel which works largely due to your inability to make sense of the scenario and differentiate what's actually happening from what's occurring in half-life. The ending shows that the idea of half-life is far beyond the range of understanding of anyone in the novel. As for what Ubik means, Dick's former wife Tessa called it a metaphor for God, and while that interpretation makes sense, I feel like it goes deeper than that. While it seems like the only thing in the book which can be trusted as legit, the introductions to each chapter where it's advertised as a different product hint that there's more to it than anything the characters think they understand about it. Or, in other words, it's sort of like a reflection of the ending in the way that it's difficult to make sense of it. Although it takes a while to get going, it's worth the wait.

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Mon Sep 24, 2018 3:48 am
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crumbsroom wrote:
After reading Wind Up Bird Chronicles, I felt I had to read everything this guy ever wrote.

Then I read Kafka on the Shore and promptly stopped.

hahaha fascinating

I did read WindUp a few after Kafka which was when I really fell for him, so maybe their crossover you struggled with was the same for me in opposite direction

HardBoiled is probably the one I'd recommend everyone start with (tho I started with South of the Border)


Mon Sep 24, 2018 5:39 am
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Ubik is PKD at his best. Despite the sloppy prose, the ideas and the setpieces are what counts in the end. The ending in particular stays with you for a long time.


Tue Sep 25, 2018 3:52 pm
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Stoner | John Williams | 1965 | 278 pages

This is the finest book I've read all year, and among the best of the NYRB publications I've read (along with The Peregrine, The Invention of Morel, and The Pilgrim Hawk).

I don't have much to say about it, because simply reading it is such a consummate experience that discussing it feels unnecessary. You only need to compel other people to read it, so I'll keep it brief.

It's about a man who grows up on a farm, goes to college for agricultural science, and discovers an interest in literature and teaching. Williams writes some of the most lucid and revelatory prose I've ever read; he navigates huge swaths of thorny emotional terrain with a precise clarity that constantly startles you in the quietest way possible. The story seems uneventful, but no other novel -- or artwork of any kind -- has captured with such balanced authority the measure of a man's life. Underlying all of this is a passion carefully concealed by the book's patient pace: a hard-earned love for its characters, a stoic resignation to the travails of life, and a rigorous admiration for academia and teaching on par with Byatt's Possession. I read most of it on the brink of tears.

An excerpt:

John Williams wrote:
Sometimes they would lift their eyes from their studies, smile at each other, and return to their reading; sometimes Stoner would look up from his book and let his gaze rest upon the graceful curve of Katherine's back and upon the slender neck where a tendril of hair always fell. Then a slow, easy desire would come over him like a calm, and he would rise and stand behind her and let his arms rest lightly on her shoulders. She would straighten and let her head go back against his chest, and his hands would go forward into the loose robe and gently touch her breasts. Then they would make love, and lie quietly for a while, and return to their studies, as if their love and learning were one process.

That was one of the oddities of what they called 'given opinion' that they learned that summer. They had been brought up in a tradition that told them in one way or another that the life of the mind and the life of the senses were separate and, indeed, inimical; they had believed, without ever having really thought about it, that one had to be chosen at some expense of the other. That the one could intensify the other had never occurred to them; and since the embodiment came before the recognition of the truth, it seemed a discovery that belonged to them alone.

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Tue Oct 30, 2018 12:58 pm
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Stoner is amazing


Wed Oct 31, 2018 4:11 am
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I've read Zola's Germinal. Misery and poverty abound in a French coal-mining settlement when the miners decide to go on a strike during the Industrial Crisis in the mid-19th century. Strikingly realistic, with Zola obviously doing extensive research in the mining business itself, with characters on all sides of the argument who free themselves of archetype depiction once Zola starts to unravel their hypocrisies, oversimplified philosophies, ignorance or plain stubborness and pride. Once the consequences of the strike escalate, Zola holds no punches in showing just how much shame and damage injustice with the distribution of wealth and capital can bring to impoverished communities. Not an easy read, but an extremely memorable one and a novel that deserves its reputation as one of the masterpieces of French naturalism.


