books, books, books

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Jack of All Parades
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Tue Jan 08, 2013 5:27 pm

That house is pure evil and she catches that idea perfectly. A favorite horror piece for many years. I have her collected works in the Library of America edition. The movie that was made out of the novel in 1966- The Haunting- by Robert Wise still has the power to legitimately scare me without the pyrotechnics that cheaply scare these days- just the intimations are all I need with this movie- it still works its chills just as it did for a twelve year old boy back in 1966.
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Poor Deportee » Tue Jan 08, 2013 11:10 pm

Jack of All Parades wrote:That house is pure evil and she catches that idea perfectly. A favorite horror piece for many years. I have her collected works in the Library of America edition. The movie that was made out of the novel in 1966- The Haunting- by Robert Wise still has the power to legitimately scare me without the pyrotechnics that cheaply scare these days- just the intimations are all I need with this movie- it still works its chills just as it did for a twelve year old boy back in 1966.


Well, that's the thing - the intimations, the hints, the stuff that's almost subtextual - that's the really harrowing stuff. In the book, for instance, Eleanor's unloving, recently dead mother casts a shadow throughout (and the theme of 'mother' continually resurfacing in glimpses, always unsettlingly). But, unlike would be the case with (say) a Stephen King story, it goes no further than inference. Even more subtle are a very few references to the cellar (and one glimpse of the stairs to it, offered without commentary); but notwithstanding strong hints that what the cellar contains is somehow key to what is going on, the matter is never pursued, the reader left only to his uneasy imagination. The House itself is never really explained. And most haunting of all may be Eleanor's relationship to it: the recurring question of why her? And the answer is intimately woven up in who she is, her poignantly arrested inner life, her own stitled identity. On some recognizable but frightening level, this is what she wants.

The horror idiom can do amazing things in subtle hands. What a shame it so often falls to the plodders.

Another book that had a similar effect, on me at least, is The Girl in a Swing by Richard Adams. Not overtly an exercise in the genre of horror, it has that same quietly unnerving quality, I think.
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Wed Jan 09, 2013 9:14 am

I always thought highly of the point Alfred Hitchcock made many years ago about suspense and horror- it was far more satisfying for him to lead up to an event-to show the ancillary actions and events- the little minute events that occur- rather than the big event. He always sighted the bomb scene in Secret Agent- you know it will explode but he revels in showing you the bus moving through traffic, the placid looks upon passenger's faces, the ongoing pace of life outside of the bus and within it. That made for the suspense and horror- those intimations. I am always amazed that so few can pull that off successfully.
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Poor Deportee » Wed Jan 09, 2013 3:07 pm

Jack of All Parades wrote:I always thought highly of the point Alfred Hitchcock made many years ago about suspense and horror- it was far more satisfying for him to lead up to an event-to show the ancillary actions and events- the little minute events that occur- rather than the big event. He always sighted the bomb scene in Secret Agent- you know it will explode but he revels in showing you the bus moving through traffic, the placid looks upon passenger's faces, the ongoing pace of life outside of the bus and within it. That made for the suspense and horror- those intimations. I am always amazed that so few can pull that off successfully.


It's an interesting question. In Stephen King's entertaining non-fiction examination of the horror genre, Danse Macabre, he agrees that nothing is more frightening than the unseen horror. Yet his own writing, which I somewhat unfortunately consumed by the wheelbarrow-ful as a teenager, clearly shows a great dead of difficulty in remaining this rigorous and disciplined. He generally slides lazily into the old patterns. You see the same problem over and over in ostensibly scary movies, where early tension is all too often dissipated by the ham-fisted presentation of the 'actual' horror. It really must boil down to this restraint requiring a level of control over craft that is genuinely hard to achieve. Or, perhaps, there is a feeling that suitably disciplined work will not sell. Which, frankly, wouldn't surprise me at all.
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Thu Jan 10, 2013 12:57 pm

