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Read The Books You Should Have Already Read

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Leopardi
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Read The Books You Should Have Already Read

#281

Post by Leopardi » February 25th, 2018, 9:25 pm

I've finished The Feynman Lectures Volume 3. I don't have too much to add to what I already wrote about the first two volumes except that with this particular volume you get to see Feynman focusing on his specialty, quantum mechanics, which is really something special to witness. He shifts effortlessly and intuitively from Heisenberg, Schrödinger and Dirac pictures and gives you a good idea of why it's important to be able to do so, which is especially impressive given the text was written in the late 50's and early 60's.

It boggles my mind how quickly this field developed in so short a time, how quickly scientists could speak with confidence on the often bizarre interpretations of the physics they were uncovering. The EPR paradox, the Stern-Gerlach Experiment, the Meissner Effect and Cooper Pairing are all covered as though they've been around forever. A slight downside, Feynman Diagrams don't make an appearance here although they could, but I readily admit adding them in here would be too much for what should be an introduction to the field.

Insomnia, I'll pick A Farewell to Arms for you, as I haven't read any Hemingway and might consider picking something up if you can whet my appetite. My girlfriend read A Moveable Feast a few years ago and loved it, so I'm already halfway there.

Here's my list:

1. The Return of Martin Guerre (Natalie Zemon Davis). I thought the film adaptation was quite interesting so I thought I'd give the book a try.

2. The Devil's Doctor: Paracelsus and the World of Renaissance Magic and Science (Philip Ball). Another fascinating history book!

3. Victorian London: The Tale of a City 1840-1870 (Liza Picard). Since I had such success with Dr. Johnson's London by the same author, I'll throw this one on the list next.

4. Alexander Hamilton (Ron Chernow). I had the good fortune to see the Broadway production inspired by this book back in January - even with all the hype it didn't fail to impress me - and so this is a natural follow-up.

5. Printer's Error: Irreverent Stories from Book History (Rebecca and J. P. Romney). The title says it all - I like books and like history, so this will be right up my alley, I'm sure. The excerpts I've read so far show great promise.

6. 1066: The Story of a Year (Denis Butler). An in-depth look at what went on that fateful year, starting with the death of Edward the Confessor and ending with the crowning of William the Conqueror.

7. Working (Studs Terkel). "Perhaps Studs Terkel's best known book, Working is a compelling look at jobs and the people who do them. Consisting of over one hundred interviews with everyone from a gravedigger to a studio head, from a policeman to a piano tuner, this book provides an enduring portrait of people's feelings about their working lives." (from the back of the book). I'm hoping to have the same success with this book as I had with Terkel's Hard Times, a masterful oral history of the Great Depression.

8. Connections (James Burke). "In this highly acclaimed and bestselling book, James Burke brilliantly examines the ideas, inventions and coincidences that have culminated in the major technological advances of today. With dazzling insight, he untangles the pattern of interconnecting events: the accidents of time, circumstance, and place that gave rise to the major inventions of the world." (from the back of the book). I loved the television miniseries way back when, so I'm not sure why it took me so long to pick this book up.

9. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams). I've had this series recommended to me more than any other book, I'll bet, and I may be the last person on Earth to read it, so now is as good a time as any.

10. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (Michael Chabon). I don't know much about this title, but both Sebby and my girlfriend really enjoyed it so I'll give it a try!

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#282

Post by insomnia » March 12th, 2018, 10:47 am

Leopardi, I'll pick The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy for you. It's amusing and short and the only thing on your list I've read.

I read A Farewell To Arms. I've read a few things by Hemingway now and seem to keep getting surprised by how much I like his books. I read some of his works at university which possibly gave them with a stuffy school reading vibe in my mind, even though I remember liking it back then too. So my reaction is strange, even to me. It shouldn't be surprising to like one of the canonical writers of the 20th century. I had the same reaction last year with The Sun Also Rises, which I totally adored. I suspect that part of it is that both his prose and his narratives are very suited to the audiobook format. His writing is very terse and clear and the way his stories are structured with calculated meandering around certain places and topics just makes it easy and pleasant to hear it being told.

