Who's reading what?

Was Albert Camus a better goalkeeper than George Orwell? Have your say here.
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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by k-j » Wed Oct 21, 2015 7:50 pm

Kangaroo - Yuv Aleshovsky, tr. Glenny

Moderately trippy Russian satire about a chap framed by the police for the (made up crime of the) rape and murder of a kangaroo in the zoo. There's a farcical show trial with a grotesquely elaborate propaganda film as the central evidence, hallucinatory interactions with Hitler and Stalin, lashings of swearing and squalor and absurd Russian humor. I thought of Gogol, Bulgakov, Kafka (although it's not believable like Kafka), and modern Russian/Eastern Bloc authors I've read like Viktor Pelevin and Yuri Buida, Gombrowicz and Konwicki. I found it a little too exuberant and madcap at times, but I don't fault it for that since that's clearly the point.

The Golden - Lucius Shepard

I read some of Shepard's short stories last year and fell quite hard for them, so even though the only novel of his my library had was this one about vampires, I decided to give it a go. It's more or less a murder mystery set in Castle Dracula or a close analogue of that fort. You have these different clans of vamps with different views on the future of vampirism, and lots of political scheming. Not badly written, but quite generic in its plot and not my thing. I liked the end, though, which (in contrast to Shepard's short stories) was decisive, logical, unforeseen and seemed to me to reorient the novel quite interestingly.

The Mayor of Casterbridge - Hardy

I quite like reading Hardy but his novels are all pretty similar in their explorations of guilt, thwarted ambition, frustrated desire and tall poppies cut down. There's not a lot of joking around. My favourite scene in this one was the skimmington ride, the public shaming of Henchard and Lucetta, which was a custom I had never heard of before.
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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by k-j » Thu Oct 22, 2015 9:44 pm

The Treasure of Sainte Foy - MacDonald Harris

The incomparable Harris demonstrates again his ability to write genre novels which don't so much transcend their genre as give it a good buffing and insinuate it into the hallowed halls of High Art while the doorkeepers aren't looking (not sure I've expressed myself very well there). This is a thriller, more or less, about an antiquities heist on a village church deep in the rural, Occitan, and slightly creepy south of France. Half the book is the first-person narrative of the failed American academic who scouts out the treasure and gets romantically embroiled with its enigmatic curator. For the other half we're in the company of his accomplices, Occitan separatists/communist agitators who are ruthless but frequently comical. They hijack a helicopter and it doesn't end well. Like the rest of Harris's novels, this features his perfectly-tuned, unpretentious prose, his effortless incorporation of research, his darting imagination, his genial, knowing worldliness, etc. etc., and a beautifully understated magic-realism that leaves a little coal of awe inside you after you turn the last page.

The Moor's Last Sigh - Salman Rushdie

Rushdie's brand of magic realism, of course, is the opposite of understated. But I enjoyed this rambling picaresque with its hurtling, helter-skelter prose. I loved the liberal indulgence in Indian English (reminded me a lot of G.V. Desani's All About H. Hatterr) and the whole ferocious, love-hate portrayal of India and its history, ending in a special lament for Bombay and a rousing philippic against religious nationalism. Really it's a family saga novel, or a superb parody of one, and while every generation of the de Gama-Zogoiby clan provides its own great characters and stories, it seemed to me that most of Rushdie's art and labor was given to the earlier ones. In fact the last part of the book was rather weak and disappointing.

Going Native - Stephen Wright

A super beginning to this novel, as a regular suburban guy wanders away from a soul-destroying dinner party, deserting his wife and home, destination unknown. Then we encounter (presumably) him in the guise of various radically different strangers/wanderers as we take a long strange American (road?) trip. The prose is full-on technicolour throughout, prickling and sparkling and dense up close like a chameleon's hide. But the vignettes are not all of an equal high standard, the shared themes are tenuous (which is OK), and I felt that the whole never quite lived up to the promise of the first part. But an engrossing book.

