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Author Topic: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?  (Read 24388 times)

Offline DrIdiot

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Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
« Reply #30 on: September 05, 2011, 11:24:11 PM »
The Help
Okay, so I finished "The Help", and now that it's a movie... well, I basically agree completely with what David Denby wrote in his article (in the New Yorker), so I'll just summarize: it's a pop novel, it was meant to be made into a movie, and there's no point reading a book for which there is already a movie.  So, just watch the movie.  Regarding the actual content, it reads like a pop novel much of the time, and you can't help but feel like writing such a book in 2010 is not so courageous as writing one in 1955 or whenever it was set.  It's 50 years late.  It's not controversial anymore, it's not pushing any boundaries.  It's a feel good novel, condemnation of racism, but in the end there's not much substance to it.
6/10

Lolita
I read the first half.  It's written very well, but it really got pretty boring.  So, I didn't finish the second half.  Sorry, Nobokov.

Guns, Germs, and Steel
An interesting concept, but I feel like the book could have been 10% the actual length without cutting any major content.
7/10

By Night In Chile
Another Bolano book, this one about a Chilean poet who is complicit in the Pinochet regime, who, though not a fascist, watches idly and retreats into the classics while fascism reigns.  One of the opening lines is great: "I've always contended that men are responsible for their actions, and that includes their words and silences, yes, silences, because silences rise to heaven too, and God hears them."  Or something like that, I paraphrased.  The book is about failed poets destined to obscurity and the role of the state in poetry and literature.  A great book, well-written (as Bolano always is).
9/10

I have more to say about The Savage Detectives.  The first part is called "Mexicans Lost In Mexico."  In fact, this is really a major theme of the novel, which is that Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima are lost, lost in the world, lost in Mexico.  Their wanderings are a manifestation of this, their search for a mother (in a figurative sense), and for literary and personal identity.  Do they ever find it?  It's not clear.  But what makes this book so great is how well it is written, how beautiful its prose.

20000 Leagues Under The Sea
Boring pseudo-science.  I can see nerds of the 19th century wanking to this but I don't see how anyone should give a shit today.  It delves into lengthy expositions about fictional machinery and technology.  But who cares?  If I wanted to read about technology, I'd, well, go study it or something.  Often I feel the part of the novel about travelling is superceded by the part about technology, and unfortunately the latter is just unbearably boring.
4/10

Currently reading:
Labyrinths by Borges.  I highly recommend the following short stories:
The Babylon Lottery: http://evans-experientialism.freewebspace.com/borges02.htm
What is this about?  One can say about life, because "Babylon is nothing but an infinite game of chance."
The Library of Babel: http://jubal.westnet.com/hyperdiscordia/library_of_babel.html
Reminiscent of Tatami Galaxy's infinite dormitory, here we have an infinite library, where the existence of all works negates the existence of any.  There are parellels to real life: the inquisitors are historians, the purifiers censors, searchers of the Man of the Book are scientists, the pilgrims are the religious.
Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote: http://www.coldbacon.com/writing/borges-quixote.html
This story is about an author, Pierre Menard, who sets out to reproduce a few chapters of Cervantes' Don Quixote without consulting the text.  It questions the notion that one must take the historical context of a novel into account, and that perhaps by disregarding this, by pretending it was written in another era, we would have entirely different interpretations, and perhaps more interesting ones.
Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius: http://www.coldbacon.com/writing/borges-tlon.html
Here is a story about the ultimate fantasy novel, a fictional world constructed in great detail, compiled in numerous large volumes.  It talks of the world sinking into this fantasy and its obsession with it.

Okay. I think that's all.

Offline DrIdiot

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Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
« Reply #31 on: October 12, 2011, 09:12:59 PM »
Read with me!  Barring Un-Go really wowing me with its first two episodes, and with the exception of Penguindrum with I have already started, I am going on an anime hiatus for a season.  The reason is simple: I'm just pretty tired of it.  It's starting to feel stale in general, and I think I need a break.  From what I've gathered, this season kind of sucks, so what better time to go on a break?  In the meantime, I will read.