Always Looking by John Updike. The final volume of his deeply personal art essays and a self given Christmas present. I will miss his eye and agile mind. When one reads him, particularly on art shows he has taken in personally, one feels like one is in the company of a particularly affable and greatly informed friend while you are walking through the exhibition. That is a rare quality to catch in prose. This final collection includes a perceptive lecture he gave in 2008 before his death- "The Clarity of Things"- which was the Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities for that year. He eloquently elaborates upon what he thinks is uniquely 'American' in American art. Another essay lovingly looks at the work of Frederick Church, who resided only 40 miles up the Hudson River from my home on its banks high on a mountaintop- his lovely home Olana and its relationship to that environment. The real gem for me in this collection is his essay on the sculptur Richard Serra. Updike manages to make this artist's rather cold and massive steel pieces come to life for me in a way I alone could never have imagined. There are several large Serra pieces in the Dia Museum in my town- I will never be able to look at them in the same way- I thank Mr. Updike for that. It is coming up on three years since his passing; I still have a hard time adjusting to a world without an anticipated new piece by him. His work still has pride of place on my book shelves.

Updike has a great epitaph in this book-

"The question is not what you look at - but how you look & whether you see."

Henry David Thoreau Journal, August 5, 1851
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Sun Jan 20, 2013 11:10 am

"Ass-holes- a theory" by Aaron James. 25c at the local library store. It is a tight- tongue in cheek take on a philosophical trip down a topic not unlike "Bullshit" from a few years back. I enjoyed his take on asshole types- feckless ones, corporate ones, entertainer ones, pompous ones, smug ones and even royal and presidential ones. He uses lucid arguments from current thinking on moral and political philosophy to make lucid points on this new archetype. Everyone should have to read his analysis of asshole capitalism in the final chapter- it is an elegant dissection of narcissism and unfettered greed. It has made me notice they are very prevalent in the world around me.
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Re: books, books, books

Postby mood swung » Tue Jan 22, 2013 9:32 pm

If it makes you notice assholes more, are you sorry you read the book? That is the question. ;)
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Wed Jan 23, 2013 10:42 am

Mood- partly, yes. It is actually a well written, humorous book with a strong application of philosophical underpinnings in its arguments. Yes, I am better prepared to spot these types now and that is a good thing. Unfortunately, I can also better spot some of the behaviours in my own interactions with people, though I do not have anywhere the sense of entitlement that the highest practitioners of this archetype possess. That makes me sad. :wink:

Welcome back. What have you been reading?
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Otis Westinghouse » Wed Jan 23, 2013 8:13 pm

I wonder has anyone read it and had a blinding moment of self-revelation: 'OMG, I've just found out I'm a total asshole!'
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Re: books, books, books

Postby mood swung » Wed Jan 23, 2013 8:37 pm

An asshole would never be that perceptive. Nature of the beast.

I'm reading a book on troubled, but not asshole, dogs at the moment. I made the mistake of buying a kindle when I have about 500 paperbacks lying around, so now I have guilt about all that. Too many books, too little time. I dream of being on vacation at the beach ALONE with 20 or 30 books. Lotto, hit a girl up!
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Thu Jan 24, 2013 12:44 pm

I have been re-reading a dog book with my 10 year old niece, out loud, trading off pages- The Call of the Wildas she is a dog/pet lover and she was recently diagnosed with ADHD. I hope it helps her to focus. I also had forgotten what an engaging story the book was having read it as a young boy too many years ago. It also brings up memories for me of reading to my own daughters many a night decades a go. I also forgot the fun of reading aloud- the ability to act out verbally some of the actions and characters. I will have to do this more. 8)
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Poor Deportee » Sun Jan 27, 2013 1:12 pm