This brings me to the end of June and only 29 books in arrears.
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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by k-j » Tue Oct 27, 2015 9:21 pm

Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology - Johnjoe McFadden and Jim Al-Khalili

This is a good functional summary of the emerging field of quantum biology. It's hard not to see the fascination of quantum weirdness, but a lot of people are probably turned off by the remoteness of it from our classical physical world. This book smashes the two together with CERN-like force. We are quantum, it says. Everything is quantum. At the same time, this is the weakness of "Life on the Edge". By invoking quantum effects to explain so many and varied biological mysteries, the authors seem to protest too much. Sometimes (magnetoreception in migratory birds) there is very strong experimental evidence to support their case, and other times (origin of life) they freely admit that there isn't (yet). I don't begrudge them their enthusiasm - I suppose it's inevitable in such an emergent field - but I was left with the feeling that Johnjoe McFadden and Jim Al-Khalili would happily blame everything from earthquakes to the Easter Bunny on Quantum Biology, given half the chance. Recommended for its sheer novelty.
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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by Ros » Tue Oct 27, 2015 9:35 pm

k-j wrote:Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology - Johnjoe McFadden and Jim Al-Khalili

This is a good functional summary of the emerging field of quantum biology. It's hard not to see the fascination of quantum weirdness, but a lot of people are probably turned off by the remoteness of it from our classical physical world. This book smashes the two together with CERN-like force. We are quantum, it says. Everything is quantum. At the same time, this is the weakness of "Life on the Edge". By invoking quantum effects to explain so many and varied biological mysteries, the authors seem to protest too much. Sometimes (magnetoreception in migratory birds) there is very strong experimental evidence to support their case, and other times (origin of life) they freely admit that there isn't (yet). I don't begrudge them their enthusiasm - I suppose it's inevitable in such an emergent field - but I was left with the feeling that Johnjoe McFadden and Jim Al-Khalili would happily blame everything from earthquakes to the Easter Bunny on Quantum Biology, given half the chance. Recommended for its sheer novelty.
Does it insist on giving you a potted history of quantum theory first? I'm getting fed up of popular science books that insist on starting decades ago and taking a run up to the new stuff.


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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by k-j » Tue Oct 27, 2015 10:09 pm

Ros wrote:Does it insist on giving you a potted history of quantum theory first? I'm getting fed up of popular science books that insist on starting decades ago and taking a run up to the new stuff.
Yes it does, but as I've never read a proper book about quantum theory, my understanding deriving instead from popsci moultings on the net and hazy references in my other reading, that was fine by me. But yes, there is an info dump in the first few chapters. It's not a terribly well-written book - the attempts to colourise each chapter by inserting some tangential biographical details of the boffins involved seem desperate and are not well-integrated into the discussion of the science - but the various applications of QT to deep biological processes provide plenty of grist for the brain to grind away at.
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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by k-j » Wed Oct 28, 2015 9:09 pm

Anna Karenina - Tolstoy

Plot was gripping, characters almost all masterfully-drawn. The only aspect I wasn't enamoured with was the character of Levin, the author's avatar. He is rather a bore and the last section, after AK has gone her way and we are left with Levin, is worthy and dull. The brilliant set pieces, mostly social gatherings, are a joy to read, full of wit and irony.

There is so much to admire; it's abundantly clear how influential and ahead of its time this novel is. The characters are deep, conflicted, morally ambiguous, evolving: fully credible. The narrative is compulsively readable and subtly daring with its glimpses of interior lives. There is a startling passage where for a couple of pages, we experience things from the perspective of a hunting dog, and unlike almost all similar attempts in later literature, it is convincing (and fun - it's clear from all his fiction that Tolstoy loved dogs). Even the short chapters, and the way Tolstoy handles time, feel modern.

Probably one I'll read again, which puts it in pretty select company.
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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by David » Thu Oct 29, 2015 6:16 pm

k-j wrote:Anna Karenina - Tolstoy
You've got me thinking I should read it again now.

