The Literature Thread

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Shieldmaiden
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Shieldmaiden » Sat Sep 22, 2018 5:53 pm

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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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Macrology » Sat Sep 22, 2018 6:00 pm

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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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Shieldmaiden » Sat Sep 22, 2018 6:08 pm

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/PA0 ... %20Man.pdf
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Macrology » Sat Sep 22, 2018 6:18 pm

Thanks! I'll give it a read soon.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by djerdap » Sun Sep 23, 2018 5:37 pm

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.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Popcorn Reviews » Sun Sep 23, 2018 6:48 pm

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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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by wigwam » Sun Sep 23, 2018 8:39 pm

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)
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by djerdap » Tue Sep 25, 2018 6:52 am

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.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Macrology » Tue Oct 30, 2018 3:58 am

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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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by wigwam » Tue Oct 30, 2018 7:11 pm

Stoner is amazing
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by djerdap » Wed Oct 31, 2018 8:16 am

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.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Macrology » Sun Nov 25, 2018 1:05 am

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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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by djerdap » Mon Dec 03, 2018 8:34 am

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.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Slentert » Mon Dec 03, 2018 8:42 am

Shamefully, I have not read a lot of Moore's work. But Watchmen was my first American comic book and I still love it.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Macrology » Sun Dec 30, 2018 4:07 am

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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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by DaMU » Sun Dec 30, 2018 8:17 am

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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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Stu » Tue Jan 08, 2019 4:41 am

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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by crumbsroom » Sun Jan 13, 2019 3:11 am

Image
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Shieldmaiden » Sun Jan 13, 2019 3:54 am

Isn't that supposed to be 600 pages long?!
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Jinnistan » Mon Jan 14, 2019 6:05 am

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.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by djerdap » Mon Jan 14, 2019 7:46 am

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.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Shieldmaiden » Mon Jan 14, 2019 5:05 pm

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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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by crumbsroom » Mon Jan 14, 2019 5:16 pm

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.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Slentert » Fri Feb 01, 2019 5:43 pm

Has anyone here read The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides? I just finished it earlier today and really liked it.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by boojiboyhowdy » Thu Feb 21, 2019 6:41 pm

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.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Torgo » Thu Mar 07, 2019 6:18 pm

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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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by DaMU » 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.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by DaMU » Thu Mar 07, 2019 6:50 pm

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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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Macrology » Fri Mar 08, 2019 8:53 pm

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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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by DaMU » Wed Mar 13, 2019 2:27 am

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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Takoma1 » Wed Mar 13, 2019 2:38 am

Big time. I was pretty fascinated when I learned about it back while doing my undergrad.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Ergill » Wed Mar 13, 2019 3:02 am

You can add the much-noted homoeroticism of Billy Budd into the mix. Ask Claire Denis. Or Meadow Soprano. They get it.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Macrology » Wed Mar 13, 2019 3:32 am

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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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Jinnistan » Wed Mar 13, 2019 3:36 am

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!
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by DaMU » Mon Apr 01, 2019 3:08 am

DaMU wrote: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.
Finished this and still remain a bit on the fence about it. Like so many, Aslan is stuck with picking and choosing which Biblical elements will best support his conclusion while downplaying others. One example I noticed late in the read was that Aslan omitted the crucial moment in Gethsemane where Jesus tells one of his followers to lay down a sword (after the follower slices the ear of a centurion), which would be defensible if the whole point of the book weren't to rebrand Jesus as a more radicalized and volatile "zealot." In general, Aslan tries to recontextualize all of those peaceful moments as either probably false or only conditional to the Jewish peoples he represented. Whether true or not, it comes off like Aslan has a conclusion, and he's going to get to that damn conclusion.

[This is of course the eternal challenge, squaring Jesus' peaceful messaging, e.g. "whatsoever you do unto the least of my brothers," or " and his more seditious/aggressive moments, e.g. "I have not come to bring peace but the sword; I will set brother against brother."]

