books, books, books

This is for all non-EC or peripheral-EC topics. We all know how much we love talking about 'The Man' but sometimes we have other interests.
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Otis Westinghouse
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Otis Westinghouse » Fri Apr 26, 2013 10:26 pm

How about WG Sebald's The Rings of Saturn. A remarkable addition to the ambulatory tradition (how's that for an 'assured ability to work with rhyme and meter'?).
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Sat Apr 27, 2013 6:40 am

Well that is an author I have no acquaintance with and I am not familiar with the book at all. New one to read. Mr. Westinghouse I am most impressed with your poetic feel! :wink:

Mr. Armitage earned this blurb in a recent New Yorker:

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/reviews/b ... eflynoted4

and he has a poem in the new issue:

http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/poetry ... m_armitage
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Otis Westinghouse » Sun Apr 28, 2013 3:04 am

Check him out. A deeply fascinating writer. German, lived in England for 25 or so years, teaching at UEA in Norwich. Died in a car crash in 2001. Four main works and also essays. Deeply European in tradition. I've read the above and Vertigo.

From your favourite:
http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2002/0 ... _talk_lane

From my regular Saturday read, only last week, and on the theme of writing from solitary walking:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/ap ... ary-walker
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Sun Apr 28, 2013 7:40 am

Well you have motivated me enough to where I have purchased a used copy of The Rings of Saturn on Amazon for a great bargain price. Must say it sounds promising as it combines a number of favorite elements for me- walking, East Anglia and Joseph Conrad for starters.

With the recent passing of Margaret Thatcher I was motivated to dust off a copy of Philip Hensher's The Northern Clemencyand give it a try in her honor. Not entirely disappointing nor elating. It strikes me as an old fashioned kind of book-sort of the English equivalent to say Freedom. Sprawling, a multifamily generational epic. The Sellers and the Glovers. The English Midlands, in particular Sheffield as it is hit with the Thatcher revolution. The death of the coal industry and the upheaval brought to mining and steel production families. The death in life as one exists in council 'estate' housing. And what a sad term that is. The sense that a real life is realized in a canape- vol- au vent in the 70's and then yet again in the 90's as a sad commentary. The obligatory appearance of David Blunkett and the People's Republic of South Yorkshire. Depressing. An old fashioned Victorian type of social novel that uses significant amounts of detail and dialogue to distill its story. That era's numbing mendacity and greed best summed up for me in the words of one character- 'how unmotivated ordinary life seemed'. Most depressing.
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Tue Apr 30, 2013 12:10 pm

Well timed piece I found in Slate today- a slightly different take on Sonnet 29- one I can definitely empathize with these days. I do prefer a more self centered dissection, though- the one that reminds me that as bad as it may seem I need only think upon my 'love' to snap myself out of my self-indulgent funk:

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/clas ... rtune.html
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Poor Deportee » Wed May 22, 2013 11:29 am

The Trade by Fred Stenson. A sweeping historical novel taking a flinty look at the 19th century fur trade in the Canadian west/American northwest; its historical bona-fides seem formidable but it's the storytelling and characterization that rope you in. Stenson's sparse, muscular, yet evocative prose (one reads, for instance, of a hammer coming down "on the anvil" of a man's chest) is a perfect vehicle for the harrowing burtality of the conditions evoked. Life in service of the fabled Hudson's Bay Company turns out to be framed by the destroying whims of arbitray power, and the stories told here can be understood as reflecting upon the problem of how to live in these conditions - what virtue, decency, friendship, and love can be, as opposed to success and survival in this milieu. There is precious little romance here, but a lot of humanity. My only quibble is that the character of The Governor (George Simpson, presumably) occasionally veers into cartoonish villany - yet even this sets up one of the most powerful sequences in the whole narrative. The book's been in the running for awards at the regional, national, and international levels. Well worth your time, especially if you've a bent for history.
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Mon May 27, 2013 9:18 am

Goodbye For a Long Time

A furnished room beyond the stinging of
The sea, reached by a gravel road in which
Puddles of rain stare up with clouded eyes:

The photographs of other lives than ours ;
The scattered evidence of your so brief
Possession, daffodils fading in a vase.

