The Literature Thread

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Macrology
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Macrology » Sun Oct 20, 2019 4:49 am

DaMU wrote:
Sun Oct 20, 2019 4:42 am
Keep buying books, plz halp.
I counted recently.

I own 143 books that I haven't read yet.

Edit: I just bought 8 more the other day.
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DaMU
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by DaMU » Sun Oct 20, 2019 4:51 am

Macrology wrote:
Sun Oct 20, 2019 4:49 am
I counted recently.

I own 143 books that I haven't read yet.

Edit: I just bought 8 more the other day.
Bought three today, a mercy that I've read one of them already (Ira Levin's Deathtrap).
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Takoma1 » Sun Oct 20, 2019 8:17 pm

DaMU wrote:
Sun Oct 20, 2019 4:42 am
Next up is Lauren Beukes' The Shining Girls on audio, and Blake Crouch's Dark Matter and King's Doctor Sleep in print.
I really like The Shining Girls. Such a neat, horrific premise. Her next novel, Broken Monsters, isn't quite as coherent, but it's also one I'd recommend.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by DaMU » Mon Oct 28, 2019 5:53 am

Takoma1 wrote:
Sun Oct 20, 2019 8:17 pm
I really like The Shining Girls. Such a neat, horrific premise. Her next novel, Broken Monsters, isn't quite as coherent, but it's also one I'd recommend.
Noted! I'm enjoying Shining Girls so far, demented villain, plucky heroine, and the premise is just too damn good of a hook.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by DaMU » Mon Oct 28, 2019 5:55 am

Someone on Twitter was quoting the "1408" short story, so I re-read it, and it's still pretty damn good. I just love the phone talking back to Enslin (something they shifted in the film). "Six! This is six! This is goddamn fucking SIX!!!"
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by DaMU » Fri Dec 13, 2019 8:36 pm

DaMU wrote:
Mon Oct 28, 2019 5:53 am
Noted! I'm enjoying Shining Girls so far, demented villain, plucky heroine, and the premise is just too damn good of a hook.
Finished this on the way to work this morning, there were some gasps, and a lot of happiness at a story well told. It's just nice to have a book that's well-done, hits its coulda-been-predictable turns with gusto and honesty. Excellent stuff. Very happy with this one.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Takoma1 » Fri Dec 13, 2019 9:57 pm

DaMU wrote:
Fri Dec 13, 2019 8:36 pm
Finished this on the way to work this morning, there were some gasps, and a lot of happiness at a story well told. It's just nice to have a book that's well-done, hits its coulda-been-predictable turns with gusto and honesty. Excellent stuff. Very happy with this one.
Yay! Glad you liked it!

It's the kind of book I'd love to see as a film, but would have little faith that someone could capture the spirit of the book.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Slentert » Mon Dec 30, 2019 12:48 pm

5 favorite books I've read for the first time in 2019

1. The Age of Innocence (Edith Wharton)
2. Breakfast at Tiffany's (Truman Capote)
3. The Quiet American (Graham Greene)
4. The Maltese Falcon (Dashiell Hammett)
5. Get Shorty (Elmore Leonard)

+ 5 comics I've read for the first time this year as well

1. Beasts of Burden Vol. 1 (Evan Dorkin & Jill Thompson)
2. The New Frontier (Darwyn Cooke)
3. Isola Vol. 1 (Brenden Fletcher & Karl Kerschl)
4. Multiple Warheads Vol. 1 (Brandon Graham)
5. Enigma (Peter Milligan & Duncan Fegredo)
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by DaMU » Mon Dec 30, 2019 4:18 pm

Trying to finish Blake Crouch's Dark Matter and Sarah Lotz' The White Road before the new year. Gonna be close.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Takoma1 » Mon Dec 30, 2019 6:49 pm

My best of 2019 would look something like this:

Non-Fiction
What There is to Say We Have Said

It took me a year and a half to read this book. And not because it was slow or boring, but rather because I fell so in love with the people in it that "watching" them age was just emotionally too much for me. The book is a collection of letters between Eudora Welty and William Maxwell, two friends who corresponded with each other for about 60 years. Their communication with each other is so loving and funny and heartfelt and honest that it gave me shivers. I underlined so many passages in lines. They led different lives in many ways (he was a family man with a wife and two daughters, while Eudora never married). She was more successful than he was as a writer, and yet they compliment each other so well. Whether romantic or platonic, anyone would be lucky to have this kind of relationship with someone in their life. It's also fascinating to watch history unfold tangentially in their writing, such as desegregation, the Kennedy assassination, the time that Eudora couldn't catch a flight because of the eruption of Mt. St. Helen's, etc.

Clever Girl Finance

Just a really solid book with broad but clear and actionable financial advice.

Trevor Noah: Born a Crime

A really fascinating autobiographical look at Trevor Noah's childhood. I had no idea some of the things he's experienced. It's funny but also heartbreaking, especially when you get to the parts where he's witnessing the increasingly violent abuse against his mother.

She Left Me the Gun

After her mother's death, the author begins to investigate her mother's youth and why she fled rural South Africa. On the one hand, there are times that the author clearly did not want to push too hard to get the full story (understandable as she is often interviewing family members in a foreign country where she feels out of place). But on the other hand, the stuff that she uncovers is brutal. It involves her mother, as a teenager, trying to get her father convicted of raping and otherwise abusing her many siblings and the way that she was absolutely destroyed by the South African court system. The story was something that was fascinating and made me really, really angry at the same time.

What If

Just a delightfully nerdy slice of fun.

Fiction

The Silver Star

Two girls abandoned by their mother find their way to their uncle's farm. This was a short and satisfying story about overcoming obstacles and especially those who would abuse their power over you.

The Bone Clocks

One of those stories so good that at times it hurts your heart. I loved the fantasy/sci-fi element at the center of this book, and the characters were especially good. The kind of book that you want to see as a movie, and yet you don't want it to happen for fear they'll mess the whole thing up. Splendid.

News of the World

This was a great short little book. An elderly man makes his living in post-Civil War American by traveling from town to town reading newpapers as a sort of theater performance. An old friend asks him to take a young girl back to her family--she's been a captive of a Native American tribe for several years. But a devious and dangerous man is on their trail and wants the girl for himself. This one was heartfelt with some great action sequences and an interesting exploration of what it means to belong. Did I cry at the last ten pages? Yup.

Lincoln in the Bardo

I'd previously read and loved George Saunders' short story collection, and so I was interested to see how he handled a full-length novel. It was excellent. The story takes place in the days after Abraham Lincoln's son has just died. We switch between the grieving Lincoln and the ghost of his son who is in a sort of limbo in the graveyard where he is looked after by other restless spirits. Every page of this book made me feel like someone was squeezing my heart. Love and loss and letting go, what it means to move on, and where we find strength to say goodbye. If you've experienced any recent loss of a loved one, this will hit you really hard. I was constantly on the edge of tears with it, but I couldn't put it down.

Station Eleven

I've been really burned out on post-apocalyptic media for the last few years, but this book was so beautifully written and the characters so wonderfully realized. The rare novel that switches between multiple perspectives and yet there wasn't one dominant one that you always wanted to get back to. The story moves in time and space, flashing forward and backward from the time of the outbreak of a worldwide pandemic. This is a story where character live and die, and then live again through their art and memories. A character-driven page turner that manages to paint a bleak future without excessive violence or exploitation.

The Kind Worth Killing

This one kind of botches the ending in my opinion (as in the author couldn't resist just one more twist!), but for most of the story it's a fun, trashy page-turner that puts a modern spin on the old Strangers on a Train idea. A man at an airport bar meets a strange woman who basically offers to help him murder his unfaithful wife. I had several moments of "Wait, WHAT?" in this book, with most of them being delightfully bonkers plot twists and turns. I know it's a little cold to recommend a beach read, but this is the kind of book that you can bang out in a day or two.