My understanding is Reza sometimes misrepresents the depth of his graduate credentials. I don't know if that's accurate, because the book does feel remarkably researched with special attention to the surrounding Judean context. All the same, his perspective can often seem a mile wide and an inch deep.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by DaMU » Mon Apr 01, 2019 3:09 am

The audiobook replacing Jesus: Maybe He Was Really Angry? is Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.

Um, if Douglass's life was a third as interesting as this book suggests, he'd still be one of the most amazing guys I've ever read about.

One really small moment that almost made me cry was Douglass recounting how, at one point as a young man, he comes upon an Irishman and another white men on the road, and the two men looked upon him with pity/empathy. The Irishman told him that he needed to get up north, where black men are free. This moment ignites a fire that leads to Douglass devoting his whole self to learning how to escape slavery. That is some Cloud Atlas level of karma, where some random guy says the kind thing at the right moment to change a kid's life and in process alter the abolitionist movement in the USA. One guy being kind when the world needed him to be.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Takoma1 » Mon Apr 01, 2019 10:50 pm

DaMU wrote:The audiobook replacing Jesus: Maybe He Was Really Angry? is Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.

Um, if Douglass's life was a third as interesting as this book suggests, he'd still be one of the most amazing guys I've ever read about.

One really small moment that almost made me cry was Douglass recounting how, at one point as a young man, he comes upon an Irishman and another white men on the road, and the two men looked upon him with pity/empathy. The Irishman told him that he needed to get up north, where black men are free. This moment ignites a fire that leads to Douglass devoting his whole self to learning how to escape slavery. That is some Cloud Atlas level of karma, where some random guy says the kind thing at the right moment to change a kid's life and in process alter the abolitionist movement in the USA. One guy being kind when the world needed him to be.
It's an amazing book. Some of the stuff he talks about is just unforgettable.

Also: I think that some of you might enjoy a short novel I just read called News of the World. It's about an elderly man who goes from town to town reading the news to crowds. He's paid to return a young girl who was a Kiowa Indian captive to her family in Texas. Really well-written and great characters.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Takoma1 » Sat Apr 06, 2019 11:24 pm

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders and What If? by Randall Munroe.

Very different books. But both very interesting reads so far.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by DaMU » Sat Apr 06, 2019 11:32 pm

Finished Narrative, a quick but unforgettable read. One of the most interesting elements comes at the end, when Douglass expresses disagreement (!) with the Underground Railroad. He felt the Railroad's publicity went too far and inadvertently taught slave-owners how to combat escape. Fascinating! I'd never considered that someone would view the Railroad with negativity, since it would be a source of hope for slaves, but that POV makes some sense.

Also found it fascinating how he tried to reconcile religiosity with the slave-owners. He's forthright about them using Christianity to horrible ends but adds a postscript that he doesn't view all Christians as similarly corrupt or corruptible. Basically your classic "no True Christian would" argument, but forward-thinking of him.

Damn good stuff.
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The above-written is wholly and solely the perspective of DaMU and should not be taken as an effort to rile, malign, or diminish you, dummo.
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Slentert
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Slentert » Sun Oct 13, 2019 8:27 pm

I used to be an avid reader when I was a kid, but when I was 13 I lost interest in them, only read a few of them every year, and switched over to movies and comic books. But lately I felt an itch to start reading more, and the past two weeks I read about 6 books. (Movies had to take a back seat for the moment).

Savage Season (Joe R. Landsdale)
First of the Hap & Leonard books. Really quick and fun crime story, Landsdale way of writing is incredibly accessible.

The Age of Innocence (Edith Wharton)
I already loved the Scorsese adaptation, but this is even better. Probably one of the best books I've ever read. So witty, smart, and unexpectedly moving. Full of amazing phrases like "The taste of usual was like cinders in his mouth". Only 300 pages long, but I wanted it to be about three times longer.

The Maltese Falcon (Dashiel Hammet)
After Wharton's colourful and playful prose, I needed some time to adjust to Hammet's short sentences and almost brutal way of writing. It was worth it though, recommended if you like these kind of hard boiled noir.