Wed Oct 31, 2018 5:16 pm
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The Laughing Policeman | Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö | 1968 | 220 pages

This isn't going to be a very long review, I just had to mention how much I enjoyed this. It took me totally off guard. I knew nothing going in (I inherited this from my former roommate, at his suggestion), but it's one of the best police procedurals I've ever read. It's just meticulous about process and has a great ensemble of characters (it calls itself "A Martin Beck Mystery", but his role isn't much larger than any of the other detectives). It takes everything at a steady pace, never bothering much with suspense or trying to be gritty or cool. Sjöwall and Wahlöö just let things happen.

It really illustrates the difference between a detective novel and a police procedural: detective novels are about cleverness, and they tend toward the fanciful, while police procedurals are about thoroughness, and they cleave much closer to the realities of police work.

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Sun Nov 25, 2018 10:05 am
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I'm on an Alan Moore binge at the moment.

Saga of the Swamp Thing is just an explosion of creativity from a young protege who will change the history of the comic format. Horror, philosophy and socio-political commentary are explored within amazing set-pieces, accompanied by plenty of absurd humour, with clever tributes to literary greats like Shakespeare and Dante... It's undeniably fun while being thought-provoking, and it has a sympathetic protagonist to connect all the tissues. No wonder it's being credited as "revolutionising" comics.

Marvelman/Miracleman is next on my list.

What's everybody's favourite Alan Moore work anyway? I'm partial to From Hell - it's just a fascinating, creepy and distrubing ode to the poor Victorian underclass, announcing the beginning of the 20th century in a cynical and gruesome manner. Beautifully drawn and meticulously researched.


Mon Dec 03, 2018 5:34 pm
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Shamefully, I have not read a lot of Moore's work. But Watchmen was my first American comic book and I still love it.


Mon Dec 03, 2018 5:42 pm
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I bought nine books today.

I've only read 8 of the 50+ books I got from my former roommate earlier this year.

What is wrong with me?

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Sun Dec 30, 2018 1:07 pm
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djerdap wrote:
I'm on an Alan Moore binge at the moment.

Saga of the Swamp Thing is just an explosion of creativity from a young protege who will change the history of the comic format. Horror, philosophy and socio-political commentary are explored within amazing set-pieces, accompanied by plenty of absurd humour, with clever tributes to literary greats like Shakespeare and Dante... It's undeniably fun while being thought-provoking, and it has a sympathetic protagonist to connect all the tissues. No wonder it's being credited as "revolutionising" comics.

Marvelman/Miracleman is next on my list.

What's everybody's favourite Alan Moore work anyway? I'm partial to From Hell - it's just a fascinating, creepy and distrubing ode to the poor Victorian underclass, announcing the beginning of the 20th century in a cynical and gruesome manner. Beautifully drawn and meticulously researched.


From Hell. Incredible work. Forget comics, one of my favorite books ever.

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Sun Dec 30, 2018 5:17 pm
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The 15 most anticipated books of 2019

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Tue Jan 08, 2019 1:41 pm
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Sun Jan 13, 2019 12:11 pm
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Isn't that supposed to be 600 pages long?!

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Sun Jan 13, 2019 12:54 pm
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Shieldmaiden wrote:
Isn't that supposed to be 600 pages long?!

I understand that it's full of pictures and cartoons, so that 600 flies by like some kind of illuminated subgenius vellum writ.


Mon Jan 14, 2019 3:05 pm
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A Tale of Two Cities

Dickens is undoubtedly a masterful storyteller, since I never had any hesitation to find out as much as I could about the plot and the characters, even though it takes a good 60 per cent of the book to actually get to the main setpieces of the French Revolution and the subsequent Terror, and how the main characters - introduced in detail in the first part - deal with the trials and tribulations of those times. The famous first sentence gets its deserved reputation, but the ending is even more potent on an emotional level (even though Dickens does sometimes go into dangerous sentimental territory - especially through the saintly characterisation of the main female protagonist), albeit there are many, many incredulous plot contrivances to actually get to that closure. Nevertheless, the powerful set pieces and the memorable, merciless female antagonist are some of the key aspects as to why the book is so powerful and ahead of the times, and Dickens' socio-political commentary takes into account the immoral consequences of noble ideas and how major societal changes are intertwined with evil deeds.

