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.
User avatar
Jack of All Parades
Posts: 5714
Joined: Sun Apr 12, 2009 11:31 am
Location: Where I wish to be

Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Wed Feb 23, 2011 6:06 pm

Have been luxuriating with two books relating to poetry over the last few weeks: John Updike's collection Americana and other Poems and Helen Vendler's Dickinson Selected Poems and Commentaries.

First the Updike. Here is a taste:

http://www.moma.org/collection_images/r ... 151245.jpg

Before the Mirror
John Updike (1996)

How many of us still remember
when Picasso’s “Girl Before a Mirror” hung
at the turning of the stairs in the pre-
expansion Museum of Modern Art?
Millions of us, probably, but we form
a dwindling population. Garish
and brush-slashed and yet as balanced
as a cardboard Queen in a deck of giant cards,
the painting proclaimed, “Enter here
and abandon preconception.” She bounced
the erotic balls of herself back and forth
between reflection and reality.

Now I discover, in the recent re-
trospective at the establishment,
that the vivid painting dates
from March of 1932,
the very month which I first saw light,
squinting nostalgia for the womb.
I bend closer, inspecting. The blacks,
the stripy cyanide greens are still uncracked,
I note with satisfaction; the cherry reds
and lemon yellows full of childish juice.
No sag, no wrinkle. Fresh as paint. Back then
they knew how, I reflect, to lay it on.

This one in particular has been hanging in my head as I too start to view the aging process with keener eyes. And it is the keenest of eyes that Updike deploys in this book. To look at the world as he did and then to be able to report back in these wonderful poems is a most monumental skill. It is sheer fun to follow him as he casts backwards upon his childhood, his travels, his aging and the mundane aspects of daily life. There is a long poem, "Song of Myself" that deserves to be anthologized. This book shows him a master of meter, stanzas and of rhyme. It is also a premonition nearly ten years prior to his death of his reluctance to quit the living textures of this world. God, I miss opening my weekly New Yorker and being pleasantly surprised by yet another new verse from him, let alone a story or essay.

Helen Vendler, as is customary, has yet again opened my eyes to a strong poet, in this case Emily Dickinson. I have been a reader of both my entire adult life and they make a wonderful pair- Emily with her densely knotted sprung lines and Helen with her acute close reading alive to all implications within a text. Her subtlety in reading is to be treasured. She makes a poet whom I assume we all have an acquaintance with come alive on the page with her intuitive readings of Dickinson's unique imagination and linguistic invention. This is a book to treasure and hand down to daughter's. Something I intend to do.
"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'

User avatar
Jack of All Parades
Posts: 5714
Joined: Sun Apr 12, 2009 11:31 am
Location: Where I wish to be

Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Sun Mar 13, 2011 11:26 am

Just wanted to share this essay from today's NY TImes Book Review on the reemergence of Montaigne interest and of his continued importance for our lives: Ms Bakewell's book as I noted earlier in this thread has been a wonderful find, quite possibly the best biography/literary discussion I have read in some time- I cannot recommend it enough nor her subject-so pleased to note how it has won the recently announced National Book Critics Award for biography.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/13/books ... ?ref=books
"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'

User avatar
Jack of All Parades
Posts: 5714
Joined: Sun Apr 12, 2009 11:31 am
Location: Where I wish to be

Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Thu Mar 31, 2011 4:55 pm

Life by Keith Richards. Just one long hoot of a read. First off it is well written and it keeps your eyes on the page- James Fox has listened well to Richards and adroitly caught his speaking voice and given verbal life to a memorable individual. He is the rock n roll life incarnate. No half way for him. You have a taste of all he has experienced and I have to admit some major jealousy on my part. Who wouldn't jump into that life if given the chance. Reading the book you know right away he did not stumble through his life in a drugged out haze. He functions, lives it and participates in the events around him with all his energy. And I firmly believe it is all there- the music, the friends, the shows, the wife and kids, the drugs- all of it and he does not mince words. When you finish the book you know and feel deep down that he has lived a remarkable life, that he is a genuine and caring person and you hope he has many more years to go. I love the snarkiness with Mick[aka "Brenda"] and the way he puts the story straight, at least from his side, about his friendship with Gram Parsons. And I love his Library in Weston- Alexv you have some neighbor!
"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'

User avatar
pophead2k
Posts: 2403
Joined: Thu Jun 05, 2003 3:49 pm
Location: Bull City y'all

Re: books, books, books

Postby pophead2k » Fri Apr 01, 2011 4:38 pm

I'm almost halfway through right now and couldn't agree more. Never been the biggest Stones fan in the world, but boy do I love some KR.