What about the short stories? Some terrific stuff in there.

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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by Ros » Thu Oct 29, 2015 7:56 pm

Never read it. Makes me think I should.
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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by k-j » Thu Oct 29, 2015 8:29 pm

David wrote:What about the short stories? Some terrific stuff in there.
I've only read The Kreutzer Sonata and The Death of Ivan Ilyich. The latter I remember thinking a masterpiece; the former was well-written but I couldn't stomach the moralising. Tolstoy after all was a proper genius - more than a little crazy.
Ros wrote:...
I think it will surprise you. It was certainly more than the episodic tragic romance/morality tale I had been expecting.

Am watching the 10-part 1977 BBC TV adaptation; hit a lacuna after episode 6 but will finish that soon. Not the flashiest production, but some cracking performances and commendably faithful to the book.
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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by k-j » Sun Nov 22, 2015 2:18 am

Pig and Pepper - David Footman

Funny, deft coming of age novel about an increasingly less-clueless young British diplomat in a fictional state somewhere near Romania, Moldova or Ukraine. One of those books it's impossible to hate or even really dislike.

North American Lake Monsters - Nathan Ballingrud

A set of short stories about Americans, generally poor, whose problems take supernatural shape. A father fresh out of chokey tries and fails to rebuild his relationship with his wife and daughter while a leviathan carcass rots on the nearby lakeshore. Etc. They are all well-written, and some very well indeed, but I found them a bit lacking in variety. I found myself wanting a story where bad, inexplicable things happen to boring, normal people for no reason at all. Writing isn't always about making connections, drawing links.

To Have and Have Not - Hemingway

I was on holiday, and neglected to bring a book to the beach. I begged my brother for the loan of his e-reader, and he agreed and recommended this. That evening he told me he had been thinking of another novel and hadn't meant to recommend this at all. Even so, I was almost half way through, so I got it from the library on arriving home and finished it. Really a very crappy novel. The more I read of Hemingway, the less I like him - in fact, I think I am now in the position of actively disliking him. This one doesn't say much at all, it's just your standard hard-workin' law-breakin' good guy tryin' to support the ol' lady (but not actually giving a shit about her) and be (what he conceives to be) a man in a horrible, two-faced world. Pathetic really.

The Road to Wigan Pier - Orwell

Quite disappointed in this too, but it's still a text worth reading. I think it lacks the immediacy of "Down and Out in Paris and London" and the taut potency of his essays. I was really hoping for a more thorough investigation of the lives of the miners, but this is only the first half of the book and even then, it is very repetitive and underwritten. Orwell seems to have wanted the facts to speak for themselves but abject poverty, unfortunately, is quite boring by itself (it's of course harder to make sense of the countless monetary sums after decimalisation and 70 years of inflation). The second half is a well-reasoned argument for Orwell's idea of socialism but I didn't get anything from its 80 pages that I hadn't previously got more quickly and convincingly from his shorter essays.

Wilt - Tom Sharpe

I read several Sharpe novels when I was about 14 and thought they were the greatest thing. Coming back to Wilt, I am still impressed by the potency of the vitriol towards the various social frauds and graspers. Wilt is a highly sympathetic hero, a decent bloke surrounded by morons and bastards. On the other hand, the farce largely fell flat for me this time around.

When I Was Otherwise - Stephen Benatar

Found this in a second hand store and bought it because I'd loved his NYRB-published Wish Her Safe at Home. WHSaH is a masterpiece, this is just a very good novel. Benatar's an expert at (there's probably a Greek term for this) making ironic remarks via the thoughts or speech of his characters. He's not a writer who is easy on his characters - he turns them inside out - but he's very realistic indeed and there are no real heroes or villains. He's also great at period detail and scene-setting, and his dialogue is exquisite. WHSaH has a persistent and brilliant undercurrent of psychosis, which occasionally takes over the narrative, and the same exists here but only towards the end, where it is introduced and deployed very effectively. But this novel lacks the drive and focus of WHSaH; I believe it could have used a good editor. I suppose my only other criticism would be that while the female characters are superb, the men seem underdone, lacking a spark. I don't think Benatar can really write men.