Call Me By Your Name (André Aciman) Some really beautiful passages in this one but a bit too overly dramatic for my taste. If I'm being honest I like the movie better.

Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman) Kind of a predictable story but Gaiman's writing is so engaging, funny and charming. I'm not sure why he chose, for a novel filled with amazing characters, to focus on the least interesting one. Richard Mayhew is likable and all that, but also incredibly dull, stealing the spotlight from more colourful (female) characters.

The Quiet American (Graham Greene) Incredibly thoughtful and fascinating book, not exactly what I expected from it before going in, but great nontheless. Something that deserves to be revisited multiple times throughout one's life.

Not sure what to start with next, probably Cormac McCarthy's The Road.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Takoma1 » Sun Oct 13, 2019 8:41 pm

Slentert wrote:
Sun Oct 13, 2019 8:27 pm
Savage Season (Joe R. Landsdale)
First of the Hap & Leonard books. Really quick and fun crime story, Landsdale way of writing is incredibly accessible.
You absolutely must read The Thicket, Landsdale's best book in my opinion. It's a stand-alone novel set in the Wild West about a young man who is trying to rescue his kidnapped sister with the help of an oddball crew.

Landsdale is frequently cited (positively) for the way that he "writes the other"--ie women and characters with different race/ethnicity/disability/etc. He has a way of making all of his characters incredibly human, when even a description of them makes you think they'd come off as caricatures.

Did you know that the Hap and Leonard books have been made into a series? I thought it was okay. I felt like there were times (particularly with one character who was really racist and sexist) where the show didn't nail the tone correctly. I have yet to check out anything beyond the first season.

The Maltese Falcon (Dashiel Hammet)
After Wharton's colourful and playful prose, I needed some time to adjust to Hammet's short sentences and almost brutal way of writing. It was worth it though, recommended if you like these kind of hard boiled noir.
I like The Maltese Falcon, but must also recommend his book Red Harvest. It is awesome.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Slentert » Sun Oct 13, 2019 9:53 pm

Takoma1 wrote:
Sun Oct 13, 2019 8:41 pm
You absolutely must read The Thicket, Landsdale's best book in my opinion. It's a stand-alone novel set in the Wild West about a young man who is trying to rescue his kidnapped sister with the help of an oddball crew.
Sounds great, I will look out for it, thanks!
Takoma1 wrote:
Sun Oct 13, 2019 8:41 pm
Landsdale is frequently cited (positively) for the way that he "writes the other"--ie women and characters with different race/ethnicity/disability/etc. He has a way of making all of his characters incredibly human, when even a description of them makes you think they'd come off as caricatures.
Yeah, I especially notices that in the way he wrote Leonard.
Takoma1 wrote:
Sun Oct 13, 2019 8:41 pm
Did you know that the Hap and Leonard books have been made into a series? I thought it was okay. I felt like there were times (particularly with one character who was really racist and sexist) where the show didn't nail the tone correctly. I have yet to check out anything beyond the first season.
I've heard of the show, a friend of mine loves it, but haven't seen it yet. Will probably not watch it until I've finished all the books in the series.
Takoma1 wrote:
Sun Oct 13, 2019 8:41 pm
I like The Maltese Falcon, but must also recommend his book Red Harvest. It is awesome.
I was already planning on reading that one eventually, but am now especially curious. Thank you for recommending.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Takoma1 » Mon Oct 14, 2019 12:11 am

Slentert wrote:
Sun Oct 13, 2019 9:53 pm
I was already planning on reading that one eventually, but am now especially curious. Thank you for recommending.
It is an especial favorite of mine. I reread it every few years. And I love the cover of the edition I have:

http://heartwoodbooksandart.com/Red-Har ... 26089.html

It's a lurid, terse, compelling story.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Macrology » Sat Oct 19, 2019 11:25 pm

I'm glad someone brushed the cobwebs off of this thread. I've read several great books recently: Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier, Roberto Bolaño's 2666 (during my trip through Europe), and The Thousand and One Nights (after many years, off and on). I may touch on some of those later. But for now I want to discuss the book I just finished reading.