A.S. Byatt's Ragnarok. This is partly an evocative re-telling of Norse myths; those myths are told through a combination of appropriate terseness when in comes to the gods themselves, and profuse generosity when it comes to describing their world; but the key to this slim and beautiful book is the figure of the 'thin girl,' an English child in the Second World War, evacuated from her city home to the country in order to avoid the bombing, who finds herself fascinated by a book of those myths. This device allows Byatt to mediate the stories through the girl's mind. The result is a meditation on myth itself, and particularly the tension between the wilds of myth and their suppression that the quotidian world of peacetime necessitates. If the book has an overarching argument, it may be that the quotidian - our hegemonic, suburban world of ordinary career and home and family - 'closes the gate' to the mythic imagination, a gate opened for the girl both by her temporary access to the English countryside and wilderness, and the dread realities of wartime, which the mythic stories helped her to somehow comprehend. One senses that the deeper truths lie beyond a mundane world that denies them. I'm reminded of Tolkien's famous essay 'On Fairy Stories,' where faerie is presented as a 'perilous realm' that we wish to enter because it allows us to make contact with deep and half-forgotten longings.

Byatt's afterword draws a further parallel between the apocalypse of Ragnarok and what she sees as our own impending doom through ecological catastrophe; fortunately not an overt theme in the story itself, this serves as an invitation to use the myth as the girl does.

A rich book that will repay re-reading.
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Otis Westinghouse » Sun Jan 27, 2013 7:01 pm

I wasn't really aware of that book. I've never read anything by her, funnily enough. Nor her sister (is that Rose Tremain or someone else?). It took me right back to my days as a student studying a bit of ancient Icelandic and in particular the poem Voluspa which contains multiple references to Ragnarok.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ragnarök#V.C3.B6lusp.C3.A1

I'm a very slow reader but when a book gets its teeth into me (one of the best feelings in the world, no?) I can speed up. At present I'm trying to slow it down with Franzen's Freedom, which I've been intending to read for two years. Less laugh out loud than The Corrections, but probably with more depth and touching profundity. He does do human/family relationships very well. Every page has something you can admire as either very well-written or very interesting or most of the time both. I'm only half way through but want it to last forever. Hope he goes on to surpass it with many more.
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Tue Jan 29, 2013 10:38 am

So is that the same Ragnorok that helps to illustrate the inside jacket of the Radiohead album "King of Limbs"?
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Otis Westinghouse » Tue Jan 29, 2013 7:17 pm

Probably but I interacted so little with that album, I couldn't really tell you!
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Poor Deportee » Tue Jan 29, 2013 10:29 pm

Otis Westinghouse wrote:I wasn't really aware of that book. I've never read anything by her, funnily enough. Nor her sister (is that Rose Tremain or someone else?). It took me right back to my days as a student studying a bit of ancient Icelandic and in particular the poem Voluspa which contains multiple references to Ragnarok.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ragnarök#V.C3.B6lusp.C3.A1

I'm a very slow reader but when a book gets its teeth into me (one of the best feelings in the world, no?) I can speed up. At present I'm trying to slow it down with Franzen's Freedom, which I've been intending to read for two years. Less laugh out loud than The Corrections, but probably with more depth and touching profundity. He does do human/family relationships very well. Every page has something you can admire as either very well-written or very interesting or most of the time both. I'm only half way through but want it to last forever. Hope he goes on to surpass it with many more.


Franzen's Freedom is terrific. The real magic trick is taking archetypes (the erotically-driven artist, the intellectual, the passionate woman, etc.) and turning them into characters so real you don't even see the trick. It's also a wonderful 'social' novel - this really is America in the early 2000s, this is how we live(d) - which explains the frequent references to Tolstoy among critics. I don't think he's Tolstoy, but it sure is satisfying to see our moment in time captured so fully on the page.