My list:

1. Fathers and Sons (Turgenev)
2. Rendezvous With Rama (Clarke)
3. 20.000 Leagues Under The Sea (Verne)
4. A Confederacy of Dunces (Toole)
5. The Gallic & Civil Wars (Caesar)
6. Lysistrata (Aristophanes)
7. Nicomachean Ethics (Aristotle)
8. Letters From a Stoic (Seneca)
9. The History of Sexuality Vol. I (Foucault)
10. Profit over People (Chomsky)

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#283

Post by Leopardi » March 17th, 2018, 2:14 pm

I've finished Italian Mysteries. This was one of Lathom's last books and was a later entry in the Romantic era, published in 1820, when Gothic literature was on the wane. According to the publisher, by this time Lathom seemed to be taking himself and his novel less seriously, which allowed to him to inject some humour into the book, almost turning it into a lampoon of the genre. And it's true, there's some material here that's (presumably) intentionally over the top and melodramatic. I found the first half of the second part (of three) a little boring and the third part overly convoluted, but otherwise enjoyed it enough to order a few more Lathom titles from Valancourt Books: Lathom's first, The Castle of Oliada, written during the heyday of Goth lit (1795), and his best, The Midnight Bell, which has the ignominious claim to fame of being one of Jane Austen's Horrid Novels. No doubt I'll pick up more in the future, and I would love to pick up his Men and Manners, a non-Gothic novel that Montague Summers considered a masterpiece and compared favourably to Dickens' works.

An interesting side note (to me, anyway): It's known that Lathom traveled to America in the years before and after the publication of this book (including during the War of 1812, I think), but it's not known exactly where he went (he has ties to a publisher in New York and sent a letter from Philadelphia, but that's about it as far as I know). At the end of the book he mentions one of the characters is based on a man he knows in Quebec (Felix Nulty), which makes me wonder if he was in this neck of the woods while writing this book. I wish I could dig in and try to uncover more but, alas, I wouldn't even know how to begin such an investigation.

Insomnia, I'll pick 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea for you since, in one of the books I'm reading now, Around the World in Seventy-Two Days, Nellie Bly has just been invited to meet with Verne and his wife while on her round-the-world tour so I'll play on that coincidence. Also, 20,000 Leagues is a fantastic book, one of my favourites.

Here's my updated list:

1. Selected Journalism 1850-1870 (Charles Dickens, 1850-1870). "[Selections] from the pieces Dickens wrote after he founded Household Words in 1850 until his death in 1870. It contains 'Night Walks', 'On Strike' and 'New Year's Day' which are among Dickens' most remarkable pieces." One of my favourite writers.

2. What's Bred in the Bone (Robertson Davies, 1985). The second novel in Davies' celebrated Cornish Trilogy, this series, and Davies' writing in general, so affected my sister that she actually got a tattoo of the title quote some years ago. Shortlisted for the 1986 Booker Prize.

3. Mysteries (Knut Hamsun, 1892). "Mysteries is the story of Johan Nilsen Nagel, a mysteries stranger who suddenly turns up in a small Norwegian town one summer - and just as suddenly disappears. Nagel is a complete outsider, a sort of modern Christ treated as a spirit of near tragedy...But there is a sinister side of him: in his vest he carries a vial of prussic acid..." (Penguin Classics description). A much-lauded work by one of the creators of the modern novel.

4. The Enormous Room (e e cummings, 1922). "From the twentieth century's most inventive poet, a story of wartime imprisonment that is by turns comical, lyrical, and obscene." (From the back of the book). My first exposure to cummings' writings (including his poetry, I believe).

5. The Graveyard School: An Anthology (various authors, 18th-19th c.) "The poetry of the Graveyard School - gloomy meditations on mortality, often composed in churchyards - was immensely popular in 18th century England and was an important forerunner of the Romantic period and a major influence on the development of the Gothic novel. Yet, despite the unquestioned significance of the Graveyard Poets, critical attention has been scant, and until now there has been no anthology of their writings." (back cover). Another great publication by Valancourt Books featuring thirty-three writers from this group.

6. The Conquest of Gaul (Julius Caesar, 58-49 BCE). "It was partly as a piece of personal propaganda that he recorded his campaigns against the various Gallic tribes in Latin; nevertheless these simple, direct and lucid texts are a unique direct source on Gaul in that period and also the only narrative actually written by a great general of antiquity about his own campaigns." (from back of book)

7. Selected Writings on Art and Literature (Charles Baudelaire, 1845-1863). "Baudelaire...brought to bear the same standards on the works of others as he applied to his own: that beauty of idea and style are paramount, that art is useful if its function is the pursuit of beauty and that a quality of strangeness and originality are what make a work of art unique." (from the back of the book - this is a Penguin compilation). I don't think I've ever read anything by Baudelaire before, so I'm looking forward to giving him a try!