User avatar
Jack of All Parades
Posts: 5714
Joined: Sun Apr 12, 2009 11:31 am
Location: Where I wish to be

Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Fri Apr 01, 2011 8:39 pm

What is wonderful about the book is that you read it and do not come away with a feeling like you have just been fed some self-serving bull. I firmly believe what you read is the man on the page as in real life. I love the honesty of the voice.
"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'

User avatar
Jack of All Parades
Posts: 5714
Joined: Sun Apr 12, 2009 11:31 am
Location: Where I wish to be

Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Mon May 09, 2011 5:01 pm

Finally got around to finishing Freedom having been spending considerable reading time of late with various poets. Franzen, for me, has pulled off an exceptional work with this book. It is that marvelous thing from the past century that has all but evaporated these days- the all encompassing novel as social- literary experience. One has to marvel at his story telling skills when combined with strong dialogue and a keen eye for the social, political, economic and cultural events of this time. And he does this within the space of a family, the Berglunds, who become a microcosm for our current history.

I love the main theme of 'personal liberty' and how we intrude on each other in the pursuit of those personal liberties or as Franzen calls it our 'misanthropy and rage'. I love how the book is about 'real' human beings, flawed people but believable characters none the less. You have to love Patty and Walter Berglund and the way they circle around one another throughout the book and their notion that 'some modes of existence are superior to others' which is turned on its head by their son, Joey. The writing is crisp with marvelous detail and description and for my money I do not think there is a better male writer in America today who can bring to life female sexual desires than Franzen. There is one aspect of the book that I found puzzling. For about a third of the novel, the story is told in the voice of Patty in the form of a diary she is keeping for therapy. Unfortunately, the diary voice sounds too much like the authorial voice, there being little differentiation. Still, I enjoyed the book immensely.
"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'

ice nine
Posts: 1135
Joined: Tue Jun 03, 2003 9:54 pm
Location: A van down by the river

Re: books, books, books

Postby ice nine » Wed Jun 15, 2011 2:59 pm

I bought my first audiobook from iTunes. I've always wanted to delve into The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Looking forward to listening to it
It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think that you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt
- M. Twain

User avatar
BlueChair
Posts: 5959
Joined: Mon Jun 02, 2003 5:41 pm
Location: Toronto, Canada
Contact:

Re: books, books, books

Postby BlueChair » Sat Jun 18, 2011 9:48 am

Currently reading The Old Devils by Kingsley Amis. Enjoying it so far.
This morning you've got time for a hot, home-cooked breakfast! Delicious and piping hot in only 3 microwave minutes.

User avatar
Jack of All Parades
Posts: 5714
Joined: Sun Apr 12, 2009 11:31 am
Location: Where I wish to be

Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Thu Jun 23, 2011 5:30 pm

That Amis is quite funny and the prose sings with wit.

The Possessed-Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them by Elif Batuman. Came to her through pieces in the past years in The New Yorker. Deliciously funny as she skewers the world of graduate literature studies and her own course through academia. It is her 'sentimental education' documented in an extremely funny prose style that goes after not only her peer lovers of the Russian classics but herself, as well. Her chapter on Isaac Babel is one long joke and would have probably made the master split his sides as he did love a good joke, even on himself. Her discussion of a paper she presents at the International Tolstoy Conference at Yasnaya Polyanna, Tolstoy's Russian estate, is poignant with its bitter sense of the ignoble ends for both Tolstoy and Chekhov. When she writes about Demons you know you are in the hands of a subtle, intuitive, thoughtful, comic master. Really enjoyed this book.
"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'

User avatar
Jack of All Parades
Posts: 5714
Joined: Sun Apr 12, 2009 11:31 am
Location: Where I wish to be

Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Fri Jun 24, 2011 5:57 pm

A minor book, but a pure, fun read- The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker of U and I fame. A smartly written dissection of the sub world of poetry and its acolytes. Baker skewers this world with a clownish buffoonery but clearly loves poets and poetry. Filled with his usual keen observatory style, he actually pulls off the trick of making poetry a fitting subject for comic fiction. In truth the book is really a 'love' story about poetry; how it can catch hold of you and give some semblance of meaning to the everyday world. You even learn about the technical aspects that go into making a poem. It makes poetry important and that means something to me.
"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'

User avatar
Jack of All Parades
Posts: 5714
Joined: Sun Apr 12, 2009 11:31 am
Location: Where I wish to be

Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Wed Jul 13, 2011 4:50 pm

Every now and then I get to read a Social/Political text that is an eye opener. Such is the case with the newly published Chavsby a young writer totally new to me, Owen Jones. I did not even know what chavs means until this book. Turns out it is a derogatory word with the working meaning of 'ugly prole' and is aimed at the less fortunate individuals who populate England these days due to unemployment and limited economic opportunities. His description of a dinner party he attended where this class was mocked and dismissed as so much rif/raf with the denigrating comment that 'it's sad that Woolworth's is closing. Where will all the chavs buy their Christmas presents?" Disgusting and demoralizing. The book wittily and forthrightly shows the callow, shallow way that today's privileged elite, either through birth or economic theft, holds the mass of humanity in contempt. The book also shows through reasoned argument and usage of facts and statistics how they have managed to marginalize and demonize the working poor as a class, one in which more and more a great many of us are falling into. Sadly what the Iron Maiden put into place in the 1970s and 1980s has now come to full fruition and is practiced by both parties in England- Labour is just as much to blame. The central argument that "to admit that some people are poorer than others because of the social injustice inherent in our society would require government action;claiming that people are largely responsible for their circumstances facilitates the opposite reaction" is intuitive and makes me so angry. It just sickens me. More so because this same thing is going on in my country beginning with the Iron Maiden's Prince in the 1980s and continuing even with the current Obama administration.

Sadly, I fear too many people who are most impacted by these economic, social and political assaults will never read this and, more importantly, will continue to vote for the very same people who are subverting them and deriding their very existence.
"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'

User avatar
Otis Westinghouse
Posts: 8856
Joined: Tue Jun 03, 2003 3:32 pm
Location: The theatre of dreams

Re: books, books, books

Postby Otis Westinghouse » Wed Jul 13, 2011 7:02 pm

It's a far less prevalent word now. 'Word of the year' in 2004. Various claims on its origins: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chav

The fact that it's aimed more at a specific element of stereotypical youth culture than a social underclass as a whole makes it less offensive as a concept, but, yeah, the divisions he writes of are real and scary and that stereotype is a manifestation of a broader and more worrying trend.
There's more to life than books, you know, but not much more

User avatar
Jack of All Parades
Posts: 5714
Joined: Sun Apr 12, 2009 11:31 am
Location: Where I wish to be

Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Thu Jul 14, 2011 6:51 am

Otis, I had the sense in reading the book that the term has grown to encompass the connotations you mention. It seems to represent the entire under-working classes and its derogatory connotations make me sick. Those bankrupt conservative iniatives that were put in place decades ago have so undermined yours and mine economic and social safety nets. The callous disregard for the great majority of citizens in both our countries is shameful. I watch my elected officials in Washington spin their vile nonsense and despair at how they continuously serve to protect the vested interests of the 'great' top 1 to 2 % of my country and wonder when will the other 98% come to their senses and stand up for themselves.

Well it is Bastille Day- I can only hope!
"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'

User avatar
Jack of All Parades
Posts: 5714
Joined: Sun Apr 12, 2009 11:31 am
Location: Where I wish to be

Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Sat Jul 23, 2011 8:11 am

Found this the other day while shopping for some new reading material. Pure, joyous fun with a sly assist from Paul Giamatti:

http://www.strandbooks.com/gary-shteyngart
"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'

User avatar
mood swung
Posts: 6906
Joined: Thu Jun 05, 2003 3:59 pm
Location: out looking for my tribe
Contact:

Re: books, books, books

Postby mood swung » Mon Aug 01, 2011 2:08 pm

Finished Paul Auster's Timbuktu last night and I can't stop thinking about it. Probably gonna read it again. Not an ending I'm comfortable with.
Like me, the "g" is silent.

ice nine
Posts: 1135
Joined: Tue Jun 03, 2003 9:54 pm
Location: A van down by the river

Re: books, books, books

Postby ice nine » Thu Aug 18, 2011 9:47 am

Started Nica's Dream: The Life & Legend of the Jazz Baroness by David Kastin. Kathleen Anne Pannonica Koenigswarter was a Rothschild who became a patron saint of jazz musicians like Coleman Hawkins and Thelonius Monk. She would drive her Rolly-Royce to the jazz clubs on 52nd Street and hang out with Allen Ginsberg and his ilk. It is well written and very entertaining and informative. I wouldn't be surprised if a movie does not emerge.
It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think that you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt
- M. Twain