The Martian - Andy Weir

Execrable. I reviewed it on librarything.

Recently watched the movie which is better, but still devoid of real drama as we all know how it will end. It's a well-made film, but the most serious failings of the book remain. It doesn't help that I can't stand Matt Damon. Something about the shape of him.
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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by k-j » Mon Nov 23, 2015 11:21 am

And Still the Earth - Ignácio de Loyola Brandão tr. Helen Watson

This is my second novel by Brandão, after Zero and although stylistically different (more conventional), it is just as convincing in its dystopic vision. Like Zero, And Still the Earth is inspired by the Brazilian dictatorship of the 1980's, but rather than a sideways-skewed surreal version, this is a projection into a near-future Brazil run by an insuperable military bureaucracy (in some ways like Terry Gilliam's Brazil). Ecocide is rampant as large swathes of the country have been sold off to foreign states and corporations, forcing the local population into ever-shrinking zones of confinement. The climate has been wrecked beyond repair and the country is dying of thirst (uncanny echoes of the situation in 2014 and 2015). It's a long novel and I suppose quite a bleak one, but there is lots of humour, only some of it black, and frequent shafts of sunlight pierce the gloom in the form of everyday incidents and moments of humanity. It's also a sad story of a decayed relationship - the early days of the 50-something hero's marriage are beautifully related, as is its gradual, ungraspable decline along with the country.

Travels in Brazil - Henry Koster

Henry Koster was a friend of Robert Southey, and after going to Brazil in an attempt to improve his health, spent much of his adult life traveling there (specifically the area around Recife) and trying to make a go of a sugar plantation. He died young, but managed to produce the first eyewitness account of Brazil in English with the assistance of Southey's extensive library. Koster is quite plain-spoken and documents the social structure, government, economy and daily life of the country even-handedly. Admirably, he is as interested in the lives of the poor and the slaves as in the land-owning and merchant classes. His description of the intricate racial hierarchy, with the various mixes of white, black and Indian arranged in a clearly-defined pyramid with slaves at the bottom, was fascinating. Worth reading.
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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by violajsilver » Mon May 30, 2016 5:37 am

currently I thought to read an Indian novel. I took the book life is what you made and it is quiet good.

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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by k-j » Mon Sep 19, 2016 4:45 am

I'm having a poor year, reading-wise, and will probably end up with fifty or so books, a book a week, half what I managed in the last two years. I've also had some severe reading disappointments this year (which may partially account for the slowness).

The best new (to me) books I've read this year have been Ballard's Empire of the Sun and The Other by Thomas Tryon (great name). I've also reread Ulysses (twice), the Iliad tr. Fagles and Smollett's tr. of Gil Blas to make up for all the disappointments.
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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by Charles » Thu Jan 25, 2018 11:48 pm

No-one has posted in this thread for a while!

I seem to be mostly a non-fiction reader at the moment. Mostly theology/philosophy.

Currently working through Karl Barth - The Epistle to the Romans. Fascinating and arresting work. As one commentator (I forget who) puts it, "he really clears away the furniture" - and from both liberal and conservative strands of Christianity. Like G.K.Chesterton he delights in the "divine paradox" of course he's altogether darker than Chesterton and you can really see the influence of Kierkegaard in his talk of facing up to the "terrifying contradiction of [our] existence".

Also very intrigued by the Luther quotes scattered throughout, one of those figures in history that everyone has heard of and recognises is influential but few have actually read his stuff. It's in translation of course (Barth and Luther), but just the bits Barth picks out are very powerful and make me want to go and read some of his writings too.