8. The Metamorphosis, The Penal Colony, and Other Stories (Franz Kafka, 1909-1924). "Had one to name the artist who comes nearest to bearing the same kind of relation to our age that Dante, Shakespeare and Goethe bore to theirs, Kafka is the first one would think of...Kafka is important to us because his predicament is the predicament of modern man." (W.H. Auden, from back of book). This is the Schocken Books edition. I've already read The Metamorphosis, so I'll only be reading The Penal Colony and whichever short stories I haven't already read. This collection consists of everything Kafka actually published in his lifetime.

9. Doctor Faustus (Thomas Mann, 1947). "'The great German novel', part melodrama, part collection of essays, part torture-chamber of language...Doctor Faustus is a monster...but it is part of the mystery of art that a work of art can be full of faults and yet worth ten thousand petty 'successes'" (R. J. Hollingdale)

10. Count Roderic's Castle (Anonymous, 1794). "With a fast-paced plot that features many of the elements for which the Gothic novel is known--brave heroes and detestable villains, ancient castles, dark dungeons, and a vengeful spectre--Count Roderic's Castle (1794) was one of the most popular of the early Gothic novels issued by the famous Minerva Press." (From book jacket)

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#284

Post by Kowry » March 17th, 2018, 8:26 pm

Leopardi, I pick the Kafka collection for you, since I remember liking his stories quite a bit and I don't know much about your other selections.

I finished Eichmann in Jerusalem (well, except for the postscript, which I'll read soon enough) and it was really great. Arendt's writing is extremely analytical yet vivid, and the subject matter so horrifying and intriguing at the same time. There were a great number of historical facts I hadn't previously known about the Holocaust, especially how the Nazi solutions for "the Jewish question" evolved, and how the attitudes about the Jewish people/Nazi plans about them varied in different parts of Europe. One thing that also was surprising was how leniently post-war Germany apparently handled many prominent Nazis. Arendt's (fascinating) portrayal of Eichmann has of course been contested - or some parts of it have been - by many, and I'm not sure if I buy all of it - nevertheless, she really makes a convincing case. A hugely important book for sure.

1. The Evolution of Beauty (Richard O. Prum, 2017) - How mate selection has influenced evolution.
2. Battle Cry of Freedom (McPherson, 1988) - I haven't read any real books about US history, and especially know very little about the Civil War. Guess this wouldn't be the worst book to read about that.
3. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (Neil DeGrasse Tyson, 2017) - another book I've bought to become a bit more knowledgeable about things I don't know anything about.
4. Warped Passages (Lisa Randall, 2002) - See above. Physics, multiple dimensions, science stuff!
5. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (Tom Wolfe, 1968) - borrowed this from a friend who praised it.
6. Stories of Your Life and Others (Ted Chiang, 2002) - Collection of short stories by an acclaimed sci-fi author. I recently read Chiang's Tower of Babylon, which was very good (and included in this collection), so interested to read more from him!
7. A Million Years in a Day - A Curious History of Daily Life - what the title says.
8. Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Leighton & Feynman, 1985) - Collected reminiscences of the legendary physicist.

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#285

Post by insomnia » April 6th, 2018, 7:41 am

Kowry, go for Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! - I haven't read it myself but I've heard nothing but positive comments about it.

I read 20.000 Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne. First time reading Verne, though I have seen the Best Picture winning adaptation of his 80 Days Around The World recently. I also saw The Fabulous World of Jules Verne a while back, which was great. Anyway I mostly enjoyed the book. It's like a written Attenborough documentary or maybe a shorter Moby Dick. Yet I still felt it went on for a bit too long and was slightly repetitive. There are some wonderful sequences in there though, like the pearl fishing and the squid attack.


1. Fathers and Sons (Turgenev)
2. Rendezvous With Rama (Clarke)
3. Austerlitz (Sebald)
4. A Confederacy of Dunces (Toole)
5. The Gallic & Civil Wars (Caesar)
6. Lysistrata (Aristophanes)
7. Nicomachean Ethics (Aristotle)
8. Letters From a Stoic (Seneca)
9. The Plot Against America (Roth)
10. Profit over People (Chomsky)

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#286

Post by sebby » April 6th, 2018, 7:12 pm

I'll join up since I'm reading like crazy these days.

For Insomnia, go for the Roth.