Poor Deportee
Posts: 656
Joined: Sun Jan 01, 2006 7:30 pm
Location: Chocolate Town

Re: books, books, books

Postby Poor Deportee » Sat Aug 27, 2011 8:52 pm

Well, here's an oldie. Richard Adams's The Girl in a Swing. This is the same Richard Adams who wrote Watership Down. That fact may scare some away. It shouldn't - no talking rabbits here. For my part, I deeply love Watership Down but have little time for many of his other efforts; but I just finished this novel and found it both rewarding and spooky in a manner I most associate with Lovecraft at his best and Poe. If you're looking for a profoundly romantic - in all senses of that word - and wonderfully controlled, polished, and quite unsettling English novel, you could do far worse than this.
When man has destroyed what he thinks he owns
I hope no living thing cries over his bones

User avatar
Jack of All Parades
Posts: 5714
Joined: Sun Apr 12, 2009 11:31 am
Location: Where I wish to be

Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Sun Sep 11, 2011 8:59 am

Two, of late, and re-visitations both:

G. Cabrera Infante's Holy Smoke. An outrageous history of the cigar in the new world and centered in Cuba. Its prose is infectious and its comedy stylish and side splitting. Starting with Columbus's witnessing of cigars being lighted during his exploration of the island it is an entertaining romp with a cigar firmly planted in the teeth as this delightful delicacy is documented over the subsequent centuries. He explores all venues, books, movies, famous people, and playfully records the cigars significance, how it is made, cultivated and the manners and mores of cigar smoking. I love how Castro used to mooch cigars off of the author. The examples at the end of the book from books and people relating to cigar smoking reminds me so much of Melville's recitation of whale usage and entomology in Moby Dick. If you can find this book, read it. I treasure my hardcover copy with its hilarious photo of a blissed out Groucho Marx on the cover, cigar firmly planted in his mouth.

Stanley Elkin's, Pieces of Soap: Essays. Have to come back to this delightful author from time to time when I need to laugh at the countless 'slings and arrows' we suffer as humans. This man always has the goods, causing me to laugh hysterically at my pains and pangs. As Helen Vendler, the great critic, says in the introduction, he is one whose word's 'confer on his world a prose bite and edge, a lurid charm and a sense of shoddy airs". His personal essays this time really cut and put me in my place as I have been feeling too oppressed by this world. He gives a proper comic tonic to my anxieties and consistently helps me to laugh at my concerns and at the sad events of this world as symbolized in the purloined pieces of soap he collected over the years.
"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'

User avatar
mood swung
Posts: 6906
Joined: Thu Jun 05, 2003 3:59 pm
Location: out looking for my tribe
Contact:

Re: books, books, books

Postby mood swung » Fri Sep 16, 2011 7:27 am

Been plowing through The Name of The Rose, and it's a hard row to hoe for me. I've sectioned it off and given myself assigned pages to get through each day. I am currently 120 pages behind. I like it, and I keep imagining Sean Connery speaking all his dialogue, but it gets dense in places and boring in others. Adso, I don't CARE how guilty you feel now or then!!! Looking forward to watching the movie after I get done.

Pat Barker's Regeneration is on deck.
Like me, the "g" is silent.

User avatar
Jack of All Parades
Posts: 5714
Joined: Sun Apr 12, 2009 11:31 am
Location: Where I wish to be

Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Sun Sep 18, 2011 8:39 am

Every so often for a moral cleansing when the pores of my body are blocked by the toxic filth that is the current national and local political scene in my country and state, I have to revisit the sanity and civility of the cultural and political writings of George Orwell. His Collected Essays are a bracing tonic and a continuous wellspring for me with their textured and civilized responses to the complex textures of modern life. That his prose is the clearest and most compelling of English writers from the last hundred years is a given for me. That it is life affirming is a balm. When I despair of Tea Party crazies and ultra orthodox Republicans and their dim concerns for their fellow men, I so appreciate that he was 'the wintry conscience of his generation'. His sense of decency and fairness are a bedrock for me. I never tire of his compassionate Socialism and its sense of caring for all. We see too little of it today. I need to re immerse myself in his clear prose and thought processes from time to time. This is such a time in my country.
"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'

User avatar
Jack of All Parades
Posts: 5714
Joined: Sun Apr 12, 2009 11:31 am
Location: Where I wish to be

Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Sat Sep 24, 2011 7:35 am

Yet another revisit and a delightful one at that- U and I by Nicholson Baker, his great look at Updike. This small gem of a book never fails to amaze me with his prose and its multi layered discussion of how one writer, through the reading of him, can so influence and color the perceptions of another. When he plays with the theme of memory and its influence on subsequent events in one's live I am in heaven. He provides a road map for readers on how to absorb the work of another- that is haphazardly, randomly with frequent distortions and perhaps a more meaningful interaction because of that randomness. The writing does not hurt either; intellectually playful mixed with a wry lyricism. When he discerns at the end in a chapter of The Witches of Eastwick a callus reference and so gleefully feels that for once Updike might have been influenced by something he wrote years before, Baker's sense that the debt is reversed is tenderly exposed. The writing bond between these two writers and writers in general becomes palpable. I cherish this 'little' book.