Our kisses here as they have always been,
Half sensual, half sacred, bringing like
A scent our years together, crowds of ghosts.

And then among the thousand thoughts of parting
The kisses grow perfunctory; the years
Are waved away by your retreating arm.

And now I am alone. I am once more
The far-off boy without a memory,
Wandering with an empty deadened self.

Suddenly under my feet there is the small
Body of a bird, startling against the gravel.
I see its tight shut eye, a trace of moisture.

And ruffling its gentle breast the wind, its beak
Sharpened by death: and I am yours again,
Hurt beyond hurting, never to forget.

Roy Fuller

I have been working my way through his New and Collected Poems 1934-1984. Above is one that has stuck with me. He is the real deal and a discovery for me. He is a master of strictly disciplined metre and structure which because he has mastered this art allows him to play freely with the structures. A human poet with a real talent for phrase making of a memorable quality. Someone has moved into my consciousness to give Mr. Larkin some company. He is also perhaps one of the few in the last century who did some innovative work with the sonnet form- read his Meredithian Sonnets.
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Re: books, books, books

Postby bambooneedle » Mon Jun 03, 2013 9:48 pm

Am embarking on Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead.


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Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Sat Jun 08, 2013 7:11 am

Packing For Mars- The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach. Not a nerdy science tome but instead a curious and drolly funny attempt to come to grips with what an extended life in the void of space would be like. What do you do if you do not readily have gravity, oxygen, beer, showers, water, privacy, etc[ all the basic things we take for granted on Earth]? How do you void your body? How do you manage without really walking? How does one enjoy sex? There is perhaps a little too much emphasis on the more mundane aspects of life in space in the book but it is exactly that mundane aspect of our lives on Earth that make its continuation in Space most entertaining in this book. Roach makes you ponder and laugh at the same time- that is surprisingly a hard thing to do just like living in space for extended periods of time.
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Fri Jun 14, 2013 12:34 pm

Lucky Jim- Kingsley Amis. Sparked to reread after many years when a friend recently read the book for the first time and had a grand time in doing so. Not surprised that this near 60 year old book should still charm and inspire real mirth. It has been rightly called the greatest English comedic novel of the second part of the twentieth century by Christopher Hitchens. The prose is supple, lithe with a wit and filled with multiple voices that never distract but which ably propel the narrative forward. It is an hilariously misanthropic book. Jim Dixon, the young lecturer in Medieval History at a provincial university, is a vibrant comic character. His attempts to overcome the 'boredom' of his life are heartbreaking with the laughs they engender as one reads along. The set scenes like the bed burning and the 'public' lecture on "Merrie England" linger long after the book is shut. They have the antic quality of a Marx brothers movie. Good books do that. Their scenes or chapters stay on one's inner eye and can be easily recalled year's after the revisit. The comedy is not stale or dated, either. That is because it is based on basic and common human elements that we can all relate to whether it is post war England or the 'dead time' of the second decade of the twenty first century. Since first reading the book I have subsequently learned in reading about Amis that Philip Larkin inspired the character of Jim Dixon. Somehow that only seems right given the poet's struggles with 'boredom' in his provincial town of Hull and the daily grind of his life as an academic librarian.
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Poor Deportee » Mon Jun 24, 2013 10:35 am

Daniel Lanois, Soul Mining.

Not as beautiful or poetic as it sometimes aspires to be, this book nonetheless emerges as an engaging self-portrait of a quintessential autodidact - one who exhibits both the strengths and weaknesses of the breed. The strengths, at least as Lanois presents them, are formidable. This is a guy who was kidnapped, along with his brother, by his estranged dad and made to live in a backwoods cabin with minimal adult supervision at age 12. One may infer that that experience instilled a profound confidence and improvisational self-reliance. Operating on the principle that he should always be able to bring something to a situation, he develops skills in everything from candle-making to motorcycle maintenance to studio construction to multi-instrumental musicianship to coping with home-invading crack addicts. For one like myself, who is categorically hapless when it comes to both manual skills and extreme situations, all this comes off as fairly intimidating. (There is, I daresay, a certain understated braggadocio in all this: "HERE IS A MAN"). On the other hand, I was less impressed by his attempts at philosophizing and by the awe in which he appears to hold the challenges of creative work (seeming not to realize that his strains in this respect are shared by anyone who undertakes a major project). What ultimately emerges is a deep expressivism. The point of life is to explore and to express one's distinctive self. It's interesting to note that - assuming his silence on this front was not merely a product of discretion - Lanois seems to have no stable, lasting love relationship. He is too much the self-absorbed, obsessive rover for that.