1 the exorcist (blatty)
2 snow country (kawabata)
3 the master of go (kawabata)
4 you don't have to say you love me (alexie)
5 so you've been publicly shamed (ronson)
6 plainsong (haruf)
7 tropic of cancer (miller)
8 mrs caliban (ingalls)
9 a fan's notes (exley)
10 blindness (saramago)
Last edited by sebby on April 10th, 2018, 6:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#287

Post by insomnia » April 25th, 2018, 10:56 am

Sebby, go for Snow Country - It's short and beautiful.

I read The Plot Against America. My second Roth and though I don't think it's up there with American Pastoral, this was still very good. Usually this kind of young fussy main character would annoy me, but Roth's narrator is at once so complex, vivid and detailed that it's hard not to both empathise with the child and admire the craft. One thing that does bother me somewhat is that this intricate speculation about racial/ethnic tensions and hatred in the US doesn't really go further than Catholics vs Jews. There's a throwaway line somewhere when a Jewish political candidate comes to speak in a black neighbourhood and the few people that show up don't seem enthused or convinced by him. To me it's improbable that an explosion of ethnic violence in the US like it's described towards the end of the book would be limited to Jewish communities.


1. Fathers and Sons (Turgenev)
2. Rendezvous With Rama (Clarke)
3. Austerlitz (Sebald)
4. A Confederacy of Dunces (Toole)
5. The Gallic & Civil Wars (Caesar)
6. Lysistrata (Aristophanes)
7. Nicomachean Ethics (Aristotle)
8. Letters From a Stoic (Seneca)
9. Flowers For Algernon (Hayes)
10. A Canticle For Leibowitz (Miller)

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#288

Post by Leopardi » April 26th, 2018, 3:07 am

I've finished The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a very entertaining and lively read that, I think, deserves its reputation in the annals of nerd-dom. I did find that not all of the endless gags thrown at the reader worked, and that most of the biggest laughs I'd already heard plenty of times before from friends, which I think dulled the effect of them and made the books less enjoyable than had I read them cold. I also felt the last two books were weaker than the first three (Adams seemed to be milking it a little bit), but all in all a fun and worthwhile read, definitely.

Insomnia, I'll pick Lysistrata for you, not only because it's a solid play (I'm not a huge Aristophanes fan, but it's one of his best), but because it's short and, since I'm almost done my next book I'll need another pick from someone soon. :)

Here's my list:

1. The Return of Martin Guerre (Natalie Zemon Davis). I thought the film adaptation was quite interesting so I thought I'd give the book a try.

2. The Devil's Doctor: Paracelsus and the World of Renaissance Magic and Science (Philip Ball). Another fascinating history book!

3. Victorian London: The Tale of a City 1840-1870 (Liza Picard). Since I had such success with Dr. Johnson's London by the same author, I'll throw this one on the list next.

4. Alexander Hamilton (Ron Chernow). I had the good fortune to see the Broadway production inspired by this book back in January - even with all the hype it didn't fail to impress me - and so this is a natural follow-up.

5. Printer's Error: Irreverent Stories from Book History (Rebecca and J. P. Romney). The title says it all - I like books and like history, so this will be right up my alley, I'm sure. The excerpts I've read so far show great promise.

6. 1066: The Story of a Year (Denis Butler). An in-depth look at what went on that fateful year, starting with the death of Edward the Confessor and ending with the crowning of William the Conqueror.

7. Working (Studs Terkel). "Perhaps Studs Terkel's best known book, Working is a compelling look at jobs and the people who do them. Consisting of over one hundred interviews with everyone from a gravedigger to a studio head, from a policeman to a piano tuner, this book provides an enduring portrait of people's feelings about their working lives." (from the back of the book). I'm hoping to have the same success with this book as I had with Terkel's Hard Times, a masterful oral history of the Great Depression.

8. Connections (James Burke). "In this highly acclaimed and bestselling book, James Burke brilliantly examines the ideas, inventions and coincidences that have culminated in the major technological advances of today. With dazzling insight, he untangles the pattern of interconnecting events: the accidents of time, circumstance, and place that gave rise to the major inventions of the world." (from the back of the book). I loved the television miniseries way back when, so I'm not sure why it took me so long to pick this book up.

9. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (Michael Chabon). I don't know much about this title, but both Sebby and my girlfriend really enjoyed it so I'll give it a try!