Now I'm tackling Against the Day. It's a delight to experience Pynchon's prose again. I can tell from the first 30 pages that this is going to be quite a journey. So far I've read Gravity's Rainbow, V., The Crying of Lot 49 and Inherent Vice, and although all are great, I tend to prefer Pynchon's denser work. One can tell from the avatar I'm a huge fan of GR. That book simply refuses to leave my mind and the more I think of it, the more fascinating it seems.


Mon Jan 14, 2019 4:46 pm
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Jinnistan wrote:
I understand that it's full of pictures and cartoons, so that 600 flies by like some kind of illuminated subgenius vellum writ.
Ah. :D

djerdap wrote:
Now I'm tackling Against the Day. It's a delight to experience Pynchon's prose again. I can tell from the first 30 pages that this is going to be quite a journey.
I can't praise that one enough. You're in for a treat!

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Tue Jan 15, 2019 2:05 am
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Shieldmaiden wrote:
Isn't that supposed to be 600 pages long?!


It probably wouldn't amount to much more than about 200 pages of text. But I absolutely would have no issue reading an additional 400 pages of their stupid anecdotes, character studies of hanger ons, behind the scenes insight and tributes to Adam Yauch.


Tue Jan 15, 2019 2:16 am
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Has anyone here read The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides? I just finished it earlier today and really liked it.


Sat Feb 02, 2019 2:43 am
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Just finished Sirens by Joseph Knox. This is a good novel. Good to great. It's a noirish thriller if you're into those. The closest comparison I can come up with is someone like Sam Spade. Only he's been transplanted into modern day Manchester UK. And it's a disgraced cop, Aidan Waits, instead of a private eye. The only slight drawback might be the iffy proposition of a twenty seven (?) year old being this hard boiled. But Knox does a commendable job of keeping it immediate and cogent.


Fri Feb 22, 2019 3:41 am
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I've been reading William Friedkin's memoirs, The Friedkin Connection. I've enjoyed everything about it, but what I've enjoyed the most is how it makes me appreciate the blood, sweat and tears required to stick to one's personal vision - the massive undertaking that was the wooden bridge in Sorcerer, for instance - and while Friedkin likely doesn't speak for everyone, it's interesting to read about how directors feel when their movies tank at the box office and/or receive bad reviews (he's deeply hurt by both).
Fun fact: in the "those days are long gone" department, Friedkin, who didn't even attend college, got his start when he answered a newspaper ad for a job at a TV network.

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Fri Mar 08, 2019 3:18 am
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I'm about 100 pages into House of Leaves and simultaneously love and hate the book. It's really something else. The slow and steady description of the hallway in the house makes for some of the creepiest shit I've read. The matter-of-fact uncanny nature of it recalls Ligotti to me. Reading that far into the story also encourages you to read some of the footnotes, which leads to an entire other sub-story about the narrator's mother and her experiences in a psychiatric ward. They're eerie and tragic and so far completely unrelated to the main drama but completely in keeping with Danielewski's interest in showing you the forward path before wrenching you off into off-roads and cul-de-sacs.

The "hate" isn't real; it's more frustration, since my brain struggles to keep all of the information straight, and sometimes it makes for such dense reading that I can only read ten pages in a day before I have trouble assembling all the data into something manageable and coherent. Which is clearly the goal of the novel, so mission accomplished. It's just... I haven't had to be so attentive to a book since decoding Chaucer's Middle English in college.

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Fri Mar 08, 2019 3:47 am
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Also, 1/3 of the way through Reza Aslan's Zealot. Not bad, but the reviews I've read suggest it's very fast and loose with its history, conclusions and logic. In general, I don't think you can write a book like this without acknowledging that, at its core, it's a thought experiment (due to the incredibly low amount of historical writing on Jesus). But Aslan has a flair for presenting the Judean context with a cinematic quality, so it's not a bad read. Just not as rigorous/enlightening as maybe I'd hoped.

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Fri Mar 08, 2019 3:50 am
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I haven't read House of Leaves since college, but the descriptions of the house left by far the strongest impression. That and the story in the footnotes about the Pekingese. Also, you should listen to the Poe album Haunted; she's Danielewski's sister and the album ties into the novel. It's a charming album in a very Y2K sort of way.