The self-absorption sometimes rebounds in unintentionally amusing ways. For instance, he writes glowingly about how U2 in general, and The Edge in particular, radically reinvented their sound for No Line on the Horizon. Well, I don't own that record, but a quick listen to available clips reveals what might be one of the most sonically generic of "U2" albums. He also writes at length about various struggles to find totally new sounds, completely new sonic palettes for nearly every record he works on. I found this a bit comical, given that Lanois is notorious for a staple sound and atmosphere that he brings to most albums. Either he is wasting his time - toiling mightily to find new paths, all ironically leading to the same sonic end-point - or his ear is so hypertrophied and refined that minor variations strike him as revelatory insights.

But this is somewhat minor griping. The book provides many engaging vignettes and "insider" peeks into the making of the huge number of great and/or important albums with which Lanois was involved. As a big Dylan fan, I was most interested in his discussions of Oh Mercy and - especially - Time Out of Mind, which Lanois undertook (rather sweetly) in the conviction that it could be The Greatest Album of All Time. I found it poignant that, at the end of the day, Lanois seems to have been left with the same feeling that so many of Dylan's admirers have had...somehow wanting a deeper connection with the great man, and somehow not quite having found it. Even to his close collaborator, Dylan remains a bit of an enigma.

There's a fair bit of technical stuff here, but nothing that can't be easily bypassed in favour of richer human and musical interest. It's not Chronicles, but it's an intriguing and rewarding read nonetheless.
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Mon Jun 24, 2013 11:53 am

PD- thank you for bringing this one to my attention. I will always be forever in the man's debt for kicking Dylan in the butt in the late 80s and insisting that he attempt to make a worthwhile record of worthwhile songs. He is owed major kudos for that alone.

I liked your synopsis and analysis. I will be looking for this one at my local library. Awhile ago I got rid of his solo records that I owned. They no longer did anything for me. But I still play with regularity several U2 records, Wrecking Ball, Oh Mercy, and he audacious Time Out of Mind. Sad to read that even one who could work so closely with Mr. Dylan on a project like TOOM should still feel like he never really conncected with the artist. That cultivated series of masks that surrounds Dylan's personnae can often be off putting.
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Poor Deportee » Mon Jun 24, 2013 12:07 pm

Jack of All Parades wrote:PD- thank you for bringing this one to my attention. I will always be forever in the man's debt for kicking Dylan in the butt in the late 80s and insisting that he attempt to make a worthwhile record of worthwhile songs. He is owed major kudos for that alone.

I liked your synopsis and analysis. I will be looking for this one at my local library. Awhile ago I got rid of his solo records that I owned. They no longer did anything for me. But I still play with regularity several U2 records, Wrecking Ball, Oh Mercy, and he audacious Time Out of Mind. Sad to read that even one who could work so closely with Mr. Dylan on a project like TOOM should still feel like he never really conncected with the artist. That cultivated series of masks that surrounds Dylan's personnae can often be off putting.


Really?? I always like Acadie and For the Beauty of Wynona.