10. A Very Capable Life (John Leigh Walters). The author, Johnnie Walters, was a big part of my early television memories with his show, Trivia Company, where he wandered the downtown area of my hometown and paid cash prizes for answers to his trivia questions. I loved his brash but lovable personality and I jumped at the chance to learn more about him through this memoir he wrote of his mother. Winner of the Edna Staebler Award for creative non-fiction with Canadian significance.

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#289

Post by insomnia » April 29th, 2018, 3:17 pm

Leopardi go for Alexander Hamilton.

I read Lysistrata. I knew the story but it's still a very amusing play.

1. Fathers and Sons (Turgenev)
2. Rendezvous With Rama (Clarke)
3. Midnight Children (Rushdie)
4. A Confederacy of Dunces (Toole)
5. The Gallic & Civil Wars (Caesar)
6. Hyperion (Simmons)
7. Nicomachean Ethics (Aristotle)
8. Letters From a Stoic (Seneca)
9. Flowers For Algernon (Hayes)
10. A Canticle For Leibowitz (Miller)

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#290

Post by Leopardi » April 29th, 2018, 4:43 pm

I've read The Metamorphosis, The Penal Colony, and Other Stories. I'm in the midst of a three-week long move right now so I don't have the time or brain power to write much, but I will say that this is one of the better collections of stories I've ever read. I wasn't sure the stuff I hadn't read in the volume would compare to the masterpieces I'd already read (A Hunger Artist and The Metamorphosis), but both In the Penal Colony and A Country Doctor are of the same caliber. His travel writings with Max Brod are a little underwhelming, but it's not very fair to judge considering we only have the first of what was supposed to be several chapters.

Insomnia, I'll pick Fathers and Sons for you, as I've had only a lukewarm response to Turgenev so far (haven't read F+S before, though) and am hoping an enthusiastic read from you will spur me to read more. Also, thanks for the quick turnaround with Lysistrata!

Here's my list:

1. Selected Journalism 1850-1870 (Charles Dickens, 1850-1870). "[Selections] from the pieces Dickens wrote after he founded Household Words in 1850 until his death in 1870. It contains 'Night Walks', 'On Strike' and 'New Year's Day' which are among Dickens' most remarkable pieces." One of my favourite writers.

2. What's Bred in the Bone (Robertson Davies, 1985). The second novel in Davies' celebrated Cornish Trilogy, this series, and Davies' writing in general, so affected my sister that she actually got a tattoo of the title quote some years ago. Shortlisted for the 1986 Booker Prize.

3. Mysteries (Knut Hamsun, 1892). "Mysteries is the story of Johan Nilsen Nagel, a mysteries stranger who suddenly turns up in a small Norwegian town one summer - and just as suddenly disappears. Nagel is a complete outsider, a sort of modern Christ treated as a spirit of near tragedy...But there is a sinister side of him: in his vest he carries a vial of prussic acid..." (Penguin Classics description). A much-lauded work by one of the creators of the modern novel.

4. The Enormous Room (e e cummings, 1922). "From the twentieth century's most inventive poet, a story of wartime imprisonment that is by turns comical, lyrical, and obscene." (From the back of the book). My first exposure to cummings' writings (including his poetry, I believe).

5. The Graveyard School: An Anthology (various authors, 18th-19th c.) "The poetry of the Graveyard School - gloomy meditations on mortality, often composed in churchyards - was immensely popular in 18th century England and was an important forerunner of the Romantic period and a major influence on the development of the Gothic novel. Yet, despite the unquestioned significance of the Graveyard Poets, critical attention has been scant, and until now there has been no anthology of their writings." (back cover). Another great publication by Valancourt Books featuring thirty-three writers from this group.

6. The Conquest of Gaul (Julius Caesar, 58-49 BCE). "It was partly as a piece of personal propaganda that he recorded his campaigns against the various Gallic tribes in Latin; nevertheless these simple, direct and lucid texts are a unique direct source on Gaul in that period and also the only narrative actually written by a great general of antiquity about his own campaigns." (from back of book)

7. Selected Writings on Art and Literature (Charles Baudelaire, 1845-1863). "Baudelaire...brought to bear the same standards on the works of others as he applied to his own: that beauty of idea and style are paramount, that art is useful if its function is the pursuit of beauty and that a quality of strangeness and originality are what make a work of art unique." (from the back of the book - this is a Penguin compilation). I don't think I've ever read anything by Baudelaire before, so I'm looking forward to giving him a try!