We The Animals (Justin Torres)
A very short novel about childhood.  The prose is really engaging, and the ending was surprising.  8/10

The Insufferable Gaucho (Roberto Bolano)
An essential to any Bolano collection.  The short stories range from good to great (my personal favorites are The Police Rat and Two Catholic Tales) but what this collection is really about is the essay, "Literature + Illness = Illness," which basically sums up the Bolano manifesto and its origins.

What I am reading now:
1000 Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
A World On Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War (Amanda Foreman)
A Season In Hell (Arthur Rimbaud)

Also, in other news, I think I give up on translated Japanese literature.  The post-translation prose is simply not very engaging.  I may make an exception for 1Q84, which is set to come out this month or something, but maybe not.

Offline DrIdiot

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Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
« Reply #32 on: March 20, 2012, 06:02:19 PM »
Kokoro - Natsume Soseki
Great book.  I used to think that maybe Japanese literature was untranslatable into English, but I renounce that position (I think Murakami is just not very good).  The plot is simplistic and you'll probably guess the ending halfway through but a good book should never rely on plot anyway (because after reading enough everything is basically seems like variations on a few themes).  We have a little of the character Sensei, I think, in all of us.  Literature is a mirror in which we see ourselves.

Open City - Teju Cole
Another good book.  Similar in a way to Kokoro -- the protagonist learns something about himself in the end, though his reaction is different, which highlights a difference between East and West.

Just Kids - Patti Smith
Autobiography, very well written (this is important -- even people with interesting lives can have horrible autobiographies).  Just Wikipedia Patti Smith -- if her life sounds interesting to you then you'll like this.

A couple others, mostly more minor Bolano works, some Chekhov, more Borges.  The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje was good.  There are surely more I've forgotten since it's been awhile but whatever.

Oh, I gave up on 1Q84.
« Last Edit: March 20, 2012, 06:08:52 PM by DrIdiot »

Offline Kaikyaku

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Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
« Reply #33 on: September 23, 2012, 12:44:40 PM »
This thread could use a bump.

Last night I finished We Need to Talk About Kevin. It's one of those strange cases where I can very much recommend the book, but I can't really say I liked it. It would be rather hard to say that I like a novel built around a school shooting.

But Ms. Shriver's novel is well written (her prose is fantastic), well constructed (even with the climax of the novel known, she still reveals information bit by bit) and features beautifully flawed characters (Eva especially can come across as unsympathetic at times, but feels very real because of it). It's a challenging novel, and a fascinating one that asks a lot of big questions and doesn't provide easy answers.

Just prior to that I finished The Remains of the Day. What a British book! It was an interesting insight on society and one's place in it. My only complaint was that at the end, as the reader, I put the pieces together and made a realization, but the main character of the novel never does. He simply can't admit to himself what becomes obvious to the reader. I was hoping he would finally figure it out, but perhaps it was in his character not to. Regardless, a good read and an interesting character study.

Offline DrIdiot

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Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
« Reply #34 on: November 06, 2013, 10:57:23 PM »
It's been awhile.  Read too many books since... recently I've really liked Bed, stories by Tao Lin.  They're great.  Tao Lin is the only serious Asian American writer I know (admittedly -- I don't know much).  His characters are (pick a few): awkward, apathetic, on drugs, distant, disconnected in a very hikikomori way (I think reading this book made me want to rewatch NHK, but then I watched a few episodes and got bored -- meaning I think Tao Lin is better, I guess?), awkward, awkward, awkward, awkward....

By the way, if you want, you can friend me on Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/4158975-harrison
I post very short and lazy (and sometimes vacuous) reviews, but those the best ones! (for lazy readers)

Offline Pebble

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Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
« Reply #35 on: November 07, 2013, 03:39:14 AM »
Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb is ok in terms of construction; its story is deliberate, the world is fairly detailed, holds up to logical probing, and can get fairly intense at times. It's boring though, and hardly ever feels like it has plot-momentum. The real meat in this book is watching what appears to be an idyllic family slowly and viciously tear itself apart. There is a genuine sense of growth in it's characters, and while they are never really poorly written, they are hardly ever memorable, and more often than not are just dicks, which, compounded with the incredibly slow plot, make for a really really trying reading experience. I hate this book and will definitely read the next two.