He can be overpowering, but his body of work as a producer is extraordinary. Achtung Baby alone would make this so. Never mind the absolutely pivotal role he's played in Bob's career: both in helping him craft his only indisputably excellent album of the 1980s, and (more importantly) in re-launching him as a recording artist with Time Out of Mind. Think about it...without Lanois, it's conceivable there would have been neither that record nor any of the spectacular efforts that followed it.
We're in his debt!
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Thu Jun 27, 2013 12:07 pm

An unexpected gift from a friend- The Cambridge Companion to Thomas Pynchon. I have been devouring whole sections of it- refreshing my understanding of various of the novels and catching up on some of the latest writing and critical thinking on his most recent work. This compendium is a gold mine of indispensible critical writing on his entire catalog, I even have some new pieces on Inherent Vice. I have found its set up useful with its individual sections on each novel from the sixties to present, a whole section on his style- the way he structures his fiction and his mastery of comedy, satire and the english language and finally a part on the major themes of his fiction. I have found the essay by Kathryn Hume on Mason & Dixonto be particularly invaluable. It does not hurt that it is also my favorite of his most recent work. This is just an invaluable tool for the Pynchon fanatic.
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Poor Deportee » Sun Jun 30, 2013 10:59 pm

From the sublime to the base. :lol:

As a teenager, I read quite a lot of Hemingway, Steinbeck, Yeats, Eliot, Poe and Tolkien. All but the last is considered "literary," though I shall go to my grave in his defence. I also read a lot of Stephen King. Not considered so "literary." Returning to three or four of those novels in my late-twenties, I was mildly gratified to conclude that I hadn't entirely wasted my time. King's prose is generally graceless, and his work is highly inconsistent (both within books, and across them; some of them, such as Cujo, are just plain crap, as are some paragraphs in even his better stuff). He was right to descibe his writing somewhere as "the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and fries." That said, when not snoozing he shows a command of character, and setting aside the "penny dreadful" ingredients, his better stuff arguably provides a far more honest representation of mundane North American life than, say, the beautiful stained-glass paintings of a Michael Ondaatje. More to the point, the guy's books have tremendous heart. Without arguing that he should be taught in English Lit 101, this should forgive at least some of his literary sins.

All of which is to say that I recently blasted my way through my first "new" King novel in decades. The culprit is 11/22/63, a time-travel story based on the charmingly liberal conceit that saving JFK would avert the horrors of the Vietnam War and generally redeem America in the latter third of the century. The best thing about the book - apart from the genuinly moving love story that unfolds within it - is the deft way in which King handles the sci-fi premise. He avoids getting bogged down in the standard "temporal paradox" tropes and simply gets on with story. (A question about what would happen if one went back and killed one's grandfather is met with the baffled reply: "Now why would you want to do that?"). Things only get conventionally "sci fi" toward the very end, and even this is swiftly dispatched in favour of what we really care about, namely the protagonist and his choices.

In short, the book (unlike this post??) ultimately rewards its readers' patience. Of the 800-odd pages, only about 50 drag - specifically when King's desire to instal his character in a small Texan town is given an elaborate "explanation" instead of a paragraph declaring that his disliked Dallas and wanted something more appealing "Americana."

We're left with a diverting summer read that credibly evokes a lost America, has a real story at its heart and in turn catches the reader's heart at unexpected moments. Bring it to the beach, along with a spirit of gentle charity to King's failings. You could do worse. :wink:
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Mon Jul 01, 2013 11:44 am

Well you won't find me belittling Mr. King. I cannot claim to have read much by him- but what little I have has been character driven with a narrative verve that moves the story along. And the man can scare the bejuzzus out of one with the most mundane situations or devices. I will never easily dismiss him :wink: . But this is coming from a pretentious sot who uses Herodotus as bathroom reading. There is something about the description of a Scythian battle unit that gets my system working properly. :oops:
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Poor Deportee » Tue Jul 02, 2013 10:04 am

Jack of All Parades wrote:Well you won't find me belittling Mr. King. I cannot claim to have read much by him- but what little I have has been character driven with a narrative verve that moves the story along. And the man can scare the bejuzzus out of one with the most mundane situations or devices. I will never easily dismiss him :wink: . But this is coming from a pretentious sot who uses Herodotus as bathroom reading. There is something about the description of a Scythian battle unit that gets my system working properly. :oops:


:D Clearly, Chris, you win the Battle of Bathroom Reading! My defaults is The Economist .