8. Doctor Faustus (Thomas Mann, 1947). "'The great German novel', part melodrama, part collection of essays, part torture-chamber of language...Doctor Faustus is a monster...but it is part of the mystery of art that a work of art can be full of faults and yet worth ten thousand petty 'successes'" (R. J. Hollingdale)

9. Count Roderic's Castle (Anonymous, 1794). "With a fast-paced plot that features many of the elements for which the Gothic novel is known--brave heroes and detestable villains, ancient castles, dark dungeons, and a vengeful spectre--Count Roderic's Castle (1794) was one of the most popular of the early Gothic novels issued by the famous Minerva Press." (From book jacket)

10. The Landslide (Stephen Gilbert, 1943). "Will my poor book ever be read by anyone? It is about a dragon and a sea serpent, and a kind of prehistoric dog and an old man and a boy and a priest. I sent it to a publisher last July and it has been lost ever since. I know it is good...It is unlike any story that has ever been written before." (from back of book). An early work by the author of Ratman's Notebooks (the book on which the film Willard was based)
Last edited by Leopardi on April 29th, 2018, 4:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#291

Post by funkybusiness » May 11th, 2018, 2:37 am

I don't know where else to put this but this is a book-related thread so. If anyone is interested in 20th century architecture or design, amazon has a couple of Taschen releases for extremely cheap right now,
1. Frederic Chabin's CCCP (Cosmic Communist Constructions Photographed), which is Russian Brutalist structures ~450pp for $5.17 and
2. the first collection of the Italian magazine Domus, 1928-1939, ~750pp., for $3.48. both hardcover.
These are the Bibliotheca Universalis printings, which are smaller than the original printings, but they're not so dramatically small that you can't read the text, as some of the amazon reviews might lead you to believe. I got my copies today and they're really quite good especially considering the "just take it" price tag.
Last edited by funkybusiness on May 11th, 2018, 2:40 am, edited 1 time in total.

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#292

Post by Leopardi » June 24th, 2018, 7:19 pm

I finished Alexander Hamilton this weekend. I have to admit, I had reservations before I began about taking on a large volume on American history, a topic that doesn't always excite me, but Chernow is a master of bringing to life this fascinating period in the early development of the nation. Hamilton's life is well-deserving of an in-depth biography such as this, and Chernow's meticulous, even-handed portrayal of this uniquely-talented and colourful figure has made me an instant fan. I'm not sure which of his books I'll read next, but I'm sure whichever it is I won't be disappointed.

I'll pick Caesar's The Conquest of Gaul for myself next, since I've been dreaming about returning to France and Italy lately.

Here's my list:

1. The Devil's Doctor: Paracelsus and the World of Renaissance Magic and Science (Philip Ball). Another fascinating history book!

2. Victorian London: The Tale of a City 1840-1870 (Liza Picard). Since I had such success with Dr. Johnson's London by the same author, I'll throw this one on the list next.

3. Printer's Error: Irreverent Stories from Book History (Rebecca and J. P. Romney). The title says it all - I like books and like history, so this will be right up my alley, I'm sure. The excerpts I've read so far show great promise.

4. 1066: The Story of a Year (Denis Butler). An in-depth look at what went on that fateful year, starting with the death of Edward the Confessor and ending with the crowning of William the Conqueror.

5. Working (Studs Terkel). "Perhaps Studs Terkel's best known book, Working is a compelling look at jobs and the people who do them. Consisting of over one hundred interviews with everyone from a gravedigger to a studio head, from a policeman to a piano tuner, this book provides an enduring portrait of people's feelings about their working lives." (from the back of the book). I'm hoping to have the same success with this book as I had with Terkel's Hard Times, a masterful oral history of the Great Depression.

6. Connections (James Burke). "In this highly acclaimed and bestselling book, James Burke brilliantly examines the ideas, inventions and coincidences that have culminated in the major technological advances of today. With dazzling insight, he untangles the pattern of interconnecting events: the accidents of time, circumstance, and place that gave rise to the major inventions of the world." (from the back of the book). I loved the television miniseries way back when, so I'm not sure why it took me so long to pick this book up.

7. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (Michael Chabon). I don't know much about this title, but both Sebby and my partner really enjoyed it so I'll give it a try!

8. A Very Capable Life (John Leigh Walters). The author, Johnnie Walters, was a big part of my early television memories with his show, Trivia Company, where he wandered the downtown area of my hometown and paid cash prizes for answers to his trivia questions. I loved his brash but lovable personality and I jumped at the chance to learn more about him through this memoir he wrote of his mother. Winner of the Edna Staebler Award for creative non-fiction with Canadian significance.