Recently Read:

Religion in Human Evolution - From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age, by Robert M. Bellah. A voluminous tome and I have to confess it didn't all sink in, but a wonderful antidote to the Selfish Gene, which looks populist and simplistic in comparison to the painstaking research and discussion that clearly went into Bellah's work.

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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by churinga » Sun Apr 29, 2018 4:38 am

Having read a few comments i notice most reading is centered on 'the literary canon'. I reread 'Middlemarch' a few years ago, after studying it at Uni about 50 years ago. It is one of the best. I would not reread Dickens, or Conrad, although I did reread Austen and enjoyed it. My all time fav book is 'Tender Is The Night' and anything by the Russians, from Gorky through to Solzhenitsyn. I also like crime novels and don't regard them as a less valuable genre. I like Chandler, always worth a reread and also Elmore Leonard, his early novels like Unknown Man No. 83 are excellent, I regard him as one fo the few writers to really nail modern dialogue, although his later novels are thin and disappointing. The last crime novel I read was 'Girl On A Train', not bad as popular fiction. I also like Martin Amis, he is very poetic, I probably like his novels more for that than anything else.

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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by k-j » Wed May 02, 2018 6:46 pm

Hi Churinga, nice of you to add to this thread.
churinga wrote: I reread 'Middlemarch' a few years ago, after studying it at Uni about 50 years ago. It is one of the best.
I agree, I've read all of Eliot's novels now except for 'Adam Bede', and 'Middlemarch' is by far the best and the only really great one. I'll have to reread it myself one day.
I would not reread Dickens
doubt I will either
or Conrad
there we differ
although I did reread Austen and enjoyed it
which one(s)? I've only read P&P which was good but didn't exactly set my world on fire.
My all time fav book is 'Tender Is The Night'
I'm sure I read it once but can't remember anything about it! So maybe I never did.
and anything by the Russians, from Gorky through to Solzhenitsyn
a couple of lesser known C19 Russian novels you might not have read are 'The Petty Demon' by Fyodor Sologub and 'One Thousand Souls' by Alexei Pisemsky.
I also like crime novels and don't regard them as a less valuable genre. I like Chandler, always worth a reread and also Elmore Leonard, his early novels like Unknown Man No. 83 are excellent, I regard him as one fo the few writers to really nail modern dialogue
I really have to read some Chandler and Leonard
The last crime novel I read was 'Girl On A Train', not bad as popular fiction
my wife said it was very overrated.
I also like Martin Amis, he is very poetic, I probably like his novels more for that than anything else.
I've not read any of his novels, just some short stories and a lot of his non-fiction. He does write very good prose. Which M. Amis novel is best?
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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by churinga » Wed May 02, 2018 10:42 pm

k-j

'Girl on a Train' is implausible in parts and also plays on popular feminist notions but is still good popular crime fiction, especailly as a first novel.

I've read a few Amis novels ( also a few of his father's).' London Fields' rang a bell when I looked up his output. His books are a good read but not memorable as they are satirical and don't really grab me emotionally.., but still, great poetics.

A good Australian author is Helen Garner, she became popular with her first novel 'Monkey Grip' but switched to writing novels about real events. I think she's great.

I don't read novels anymore, poor eyesight makes it too much of a chore so your russian recommendations are wasted on me.

all the best

Ross

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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by barrett » Thu Jun 20, 2019 9:46 am

It's a shame this thread doesn't get the attention it deserves, I like to see what's on other people's bookshelves, so here are some recent reads of mine.

Fiction

Arthur Morrison - Cunning Murrell (pub. 1900)
I really enjoy Morrison's work and it's unfortunate that he isn't as well known as he perhaps should be. Most famous, of course, for his social commentary novels and short stories set in the the 19th century East End, Tales of Mean Streets, A Child of The Jago and To London Town. He travels to the Essex coast with this one to give a fictionalised account of the real-life wizard/cunning man, Cunning Murrell. It's a rollicking yarn about mid-19th century witchcraft, superstition and smuggling. One of the most purely enjoyable novels I've read in a while.