Re: King, there is something to be said for popular entertainers who are capable "craftsmen" rather than "artists." He probably falls into this category - not worthless trash by any unambiguous measure, but not exactly fine literature either. It's interesting to scan the critical discussion of him: absolutely revered by working popular novelists, he seems to divide critics. Some have been won over, taking him seriously as a significant American voice, albeit no Franzen. Others (like Harold Bloom) remain adamant that he is tripe.

Of the handful I've read, two of his books stay with me: The Stand for the sheer scale and verve (as well as nerve); and Pet Semetary for sheer visceral horror. I don't see how any parent can be other than deeply disturbed by that one.
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Poor Deportee » Tue Jul 09, 2013 5:42 pm

I don't know how folks here feel about these sort of links, but I thought the literary types hereabouts might get a kick out of this...

http://www.buzzfeed.com/josephbernstein ... -red-flags
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Wed Jul 10, 2013 11:57 am

When I read this piece from Slate earlier today it put a smile upon my face much like I assume happens to the very patients highlighted in the article:

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_an ... ities.html

This doctor is following in some footsteps- William Carlos Williams comes readily to mind. Good on him.
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Wed Jul 10, 2013 4:17 pm

Poor Deportee wrote:I don't know how folks here feel about these sort of links, but I thought the literary types hereabouts might get a kick out of this...

http://www.buzzfeed.com/josephbernstein ... -red-flags


Quite snarky but in a mostly good way- there are only two that I will take offense to- the Wallace and Kerouac. Even a supreme prose stylist such as John Updike has admitted his great debt to Kerouac. :wink:
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Boy With A Problem » Thu Jul 11, 2013 9:19 am

Once again, I'm late to the party.

Just reading the last few posts -

I really enjoyed King's Kennedy time travel book. I may even have shed a tear at the end. This is the first Stephen King book I have ever read. Though, as a Red Sox fan, I was nearly tempted by the Tom Gordon one.

The link to the list that PD posted is pretty elitist. I'm quite attached to some of the usual suspects on the list. On The Road especially.

I live in Kafka's neighborhood and around the corner from my place is a hotel named The Metamorphosis. Could there be a worse name for a hotel? Stay here and wake up as a cockroach.

Anyway - the last five books I've read are all worth recommending:

The People Who Eat Darkness - Richard Lloyd Parry - One of the best true crime books I've ever read....better even than the last one on my list, which I quite liked. Abduction and murder of a young English woman in Tokyo...superbly researched with extremely nuanced real life characters.

Dropped Names - Frank Langella - A funny, bitchy ride of famous people that Langella has interacted with throughout his career. Langella may come across as the biggest asshole of them all, but very entertaining reading.

Arcadia - Lauren Groff - The first sentence of every chapter is capitalized and she doesn't use quotation marks...and the book is almost always sad.....and continues to get sadder....a boy growing up in a commune in the early 70's - the rise and fall of the commune and the rise and fall of the people.....and how we disappoint each other....

Swamplandia - Karen Russell - This one has to do with alligator wrestling in the Everglades.....much more literary than a Carl Hiassen comedy.....great characters, great ghosts a lot of sadness.....kind of an Odyssey (is that the one with the river Styx in it?)....she gets the stickiness across.

The Stranger Beside Me - Anne Rule - A book about Ted Bundy from a famous true crime author that knew Bundy before either of them were recognized as tops in their fields. Interesting for me especially because I lived in the Seattle area when the killings first started and can remember them vividly. This one is not as recent as the other four.

All in paperback - hate toting the hardbacks around....
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Thu Jul 11, 2013 9:25 am

BWOP- Swamplandia is tremendous- that little girl is a heroine for the ages. This book should have one the Pulitzer Prize two years ago- she was robbed. Her latest collection of short stories is equally impressive.

I have not stopped laughing at the notion of an overnight stay in that establishment and the possible transformation that might await one in the morning. :lol:
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Boy With A Problem » Thu Jul 11, 2013 9:34 am

Everyone just needs to fuckin’ relax. Smoke more weed, the world is ending.

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Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Thu Jul 11, 2013 10:15 am

Thank you for the link. The beer spa looks intriguing. I am having trouble seeing poor old Gregor in there though- given his fumblings with the ladies. :wink:
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Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Sun Jul 14, 2013 6:05 pm

"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'


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