9. The New Physics (ed. Paul Davies). I purchased this book back in the early 90's with every intention of reading it, and did, in fact use it a few times during my undergrad physics years, but I've never actually read it all the way through. Each of the 18 chapters is written by an expert in their respective field (Hawking, Guth, Leggett, Salam and other big names appear here, for example) and the text looks to be written at a level an advanced undergraduate physics student could understand. It should be interesting to see how each of the topics has changed over the last quarter century, and how many of the predictions made have been proven correct.

10. The Last of the Wild Rivers (Wallace A. Schaber) A book devoted entirely to the Du Moine watershed, the last of the ten major Quebec tributaries of the Ottawa River to resist hydro and mining development as well as colonization, according to the back of the book. Some local history for a waterway that's about a five minute walk from where I live (the Ottawa River, that is, not the Du Moine).
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#293

Post by Leopardi » July 5th, 2018, 2:32 am

I've finished The Conquest of Gaul, which wasn't quite as interesting as I was hoping for. According to the introduction, Caesar's chapters were likely written fairly tersely to give historians the essential facts on which to build more detailed and eloquent historical accounts, so what we have is a dense bit of prose that flows by so quickly it's hard to get into it in any serious way. The last chapter (written by Caesar's legate, Aulus Hirtius is a more interesting read, but it makes up on the last 10% or so of the book, so it doesn't much change my appraisal of it overall. I concede the book's importance as a historical document (and even this is not as clear-cut as one might think, since it's often thought of as one of the earlier works of propaganda, used to advance Caesar's political career) and may be missing out by not having read it in its original Latin (I guess this was a popular text for Latin studies over the last few centuries), but all in all it didn't do much for me.

Keeping with the theme of conquest, I'll pick 1066: The Story of a Year for myself next.

Here's my list:

1. Selected Journalism 1850-1870 (Charles Dickens, 1850-1870). "[Selections] from the pieces Dickens wrote after he founded Household Words in 1850 until his death in 1870. It contains 'Night Walks', 'On Strike' and 'New Year's Day' which are among Dickens' most remarkable pieces." One of my favourite writers.

2. What's Bred in the Bone (Robertson Davies, 1985). The second novel in Davies' celebrated Cornish Trilogy, this series, and Davies' writing in general, so affected my sister that she actually got a tattoo of the title quote some years ago. Shortlisted for the 1986 Booker Prize.

3. Mysteries (Knut Hamsun, 1892). "Mysteries is the story of Johan Nilsen Nagel, a mysteries stranger who suddenly turns up in a small Norwegian town one summer - and just as suddenly disappears. Nagel is a complete outsider, a sort of modern Christ treated as a spirit of near tragedy...But there is a sinister side of him: in his vest he carries a vial of prussic acid..." (Penguin Classics description). A much-lauded work by one of the creators of the modern novel.

4. The Enormous Room (e e cummings, 1922). "From the twentieth century's most inventive poet, a story of wartime imprisonment that is by turns comical, lyrical, and obscene." (From the back of the book). My first exposure to cummings' writings (including his poetry, I believe).

5. The Graveyard School: An Anthology (various authors, 18th-19th c.) "The poetry of the Graveyard School - gloomy meditations on mortality, often composed in churchyards - was immensely popular in 18th century England and was an important forerunner of the Romantic period and a major influence on the development of the Gothic novel. Yet, despite the unquestioned significance of the Graveyard Poets, critical attention has been scant, and until now there has been no anthology of their writings." (back cover). Another great publication by Valancourt Books featuring thirty-three writers from this group.

6. Selected Writings on Art and Literature (Charles Baudelaire, 1845-1863). "Baudelaire...brought to bear the same standards on the works of others as he applied to his own: that beauty of idea and style are paramount, that art is useful if its function is the pursuit of beauty and that a quality of strangeness and originality are what make a work of art unique." (from the back of the book - this is a Penguin compilation). I don't think I've ever read anything by Baudelaire before, so I'm looking forward to giving him a try!