Season of Migration to the North | Tayeb Salih | 1966 | 139 pages

Another NYRB publication (as if they haven't impressed me enough already).

I have to start by saying that this is far and away the finest book I have ever read about colonialism and its contradictions. Nothing else really comes close. I have read other books that are passionate, intelligent, and illuminating, but none of them achieve the complexity, lucidity, and density of insight that Salih accomplishes here. It's honestly astounding, because the book is only 139 pages, and it's full of bawdy humor and sensual digressions and poetic musings, but within this mirage of lyrical prose Salih smuggles a keenly observed meditation on postcolonial politics. The novel feels like a dream that blends the nostalgic with the nightmarish and infuses Orientalist clichés with surreal power, yet it's always resolutely grounded in the sociopolitical realities of Sudan in the wake of its liberation and on the verge of postcolonial disillusionment. Salih crosses deftly between genres, moving from a Bildungsroman to a confessional to a detective story, enriching it all by evoking an age-old oral tradition, and he's an astute critic and interpreter of his antecedents: he inverts Conrad's Heart of Darkness by sending an African up the Thames; he has an Iago play Othello; he collapses The Thousand and One Nights into a fever dream of dead women and half-remembered stories. It's a book full of doppelgängers and illusions and misunderstandings, yet it pierces right to the heart of a changing world and its clashing traditions with astonishing clarity, and it does so without ever resorting to the reactionary hyperbole so common in postcolonial discourse.

Banned in Sudan for many years for its sexual content and its ambivalent views on Islam, voted by a panel of Arab critics as the best Arabic novel of the 20th century, I had never heard of it until I read Robert Irwin's excellent The Arabian Nights: A Companion, which traces the influence of The Thousand and One Nights in its last chapter. Its critical legacy is well established, but it simply doesn't have the mainstream recognition of books like Achebe's Things Fall Apart - maybe because it is too strange and overflows so with ambiguity and ideas.

An excerpt:
What was it that attracted Ann Hammond to me? Her father was an officer in the Royal Engineers, her mother from a rich family in Liverpool. She proved an easy prey. When I first met her she was less than twenty and was studying Oriental languages at Oxford. She was lively, with a gay intelligent face and eyes that sparkled with curiosity. When she saw me, she saw a dark twilight like a false dawn. Unlike me, she yearned for tropical climes, cruel suns, purple horizons. In her eyes I was a symbol of all her hankerings. I am South that yearns for the North and the ice. Ann Hammond spent her childhood at a convent school. Her aunt was the wife of a Member of Parliament. In my bed I transformed her into a harlot. My bedroom was a graveyard that looked on to a garden; its curtains were pink and had been chosen with care, the carpeting was of a warm greenness, the bed spacious, with swansdown cushions. There were small electric lights, red, blue, and violet, placed in certain corners; on the walls were large mirrors, so that when I slept with a woman it was as if I slept with a whole harem simultaneously. The room was heavy with the smell of burning sandalwood and incense, and in the bathroom were pungent Eastern perfumes, lotions, unguents, powders, and pills. My bedroom was like an operating theatre in a hospital. There is a still pool in the depth of every woman that I knew how to stir.
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n. 1. Long and tedious talk without much substance; superfluity of words.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by wichares » Sun Oct 20, 2019 2:42 am