The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski finishes the entire first story arc in 25 pages, which is just amazing for a fantasy novel, especially considering the amount of detail in the arc itself. This is one of the rare books where the pace never drags, hardly a word is wasted, and it still manages to cover a variety of themes, ranging from political neutrality to social irrelevance and ostracisation. It didn't end on the best of notes for me, but this book is definitely a memorable one. The MC is great, by the way.

I really need to start reading more stuff.

Offline Desdemondia

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Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
« Reply #36 on: December 04, 2013, 08:16:01 PM »
Guns, Germs, and Steel
An interesting concept, but I feel like the book could have been 10% the actual length without cutting any major content.
7/10

The prologue "Yali's Question" is well worth your time while the rest, though interesting, probably can safely be cut. Found sections to be a bit of a drag just to get through..
As for Diamond.. came to our area to lecture before and was hoping to hear him condense his arguments a bit with the time limitations..
and.. well. IMHO, a better writer than he is a public speaker and you can see for yourself as he appeared on TED Talks.

Kokoro - Natsume Soseki

Aoi Bungaku series. Kokoro would be episodes 7-8.

Offline Pebble

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Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
« Reply #37 on: December 20, 2013, 11:31:15 AM »
After the Quake - Haruki Murakami
I've read... I don't know how many Murakami books now, and they feel like they're missing the magic. In a lot of ways that's not a bad thing at all; many of his stories are about lost people coming to terms with their own irrelevance and unsatisfiable, shapeless desires. But in a lot of ways it's not. The first time I read an equivalent of "I understand how you feel, but if you put those feelings into words, they will become lies.", I was floored. Now I've read the same thing thrice in roughly the same format and with roughly the same buildup, and the edge is gone. 'Grey' is what I keep taking away from Murakami books now. They used to inspire me. Now they just depress.

1Q84 - Haruki Murakami
I actually read this a long time ago, but what the hell.
It's boring. Why is it boring? Because Tengo and Aomame are subpar protagonists for Murakami. Or maybe it's just that it is clear from the onset that this will conclude just like any other Murakami book. In any case, 800 pages is too much for a book that goes nowhere and doesn't have half the sense of directed directionlessness as The Wind-up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore. It has it's moments, but this is not one of Murakami's better books imo.

I've started Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time Series, and am at the beginning of The Eye of the World. For those of you who don't bother with fantasy, you just need to know that the series is 14(+1) books, over 10000 pages, and was written over 23 or so years. I estimate it should take... a lot of time to finish. So far it's cool. Nothing spectacular yet, but it's interesting how little shit women take in this world. Jordan doesn't change the sexual division of labour in his world, but rather shifts the balance such that women get more respect and hold more power for womanly jobs instead of in spite of them. Not sure how much that's plausible, but it's an interesting alternate vision of certain feminist ideals.

I'm also going to pick up The Brothers Karamazov, again, for the third time. Don't get me wrong, I love the first hundred pages of the book -no, I'm floored by them every time. But for some reason some terrible, stupid catastrophe keeps occurring (Relatives borrowed book for months on end, exams, etc.) that keeps me from finishing it.
Speaking of dead, depressed Russians, Nikolai Gogol's Dead Souls is... funny. Yes, funny. Kinda boring, and rather weird, but good weird. Good weird despite having boring, old-timey prose.

Offline thanosmat

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Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
« Reply #38 on: December 20, 2013, 11:40:05 AM »
After the Quake - Haruki Murakami
I've read... I don't know how many Murakami books now, and they feel like they're missing the magic. In a lot of ways that's not a bad thing at all; many of his stories are about lost people coming to terms with their own irrelevance and unsatisfiable, shapeless desires. But in a lot of ways it's not. The first time I read an equivalent of "I understand how you feel, but if you put those feelings into words, they will become lies.", I was floored. Now I've read the same thing thrice in roughly the same format and with roughly the same buildup, and the edge is gone. 'Grey' is what I keep taking away from Murakami books now. They used to inspire me. Now they just depress.