Here is a link to a solid general article about him:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/07/magaz ... olsonbaker
"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'

User avatar
Jack of All Parades
Posts: 5714
Joined: Sun Apr 12, 2009 11:31 am
Location: Where I wish to be

Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Fri Sep 30, 2011 5:09 pm

Why Orwell Matters- Christopher Hitchens. Part of my re acquaintance with this great writer. Also a way to engage with my youngest daughter as she has to negotiate 1984 this semester at school. What I really liked about this book length essay is that Hitchens's does not just enumerate the many strengths of this man but he also is willing take intelligent jabs at his perceived 'sainthood' as a man. What the book celebrates is Orwell's lifelong support of the underdog and his vibrant and consistent moral compass. He is the author who speaks most closely to me about declining empires, moral turpitude, governmental and ruling class dis-ingenuousness and the proper role of citizenry.

I loved the chapter on his "Englishness' and his dissection of the decaying empire. Hitchens's nicely connects him with Larkin. His discussion of his relations with women and his supposed misogyny is riveting. What is most enjoyable is that a writer whose prose is justly praised for its precision, economy and clear thinking is rightly celebrated by an author and pundit whose own prose shares many of those same qualities.
"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'

User avatar
Jack of All Parades
Posts: 5714
Joined: Sun Apr 12, 2009 11:31 am
Location: Where I wish to be

Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Tue Oct 18, 2011 4:48 pm

Nice to see Julian Barnes finally get his Man Booker prize this year. The Sense of an Ending, I will have to check it out. Truly admired his book from a few years back- Nothing To Be Frightened Of- that was a tremendous read. Now it would appear that all the big authors of his generation have at least won one Booker.
"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'

User avatar
Otis Westinghouse
Posts: 8856
Joined: Tue Jun 03, 2003 3:32 pm
Location: The theatre of dreams

Re: books, books, books

Postby Otis Westinghouse » Tue Oct 18, 2011 5:45 pm

With the notable exception of Martin Amis.

I love A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters back in the day. Would like to revisit. I also enjoyed Before She Met Me and Talking It Over. Don't think I've read any others.

Been reading about Pinker's new tome the Better Angels of Our Nature, which seems to take in an incredibly broad sweep of history in its argument that we are progressively less violent and less likely to be killed. I find the notion that the Second World War was a lesser atrocity than the Mongol Invasion because although fewer people died in the latter, it was a higher percentage of the world's population and therefore relatively worse (which I understand to be part of the book's thesis) to be rather ludicrous. Just because in abstract mathematics it means you had a higher chance of being killed as a citizen of the planet, why does that make it a worse atrocity? That said, it sounds like an awesome piece of research and writing.

Made me realise I've had the Language Instinct on the shelf since 1995 or something, and never read it. A friend inscribed it 'Hope you read it before you die', so I guess I'd better! As someone whose entire working and university life has related to the area of language, it's right up my street.

Pinker was born 3 weeks after EC and chose 'God's Comic' when on Desert Island Discs, praising the verbal ingenuity of Costello.
There's more to life than books, you know, but not much more

User avatar
Jack of All Parades
Posts: 5714
Joined: Sun Apr 12, 2009 11:31 am
Location: Where I wish to be

Re: books, books, books

Postby Jack of All Parades » Wed Oct 19, 2011 7:21 am

How could I forget Mr. Amis?- most deserving should they finally decide to give it to him. The Pregnant Widow last year was an excellent read. If I remember correctly he and Mr. Barnes have quite a feud going, having once been fast friends. I always have a soft spot for Flaubert's Parrot and Arthur and George.

Have read reviews over here on Pinker's new book. They have piqued my interest. The Blank Slate and your mentioned book are seminal texts for me. Will be interested to hear how you like the book. The new Stephen Greenblatt on Lucretius has me going now.
"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'


Return to “The Annex”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: verbal gymnastics and 31 guests