The Knife of Never Letting Go

This is the first book of the Chaos Walking series and it has a heck of a premise. A young man lives in a strange place where there are only men and everyone can hear each others' thoughts (they call it the noise). But not only the thoughts of other people, ALL thoughts--animals, fish, snakes, etc. As the youngest member of his community, Todd is on the cusp of some sort of indoctrination. But as that time approaches, he learns some horrible truths about his fellow villagers and must set out on a quest to protect himself and a new friend he discovers. This book will stab you in the heart a thousand times. I really want to read the rest of the series, but boy did this one take a lot out of me emotionally. Patrick Ness also wrote the short novel A Monster Calls, and I really love the way that he evokes the inner lives of his characters. This is the kind of book where a character can do something stupid or horrible, and yet you understand him so well that instead of being angry or annoyed, you just feel sad for what it will mean for him.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by DaMU » Mon Jan 13, 2020 10:33 pm

DaMU wrote:
Thu Mar 07, 2019 6:47 pm
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.
Finished this today. It sure is something. Out of the three core "documents" (the Navidson record, the Truant personal notes, the appendices/extra stories), the Navidson record feels the most effective. It's hard to shake that uncanny element of the story. How thoroughly it resists explanation even as it digs deeper and deeper into the character personalities and the house's unfathomable underbelly. Eeriest place since Hill House, for my money. Truant's recollections are at times arresting but just as often maddening/wandering to a distracting degree. The increasing stylistic excess of the book, evocative of the climax of Bester's The Stars My Destination, can come off gimmicky at times but generally contributes to the feelings of dislocation, of the world knocked off its axis inside the pitch-black hallways.

[Oddly the most emotional sequence to me is a throwaway anecdote about a baby in a maternity ward that carries no narrative relationship to the rest of the work (though it's symbolic for sure).]

Very glad I read it. Appeals to my fascination with puzzles, mazes, decoding/unpacking.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Takoma1 » Tue Jan 14, 2020 12:13 am

DaMU wrote:
Mon Jan 13, 2020 10:33 pm
Very glad I read it. Appeals to my fascination with puzzles, mazes, decoding/unpacking.
This book was the source of my worst ever gift-giving fiasco.

I got it for my younger brother. At the time, we weren't communicating a lot and I had no idea what he was into. So we all get together for Christmas and I thought the story sounded cool so I bought him the book.

He opens the book and looks at a few pages (words literally scattered all over the page), looks at me, and goes (kind of amused, kind of annoyed), "I'm dyslexic."

FAIL.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by DaMU » Tue Jan 14, 2020 2:17 am

Takoma1 wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 12:13 am
This book was the source of my worst ever gift-giving fiasco.

I got it for my younger brother. At the time, we weren't communicating a lot and I had no idea what he was into. So we all get together for Christmas and I thought the story sounded cool so I bought him the book.

He opens the book and looks at a few pages (words literally scattered all over the page), looks at me, and goes (kind of amused, kind of annoyed), "I'm dyslexic."

FAIL.
That's a big ol' d'oh.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by DaMU » Tue Jan 14, 2020 4:27 am

DaMU wrote:
Mon Dec 30, 2019 4:18 pm
Trying to finish Blake Crouch's Dark Matter and Sarah Lotz' The White Road before the new year. Gonna be close.
Finished both of these.

Dark Matter I'm of two minds about. The actual prose and characterization is strained, sometimes on the verge of B-movie level, with 'helpful' description like "What if everything you knew was wrong?" (Ugh.) There's also the hacky sci-fi premise, delivered with the fast-moving pulp energy of Michael Crichton. But often bad Crichton. I honestly would've stopped reading if not for two friends' insistence that the novel is one of their favorites. So I pushed through the first hundred or so pages with a mix of indifference and frustration... and then, once the hero makes a crucial discovery about a dimension-hopping invention, the novel finally opens up and hooks into its premise... and then, once the hero realizes the refractive consequences of his own traveling into alternate dimensions, the novel really finds its over-the-top groove with about a hundred pages to go. I can't envision this being a favorite (again, that prose...), but I've never had the experience of reading a story and watching it slowly figure out the shit it wants to do.