Georg Heym - The Thief and Other Stories (pub. 1913)
This is a collection of early Expressionist stories, I suppose we'd term them horror stories today, from a fascinating writer who died in in his early 20s while trying to rescue his friend who had fallen through a frozen lake. I've read a lot of unusual short stories but these go somewhere else altogether! I think I'll have to have a second read before I can get to grips with them.

Poetry

I haven't read a great deal of poetry over the last couple of years so I've been dusting off some old favourites, Robin Robertson, John Clare, Helen MacDonald, Vasko Popa and various anthologies. I have recently purchased a couple though:

Helen Ivory - The Anatomical Venus (Bloodaxe 2019) & Maps of The Abandoned City (SurVision 2019)
I always enjoy Helen Ivory's work, imagine a Jan Svankmejer animation being shown in a dank museum of antiquities while a Victorian freak show/circus is being set up outside... imagine that as poetry and you'll come close.

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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by David » Sat Jun 22, 2019 9:05 am

I don't know either Morrison or Heym (although I might check on Heym - his name sounds vaguely familiar from somewhere). I only know Robertson and Clare of your poetry names - apart from Helen Ivory, of course, although I've not read any of her collections. You certainly describe it temptingly.

And I'm just wondering whether Vasko Popa pops up in The Rattle Bag. I'll have a look.

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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by k-j » Sun Jun 23, 2019 1:31 am

barrett wrote:
Thu Jun 20, 2019 9:46 am
Georg Heym - The Thief and Other Stories (pub. 1913)
I've not read Heym's prose, although I've been meaning to for years. I do love his poetry though. I have a bilingual edition which I keep returning to. Won't be attempting the stories in German though!

Staying on matters Teutonic I'm about 2/3 through The Magic Mountain and absolutely loving it. Even better I've developed a cold so I'm really in the spirit of things.

Also working my way through the English Renaissance Poetry anthology, John Williams ed., reprinted by NYRB. George Gascoigne the highlight so far.
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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by barrett » Sun Jun 23, 2019 8:36 am

David wrote:
Sat Jun 22, 2019 9:05 am
I don't know either Morrison or Heym (although I might check on Heym - his name sounds vaguely familiar from somewhere). I only know Robertson and Clare of your poetry names - apart from Helen Ivory, of course, although I've not read any of her collections. You certainly describe it temptingly.

And I'm just wondering whether Vasko Popa pops up in The Rattle Bag. I'll have a look.
Helen MacDonald went onto greater fame with her memoir 'H is for Hawk'. As far as I know, she only published one collection, Shaler's Fish.

I just had a look and Vasko Popa is in The Rattlebag. I've got a 'best of' collection translated by Charles Simic, which is great.
k-j wrote:
Sun Jun 23, 2019 1:31 am
Staying on matters Teutonic I'm about 2/3 through The Magic Mountain and absolutely loving it. Even better I've developed a cold so I'm really in the spirit of things.
Likewise, one I've been meaning to read for years. Must get round to it soon, cheers for the reminder.

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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by David » Sun Jun 23, 2019 6:49 pm

k-j wrote:
Sun Jun 23, 2019 1:31 am
I've not read Heym's prose, although I've been meaning to for years. I do love his poetry though. I have a bilingual edition which I keep returning to. Won't be attempting the stories in German though!
That's where I know him from! My Penguin Book of German Verse. "Georg Heym, a Silesian; his early death in a skating accident saved him from the fulfilment of his startling prophecies of the violent break-up of the world he was born into." Does that sound right?