I claim no comprehensive command of Byatt, but she is certainly an excellent read. I really enjoyed The Biographer's Tale, which seemed a much more efficient and focused reprise of themes(academic envy, the intractable challenges of isolating the 'truth' of identity) struck in her more celebrated Possession. Ragnarok is another kettle of fish, of course...as much poem as novel, really, and as I say, fascinating for its exploration of the meaning of myth.
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Wed Jan 30, 2013 12:54 pm

Tenth of December by George Saunders. His fourth collection and currently #3 on the NY Times bestseller list for fiction. Imagine that a collection of stories. I have been singing this book's pleasures to anyone who will listen. It is that good. Saunders can take the most mundane of acts or situations and comically twist it with his electric language and skewed humor into a memorable circumstance. I do not think he can write a boring sentence. The opening story, "Victory Lap". is a prime example. A 15year old girl descending a stair case is suddenly enveloped in violence which involves the next door neighbor boy. The denouement is classic. The title story deserves to be anthologized- it is that good. Again a young boy out in sub zero cold on a walk and alive in his imagination encounters a dying cancer patient out to end his own life- what happens between the two of them stays with you with an epiphany that I cannot forget. Saunder's stories are now embued with a humaneness that is quite touching- there is a heart behind the previous irony and humor. He is a master.
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Otis Westinghouse » Wed Jan 30, 2013 2:27 pm

Sounds great. How do you mean 'deserves to be anthologized'? Any old tat can be, but do you mean in some canonical collection of great contemporary American stories?
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Wed Jan 30, 2013 3:39 pm

What is a 'tat'? Yes, I mean a contemporary compilation of outstanding stories since the turn of the century say. Last decent one I saw was assembled by John Updike over 10 years ago of American stories but it went all the way back to Colonial times and was filled with too many of the usual suspects. Time for one that brings together Junot Diaz, Laurie Moore, TC Boyle, Deborah Eisenberg, DFW, etc and includes Mr. Saunders. After all he has the stamp of approval of none other than Mr. Pynchon. Saunders and Eisenberg were treated to an evening together at The Strand earlier in the month, just like last night's fete for Mr Hooker. Could not attend that one either. I have got to move back into Manhattan!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :roll:
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Otis Westinghouse » Wed Jan 30, 2013 7:31 pm

Not a tat, just tat, uncountable. A load of old tosh. Codswallop.

Sounded odd to me that anthologizing conferred any sort of status other than 'somebody somewhere decided to put these together'.
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Thu Jan 31, 2013 9:02 am

"codswallop" "tosh"---I suddenly feel as if I'm Professor Higgins prowling around the flower market in old Covent Garden and ever alert for new words or pronounciations. Better yet the great Doctor collecting yet another specimen for my dictionary being compiled in the garrot located on Gough St. 8)
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Otis Westinghouse » Thu Jan 31, 2013 7:23 pm

Standard items in the personal idiolect!
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Fri Feb 01, 2013 10:34 am

'idiolect'- that one has not appeared before my eyes or ears in eons. Thank you- I now have one to use at scrabble with my wife if the tiles fall my way. 8)
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Sun Feb 10, 2013 9:05 am

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/books ... ?ref=books

I have been in heaven these first two months of 2013-and it is due to the short story and how it has been reinvigorated by two of the strongest, freshest practitioners writing today- George Saunders and now Karen Russell. Her newest collection has just been published- Vampires in the Lemon Grove. I will let the above front page review by Joy Williams in today's Sunday NY Time's Book Review section speak its praises. Buy it and devour it. That she was robbed last year when her first novel Swamplandia was not awarded a Pulitzer Prize is a given. She is a powerhouse and she and Mr. Saunders have single handedly breathed fresh life into this literary form. Both have a freshness in their language and its juxtapositions and a savage, vibrant humor that is electric. They also do not shy away from the horror of the world around them. The two of them can flat out write and rarely let loose a mundane sentence upon the page.

This is going to be a great year for the short story- and I still have TC Boyles's Stories II to look forward to in the fall.
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Sat Feb 16, 2013 4:04 pm

Liked this piece from today's NY Times- it addresses the reemergence of the Short Story:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/16/books ... ?ref=books
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