The White Road wasn't as arresting as I'd hoped, but I might've been expecting a more out-and-out horror-fest. What's there instead is-- after a harrowing extended opener-- a considerable look at trauma, set on Mt. Everest, filtered through the uncanny. Apparently based on real life instances of "Third Man syndrome," where people in life-or-death situations (often hikers or explorers) feel or see the presence of an additional entity. In this novel, those passengers become avatars of old mistakes and lingering grief. Well-done overall.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by wichares » Sat Apr 04, 2020 8:09 am

First quarantine reading done: Inherent Vice, my first Pynchon. I only watched, never read, The Big Sleep, but reading this is not far from that one's lanky Hawksian enjoyability in moment-to-moment basis rather than in big picture plot. No definitive thread to hold on to, which usually would be a personal big trouble for me as a particular type of reader. But Pynchon's masterful prose and situational creativity have too much immense surface pleasure for the book not to be a joy to read, and it's all nicely grounded by the unsentimental melancholy of an era's impending end. 4/5
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Takoma1 » Sat Apr 04, 2020 2:48 pm

I finished reading William Gibson's Spook Country (which was good, but felt like it should have been building to something bigger in the end).

I'm currently reading Dracula and listening to the audiobook of Some Danger Involved, which is an enjoyable if a bit cheesy blatant Sherlock Holmes knock-off.

I am so sad that my local library announced that they were closing while I was at work, and they closed IMMEDIATELY. So 90% of the books I have at my house that are unread are novels that have been too depressing to dig into over the years. Dracula is the lightest of the bunch.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by doberso » Tue Apr 14, 2020 11:09 am

I'm reading The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon and just tearing through it. I love love love his style. His descriptions, particularly of people, are so full of humor and insight. I think next I'm going to pick up Mysteries of Pittsburgh.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Shieldmaiden » Tue Apr 14, 2020 5:00 pm

So far during lockdown (not counting re-reads):

The Feral Detective, Jonathan Lethem
Entertaining, but silly, with a thrown-together feel. He seems to have made some effort around his female protagonist (for obvious political reasons, if you've read it), but her main female characteristic is still just lust for the male title character.

A Defense of the Nicene Creed, Athanasius
I've been doing some lazy research about Constantine I, and this was a necessary rabbit hole.

Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami
I have such mixed feelings about this one! It starts so well -- it's mysterious and genuinely creepy. But there's some truly laughable business about how to paint, and he doesn't quite stick the landing.

The Diary of a Madman and Others Stories, Nikolai Gogol
Read this because it included The Viy, which was amazing, but so were the title story and An Evening in May. Diary was especially interesting to me as the forerunner of Dostoevsky's The Double. And when he's reading the dog's letters -- hahahahaha!
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Charles » Tue Apr 21, 2020 10:10 pm

Gunnm, the manga Alita was adapted from, is a bomb-ass series. I finished the original run today, and apparently the author decannoned the ending to continue the story in another direction, but it's so fucking good.

So good that it kind of makes the movie worse in how diluted and PG-13ized it is compared to the manga. The only thing is, the love story between Alita and whoever the hell, that guy, is just as bad if not worse in the books.
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Macrology
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Macrology » Thu Apr 23, 2020 2:18 am

I have not read any Lethem (outside some of the essays he's done for Criterion). That seems like a pretty significant oversight.
I also really need to read more Gogol.

My most recent literary excursion:

Iza's Ballad | Magda Szabó | 1963 | 328 pages

New York Review Books strikes again.

A Hungarian novel about Iza, a doctor under the new Communist regime, and her mother, Ettie. After her father's death, Iza resolves to move her widowed mother from their provincial hometown to her brand new flat in Budapest, and the story is largely about their relationship, though it also intertwines the lives of Iza's ex-husband and his new fiancee, Iza's boyfriend Domokos, and her father's past. Through their shifting perspectives, we bear witness to a subtle tragedy of misguided love and wasted opportunities. While first and foremost about the troubled love between Iza and her mother, it touches upon the political climate in Hungary before and after WWII, a generational divide exacerbated by rapid progress and tumultuous political upheavals, and the quiet way that people unwittingly wound the ones they love.