Just finished Lev Grossman's very entertaining The Magicians. My misgivings out the way first: even accounting for unlikable character tropes, some instances still feel a bit much, like overgoosing on being a different kind of fantasy, and the casually leering description at the outset gets a tad uncomfortable in an extra-textual way. That asides, the way a normal YA fantasy arc gets undercut throughout by darker real-world problems and subversive psychological pinnings, especially on the effect of childhood's fantasy informing adults' outlook, is pretty nifty and well-executed. And even that surface arc is able to stand alone as engaging fantasy on its own too. 4/5
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Takoma1 » Sun Oct 20, 2019 2:58 am

wichares wrote:
Sun Oct 20, 2019 2:42 am
Just finished Lev Grossman's very entertaining The Magicians. My misgivings out the way first: even accounting for unlikable character tropes, some instances still feel a bit much, like overgoosing on being a different kind of fantasy, and the casually leering description at the outset gets a tad uncomfortable in an extra-textual way. That asides, the way a normal YA fantasy arc gets undercut throughout by darker real-world problems and subversive psychological pinnings, especially on the effect of childhood's fantasy informing adults' outlook, is pretty nifty and well-executed. And even that surface arc is able to stand alone as engaging fantasy on its own too. 4/5
I liked, but didn't love, The Magicians. I thought that there were times that it leaned a bit too heavily into "Harry Potter, but dark!" territory. I enjoyed reading it, but never felt inclined to pick up any of the other books in the series.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by wichares » Sun Oct 20, 2019 3:08 am

Takoma1 wrote:
Sun Oct 20, 2019 2:58 am
I liked, but didn't love, The Magicians. I thought that there were times that it leaned a bit too heavily into "Harry Potter, but dark!" territory. I enjoyed reading it, but never felt inclined to pick up any of the other books in the series.
I know about it through hearing good words about the TV series, and seeing that Grossman has 3 books and done while the TV series is 5 seasons and ongoing, with some recommendations from people who experience both, I figure I would tackle the books first. I think without the rush of covering a lot of grounds like in the first book (magicians world, whole school years, Fillory), the sequels have potential of breathing room to get better. Also, this is a boxset gift so I'm inclined to finish out the whole thing, haha.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by Takoma1 » Sun Oct 20, 2019 3:57 am

wichares wrote:
Sun Oct 20, 2019 3:08 am
I know about it through hearing good words about the TV series, and seeing that Grossman has 3 books and done while the TV series is 5 seasons and ongoing, with some recommendations from people who experience both, I figure I would tackle the books first. I think without the rush of covering a lot of grounds like in the first book (magicians world, whole school years, Fillory), the sequels have potential of breathing room to get better. Also, this is a boxset gift so I'm inclined to finish out the whole thing, haha.
I certainly think that the concept has potential, and I've also heard good things about the books and the show. Ultimately, something about the book just didn't grip me in any deep way. I see from Goodreads that I read it back in 2012 and gave it 4 stars, but I tend to agree with the book's overall rating of a 3.5.

But also looking back at some reviews reminded me that I found the main character hard to root for, and there were some issues with the way that sex (sometimes not really consensual) was used. This was also around the time I was reading the Name of the Wind books, so my tolerance for self-involved teenage boy protagonists who love to describe the breasts of every woman they encounter was running low.

Of course, this was the same year that I read Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Hero, The Violent Bear it Away, Nightwoods, The Locked Room, and Cane, so standards were pretty high.

If you read the other two books and think they're *better* than the first, I'd be interested to hear about that. Especially if the main character develops.
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Re: The Literature Thread

Post by DaMU » Sun Oct 20, 2019 4:42 am

Keep buying books, plz halp.

The Diary of Anne Frank
Not sure why I never read this before, but glad I did. Full disclosure, didn't "read," instead listened to the audiobook as narrated by an award-winning Selma Blair. Affecting as all hell. The incrementalism of the Nazi campaign, and the relative speed with which the family adapts to their life in the annex, breaks the heart, and so does the fact that Anne never stops being a young girl perplexed by life, family, love, sex, all throughout. Probably the hardest thing about listening to her story is hearing her balancing the two. One day, they clam up to avoid detection by gestapo forces. The next day, she's bonding with a young crush. Life goes on. The horror and mercy of humanity is how adaptable we are.

Next up is Lauren Beukes' The Shining Girls on audio, and Blake Crouch's Dark Matter and King's Doctor Sleep in print.
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The above-written is wholly and solely the perspective of DaMU and should not be taken as an effort to rile, malign, or diminish you, dummo.
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