1Q84 - Haruki Murakami
I actually read this a long time ago, but what the hell.
It's boring. Why is it boring? Because Tengo and Aomame are subpar protagonists for Murakami. Or maybe it's just that it is clear from the onset that this will conclude just like any other Murakami book. In any case, 800 pages is too much for a book that goes nowhere and doesn't have half the sense of directed directionlessness as The Wind-up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore. It has it's moments, but this is not one of Murakami's better books imo.

I've started Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time Series, and am at the beginning of The Eye of the World. For those of you who don't bother with fantasy, you just need to know that the series is 14(+1) books, over 10000 pages, and was written over 23 or so years. I estimate it should take... a lot of time to finish. So far it's cool. Nothing spectacular yet, but it's interesting how little shit women take in this world. Jordan doesn't change the sexual division of labour in his world, but rather shifts the balance such that women get more respect and hold more power for womanly jobs instead of in spite of them. Not sure how much that's plausible, but it's an interesting alternate vision of certain feminist ideals.

I'm also going to pick up The Brothers Karamazov, again, for the third time. Don't get me wrong, I love the first hundred pages of the book -no, I'm floored by them every time. But for some reason some terrible, stupid catastrophe keeps occurring (Relatives borrowed book for months on end, exams, etc.) that keeps me from finishing it.
Speaking of dead, depressed Russians, Nikolai Gogol's Dead Souls is... funny. Yes, funny. Kinda boring, and rather weird, but good weird. Good weird despite having boring, old-timey prose.

The Brother Karamazov don't bother reading the Constance Garner translation. Is shit. The Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation is the best, and considered the most accepted translation of Dostoevsky prose.

Offline Pebble

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Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
« Reply #39 on: December 20, 2013, 11:48:46 AM »
The Brother Karamazov don't bother reading the Constance Garner translation. Is shit. The Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation is the best, and considered the most accepted translation of Dostoevsky prose.

Whaa...

*Checks his edition*

F@#&!!!!!!!

Offline thanosmat

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Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
« Reply #40 on: December 20, 2013, 11:58:44 AM »
The Brother Karamazov don't bother reading the Constance Garner translation. Is shit. The Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation is the best, and considered the most accepted translation of Dostoevsky prose.

Whaa...

*Checks his edition*

F@#&!!!!!!!

Garner translation was for many years the only translation to english for Russian Literature (Tolstoy and Dostoevsky). Her translations is very popular, because is cheap and sold in bulk in bookstores. But if you read the reviews, realizes she changed whole passages, omit paragraphs, and completely changed the style of prose. Characters who speak simply, speak in cult and archaic jargon. Nabokov hated her for it huauhauuha.

Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky were the first to make a faithful translation of Russian prose. They received universal acclaim for their translations.

Offline Kylaran

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Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
« Reply #41 on: December 22, 2013, 10:49:48 AM »
The Brother Karamazov don't bother reading the Constance Garner translation. Is shit. The Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation is the best, and considered the most accepted translation of Dostoevsky prose.

Whaa...

*Checks his edition*

F@#&!!!!!!!

Garner translation was for many years the only translation to english for Russian Literature (Tolstoy and Dostoevsky). Her translations is very popular, because is cheap and sold in bulk in bookstores. But if you read the reviews, realizes she changed whole passages, omit paragraphs, and completely changed the style of prose. Characters who speak simply, speak in cult and archaic jargon. Nabokov hated her for it huauhauuha.

Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky were the first to make a faithful translation of Russian prose. They received universal acclaim for their translations.

If I ever got to reading this fine piece of literature, good to know which translation to go to. Thanks!