Meanwhile, a sampling of my recent reading:

The Adventures of Augie March - This one is momentous, just overflowing with characters in a way that feels very Russian and overflowing with incidents in a way that feels very American. It's almost more about the huge host of characters Augie meets than it is about Augie himself, but I found something very compelling and true in Bellow's depiction of Augie, who is absolutely certain about his self and just as uncertain about his place in the world. The structure is more or less picaresque, but it's held together by Augie's ongoing philosophical musings, which are plainspoken and often genuinely insightful.

Asleep in the Sun - My second Casares, after The Invention of Morel (which I wrote about after reading it, and elaborated on here). This one doesn't achieve the sublime heights or holistic unity of Morel, but it's arguably a more complex and nuanced work, and its tense mixture of humor and dread is curious but effective. In both, Casares plumbs fantastical elements for thematic potential (in the case of Asleep, questions of personal identity and romantic relationships), and both reveal new information in their last few pages that makes you stop and consider everything that happened before, so it makes a nice complement/counterpoint to Morel. Casares has a knack for stories that have a real conceptual beauty to them without forsaking the psychological and philosophical ramifications these incidents have on his characters, which is a rare quality.
Also, if you read the NYRB copy of this book, for christ's sake DO NOT READ THE COPY ON THE BACK COVER. It not only spoils incidents that happen in the last quarter of the novel, it also spoils them inaccurately. Luckily I'd already read most of the book before I happened to glance over it, so it didn't affect my experience too much.

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Sat Mar 09, 2019 5:53 am
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I had no idea that Herman Melville had a serious crush on Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Interesting!

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Wed Mar 13, 2019 11:27 am
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Big time. I was pretty fascinated when I learned about it back while doing my undergrad.


Wed Mar 13, 2019 11:38 am
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You can add the much-noted homoeroticism of Billy Budd into the mix. Ask Claire Denis. Or Meadow Soprano. They get it.


Wed Mar 13, 2019 12:02 pm
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I read a book last year, The Whale: A Love Story, that depicts a fictionalized account of the relationship/friendship between Melville and Hawthorne while Melville was working on Moby-Dick. It's not a particularly good book -- it's overwritten and emotionally indulgent in a way that betrays its characters -- but it has its moments.

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Wed Mar 13, 2019 12:32 pm
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Moby Dick wrote:
A sweet and unctuous duty! no wonder that in old times this sperm was such a favorite cosmetic. Such a clearer! such a sweetener! such a softener! such a delicious mollifier! After having my hands in it for only a few minutes, my fingers felt like eels, and began, as it were, to serpentine and spiralize.

As I sat there at my ease, cross-legged on the deck; after the bitter exertion at the windlass; under a blue tranquil sky; the ship under indolent sail, and gliding so serenely along; as I bathed my hands among those soft, gentle globules of infiltrated tissues, woven almost within the hour; as they richly broke to my fingers, and discharged all their opulence, like fully ripe grapes their wine; as I snuffed up that uncontaminated aroma, - literally and truly, like the smell of spring violets; I declare to you, that for the time I lived as in a musky meadow; I forgot all about our horrible oath; in that inexpressible sperm, I washed my hands and my heart of it; I almost began to credit the old Paracelsan superstition that sperm is of rare virtue in allaying the heat of anger: while bathing in that bath, I felt divinely free from all ill-will, or petulence, or malice, of any sort whatsoever.

Squeeze! squeeze! squeeze! all the morning long; I squeezed that sperm till I myself almost melted into it; I squeezed that sperm till a strange sort of insanity came over me; and I found myself unwittingly squeezing my co-laborers' hands in it, mistaking their hands for the gentle globules. Such an abounding, affectionate, friendly, loving feeling did this avocation beget; that at last I was continually squeezing their hands, and looking up into their eyes sentimentally; as much as to say, - Oh! my dear fellow beings, why should we longer cherish any social acerbities, or know the slightest ill-humor or envy! Come; let us squeeze hands all round; nay, let us all squeeze ourselves into each other; let us squeeze ourselves universally into the very milk and sperm of kindness.

Would that I could keep squeezing that sperm for ever!

I have no idea what you people are talking about. Herman was just a red-blooded bro.


Wed Mar 13, 2019 12:36 pm
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