He has two poems in there. I've half-read one. I'll try to finish them later. (NB Dual language for me too.)
k-j wrote:
Sun Jun 23, 2019 1:31 am
Staying on matters Teutonic I'm about 2/3 through The Magic Mountain and absolutely loving it. Even better I've developed a cold so I'm really in the spirit of things.
I love your equating developing a cold to getting into the right spitir for MM. It's TB, is it? I agree, it's a great book.
k-j wrote:
Sun Jun 23, 2019 1:31 am
Also working my way through the English Renaissance Poetry anthology, John Williams ed., reprinted by NYRB. George Gascoigne the highlight so far.
I think there's one or two by Geoorge in the Penguin Book of English Verse. He's a great fan of fourteeners, isn't he? In the 8 and 6 sense.

Have you read Lives of the Poets by Michael Schmidt? I can't follow his critical remarks sometimes, but he's very good on the lives.

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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by k-j » Mon Jun 24, 2019 8:44 pm

Yes, TB. I remember when I was younger reading 19th century novels where everyone was ailing with "consumption" or just generally wasting away, and not realising it was what we call TB. Life was ghastly back then - I mean the 19th century, not when I was younger. Mann chooses not to name the disease anywhere in his book; instead people are just "ill" (although the symptoms and cultural context leave no doubt). I suppose that contributes to the atmosphere of resigned acceptance that pervades the novel.

I've not read that Schmidt book but I do have a copy of Johnson's Lives of the Poets which enjoy dipping into.
fine words butter no parsnips

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riverrun
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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by riverrun » Fri Jul 26, 2019 5:31 am

Peter Schlemihl's Miraculous Story by Adelbert von Chamisso
A story about a man who sold his shadow to the devil for endless fortune. The book has many plot twists and one appealing philosophical end. Most people say it's a children's book. It's not. Most children's books have a strong moral message as a foundation. This one has too but the intricate philosophical questions about shades and shadow within the society lead us to break the dramatis personae. We don't know at end who is bad and who is good -- if the devil it's actually a devil -- or if Peter is a victim or an odd messiah.

Niels Lhyne by Jens Peter Jacobsen
The danish author built an aristocratic character who knew from the start he wouldn't become what he wanted: an artist. Also all his losses (feelings and relationships) frame the young Niels upon a dark context, but Jacobsen fluid writing makes us feel the opposite, like a lullaby that embrace us and it never appear thus so explicit. The subject doesn't seem to be new but it's how Jacobsen built Niels Lhyne is what makes him important. Besides the evident tragedy there is this perseverance, on facing the "harsh death" head on, without believe in anything. In other words, Niels is a falling hero without any possibility of reconciliation with himself. And each step of the story leads him to the end which couldn't be any other.

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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by bjondon » Sun Aug 25, 2019 2:51 pm

Finnegan's Wake - Joyce
Not unrelated to our previous poster (just steal a copy from a friend [buying one would be way too intimidating] and open the first page). Ok so I'm not actually 'reading' it . . . just opening it at random like a Bible and never making the mistake of trying to read more than one page at a sitting. And yes, it's good. Nice one Jimmy.

On the Road - Kerouac
~ 'a strange, solitary, Catholic mystic' is the uncredited description of K on the back of my penguin. That isn't how he is popularly perceived, but it is an oddly inspiring book. My sister practically spits when she mentions it. Kerouac himself later made clear his hatred of the 'Beats' communistic aspirations and poured scorn on what he saw as the Hippies' love-and-peace soft soap misappropriations. Both groups claim him as a founding father, and this book does feel like part of the foundation myth of a certain type of americanistic idealism. But it is also something else entirely. I get a similar feeling reading Blake's poetry and trying to make head or tail of what he actually believed as opposed to what he hs come to stand for. I guess there's a compelling sense of authenticity that emanates from both, and whether that is being misunderstood by others, or whether they are tapping into it and making a genuine connection is a moot point.

Little Dorrit - Dickens
~ I'm reading at least three books at once these days, and very slowly. I lose out on the immersion but treat them as asort of medicine. Dickens is a consistent and surprising source of joy - I can read his paragraphs ten times and still laugh at the fine-tuned delicacy and insight of his little theatres. I keep hearing good things about Dombey and Son - looking forward to that.

Jules

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