One book I recently read is Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal. It's received quite a bit of attention previously. The main topic is the idea that game design elements can change the way we approach life in general (gamification) to motivate us to do things and/or solve problems. It attempts to identify a fundamental temptation for human beings to be motivated by arbitrary rules as a means for generating interest or fun and explain how an understanding of this aspect of human nature can change our ability to succeed in life or solve very serious problems.

Offline DrIdiot

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Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
« Reply #42 on: January 19, 2014, 07:58:12 PM »
Yeah, I once bought a translation of Don Quixote that some critic described as "worse than worthless," probably because of its ubiquity in the bargain piles of bookstores...

I read an autobiography, Straight Life: The Life of Art Pepper.  Art Pepper is a jazz alto saxophonist, but you don't need to know or care about jazz to enjoy his autobiography, because through most of it he's not playing jazz but doing heroin, doing robberies, and doing time.  Later he checks himself into the Synanon organization, and gives a pretty good look at some of those wacky borderline "experimental" (and I don't mean drugs -- I mean like, social experimentation or something) cults that popped up in the 60s.  You have to kind of read between the lines, read what he is feeling less than what he is saying, because while he's emotionally honest he makes a lot of pretty bad excuses for himself.

I forget what else, maybe Coetzee's The Life of Jesus, which was interesting but not his best work.  The characters are just contradictory enough to be believable, but one can't really completely shake the feeling that there's a message one is trying to be fed.

I read a pair of books by Sjon, From the Mouth of the Whale and The Blue Fox.  Sjon is fun to read, even in translation his style shines through, his reimagining of old tales like folk singers reimagine old tunes, and his rejection of the realist trends.  I am partial to realist fiction, which to me makes it even more notable that I can enjoy something like Sjon's fiction.  He revives an antiquated medieval logic so fluidly that you find yourself almost buying into it, he depicts a harsh and violent Icelandic life, well researched, and the musings of his narrator-protagonist echo his own while worked seamlessly into the narrative.

Offline Pebble

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Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
« Reply #43 on: May 17, 2014, 12:57:40 PM »
Yeah, I once bought a translation of Don Quixote that some critic described as "worse than worthless," probably because of its ubiquity in the bargain piles of bookstores...
Ach. Balls.
>*checks copy*
Does this mean I need to chuck out my P.A.Motteux translation? Because I swear, if I do...
>*checks wikipedia; "John Ormsby, in his Introduction to his own 1885 translation of the novel, called Motteux's version "worse than worthless.""*
Fate is most cruel.

There is this really odd feeling you get in fantasy epics like Robert Jordan's The Great Hunt that makes you think that, no matter how pedestrian the prose is, how dull or irritating some characters are, and how generally plodding the whole affair feels, the piece as a whole is just incredibly complete. Large, epic, weighty, solid, insert similar adjectives here; the general approach taken to pacing here just makes it feel like very little has been cut out to fit the narrative, as if the events are being described as is. It hasn't really, but it feels that way, which is just strange.
Flashes of brilliance, or generally evocative moments, are few and far between here. In a way that keeps them from being cheapened, but it is something to note. What isn't few and far between, however, is the attention to detail in the backdrop, which is remarkable, and very understated. All examples require too much context to explain here, though.

The Death of Ivan Illyich is depressing. No surprises here. I think that its a book that's very much driven more by emotion than rationalizations and worded reasonings, at least compared to Dostoevsky's accounts of despair.
« Last Edit: May 17, 2014, 01:07:38 PM by Pebble »

Offline thanosmat

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Re: What books have you been reading (or have read recently)?
« Reply #44 on: May 17, 2014, 01:28:51 PM »
About Don Quixote translations. I live in Brazil, and the original is written in old spanish, therefore translations to portuguese are very good, due to similarity between the two languages.

I'm reading a lot of classic female writers. Bröntes (including Anne, in my opinion underrated in comparison to her sisters), Jane Austen, George Eliot, Edith Wharton, Virginia Woolf (Her essays are amazing). Many I had already read, but now I'm reading a lot more careful, like a writer perhaps. I'm pay attention to structure, voice, narration and etc. It is a good exercise.
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