The tone of the book brought to mind the subdued anguish and melancholy resignation of Stoner, though it takes a broader perspective, and unlike Stoner, Iza's Ballad is filled with people who love each other - only they don't always know how to love, or how to best express that love. It also fits right alongside great works like Tokyo Story and Make Way for Tomorrow which deftly explore the inner lives of the elderly, especially those who feel left behind by the modern world.

I don't want to say more, because the book is overflowing with heartbreaking revelations about dashed hopes and emotional inadequacy. But it's probably the best book I've read so far this year, and I've read some great stuff.

Speaking of other great stuff I've read recently, here's a sampling:

The Tin Drum by Günter Grass
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
The Magic Barrel by Bernard Malamud
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett (maybe not quite as great as the rest of those, but I think this is the first Pratchett I've read since my freshman year of college, and it's refreshing to dip my toes back into his wit and playful genre antics)
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by wichares » Sat May 02, 2020 7:15 am

Second phase of quarantine reading:

The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Agatha Christie) (reread) - One characteristic of Christie's mysteries is that, although her works don't lack for characterization and description, the writing is concerned with plot above all else most of the time. So if I am not memorably hooked into remembering how they resolve (Roger Ackroyd, Death on the Nile, And Then There Were None, etc.), which is often independent of how good or bad I personally find the books are overall, I will only remember the plot but not the ending, and it feels like reading the mysteries anew again. Which sounds like a knock, but it's one of her appeals for me. Same with this book, in which Poirot's resolution catches me off guard, again. Being her first book, she has yet to refine the dynamic between Poirot and Hastings, which comes off as writerly trick of audience misdirection/keep-away game rather a genuine relationship, and so obvious to the point of annoying often. It's amazing though how her enduring format comes cozily, fully formed right out of the gate. 3.5/5

The Bone Collector (Jeffery Deaver) - The plotting and villain are wayyyy too ludicrous, especially against realistic procedural details. To give Deaver credit though, this still proves to be a fast, involving page-turner even through so many well-researched nitty-gritty crime scene process details, which are very well integrated throughout. Haven't seen the film yet, but based on the book Angelina Jolie was such a spot-on casting. 3/5

The Sun Also Rises (Ernest Hemingway) - Only past experience with Hemingway is reading "Hills Like White Elephants" back in my one-year exchange student's US high school English class, in which I have a fond if vain memory of being the only student to answer the teacher's question of what it's actually about. I remember the fascinating rhythm of his sparse style ("Iceberg Theory" and all that) while reading that short story, but here at novel-length I'm more mixed about. Personally, I find it doesn't go well at all with his more travelogue passages, making it a struggle in interest at times, and the many new places that have to be introduced to us doesn't make the story flow smoothly. The beginning Paris section and the last chapter, and to a lesser extent any sustained group scene, is my kind of richly evocative that I remember from years ago though. 3/5
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Patrick McGroin » Thu Jun 25, 2020 8:23 pm

Really looking forward to DEVOLUTION: A FIRSTHAND ACCOUNT OF THE RAINIER SASQUATCH MASSACRE by Max Brooks. It's his first novel since World War Z.

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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by crumbsroom » Thu Jun 25, 2020 8:55 pm

I've been reading scattershot. The first 100 pages of Mason and Dixon. A brief return to the middle of Ulysses (and a quick return to ignoring it). An almost finished Marlon Brando biography and the first volume of the Calvin and Hobbes anthology. Plus something else I've already forgotten about and I assume will never find again. It's probably thick with bathwater somewhere on the bathroom floor but whatever. I'll just call it lost for convenience sake. I've got to find a way to make some time for a re-read of my Amphi-Goreys after all.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by DaMU » Thu Jun 25, 2020 9:13 pm

In a similar headspace; currently stalled on CAS's The City of the Singing Flame, Malcolm X's autobiography, Cameron Crowe's Conversations with Billy Wilder, David Burns' Feeling Good.
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