7. Doctor Faustus (Thomas Mann, 1947). "'The great German novel', part melodrama, part collection of essays, part torture-chamber of language...Doctor Faustus is a monster...but it is part of the mystery of art that a work of art can be full of faults and yet worth ten thousand petty 'successes'" (R. J. Hollingdale)

8. Count Roderic's Castle (Anonymous, 1794). "With a fast-paced plot that features many of the elements for which the Gothic novel is known--brave heroes and detestable villains, ancient castles, dark dungeons, and a vengeful spectre--Count Roderic's Castle (1794) was one of the most popular of the early Gothic novels issued by the famous Minerva Press." (From book jacket)

9. The Landslide (Stephen Gilbert, 1943). "Will my poor book ever be read by anyone? It is about a dragon and a sea serpent, and a kind of prehistoric dog and an old man and a boy and a priest. I sent it to a publisher last July and it has been lost ever since. I know it is good...It is unlike any story that has ever been written before." (from the back of the book). An early work by the author of Ratman's Notebooks (the book on which the film Willard was based)

10. The Ox-Bow Incident (Walter van Tilberg Clark, 1940). "The Ox-Bow Incident is a searing and realistic portrait of frontier life and mob violence in the American West...an emotionally powerful, vivid, and unforgettable re-creation of the Western novel, which Clark transmuted into a universal story about good and evil, individual and community, justice and human nature." (from the back of the book)

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#294

Post by Cippenham » July 5th, 2018, 5:59 am

Leopardi et tu brute’ ? Lol Anyway After the World Cup May I give this a try
Turning over a new leaf :ICM:

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#295

Post by Cippenham » July 5th, 2018, 5:59 am

Leopardi et tu brute’ ? Lol Anyway After the World Cup I may give this a try
Turning over a new leaf :ICM:

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#296

Post by Leopardi » July 12th, 2018, 3:11 am

Cippenham wrote:
July 5th, 2018, 5:59 am
Leopardi et tu brute’ ? Lol Anyway After the World Cup I may give this a try
I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before, but if you're looking for a great book on Italian conquest (in this case both economic and military), I highly recommend City of Fortune: How Venice Won and Lost a Naval Empire. A very readable treatment of a fascinating period in European history!

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#297

Post by beavis » July 13th, 2018, 7:37 am

probably the wrong thread to post this, because I might not have the stamina to really push aside my obsession with movies and start reading more... but, I want to post it somewhere anyway, so here goes, hopefully it gets an interesting remark or reccomendation.

So, recently I cleaned out my book collection quite substantially and now I made a list of 30 books I absolutely should read, better sooner than later
Half of them from the 1001 books to read before you die list and the other half my own selection, but all waiting for me on my shelves

Peter Handke - The Left-Handed Woman
Bruno Schulz - The Street of Crocodiles
Sadegh Hedayat - The Blind Owl
Fyodor Dostoevsky - Notes from the Underground
Thomas Pynchon - The Crying of Lot 49
J.J.Slauerhoff - Het Verboden Rijk
Marguerite Duras - De Vice-Consul
Georges Bataille - The Abbot C
Thomas Bernhard - Correction
Joris-Karl Huysmans - Down There
Italo Calvino - If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler
George Orwell - Nineteen Eighty-Four
J.G. Ballard - Super-Cannes
Herman Broch - The Death of Virgil
Thomas Mann - The Magic Mountain

Louis Couperus - Extaze
William S. Burroughs - The Soft Machine
Junichiro Tanizaki - The Key
Witold Gombrowicz - Kosmos
Eugène Ionesco - The Hermit
Robert Walser - Jakob von Gunten
Philip K. Dick - Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said
Gerard Reve - De Avonden
Gene Wolfe - The Shadow of the Torturer (+ rest of the series if good)
László Krasznahorkai - The World Goes On
Alasdair Gray - 1982, Janine
Michel Houellebecq - The Possibility of an Island
Olga Tokarczuk - Flights
Fernando Pessoa - The Book of Disquiet
Robert Musil - The Man Without Qualities

Ranked on the number of pages. Quite a few small books in there and two really big ones. The last few years I average about a pathetic 1 book a year... I hope to go up to at least 5 (I can't let go of movies that much yet :)). If I manage that, then this list would take me 6 years to complete.... So it should be possible to at least get it done before I'm 50. That seems like a nice goal to work on!

Some of my favorite writers are in here (Duras, Ballard, Houellebecq, Dick), some books that I should have read ages ago (Dutch classic De Avonden, world classic 1984, dostoevsky), some that I really liked the movie of (Kosmos, the Book of Disquiet, Jakob von Gunten, the Blind Owl, the Left-Handed Woman), some fin-de-siecle / symbolism works... the only thing that seems like a blind stab for me is "1982, Janine" that might be a Scottish cult novel, but I hardly know anything else about it, or know people who have read it, still I think it could be something that I would totally like...

whish me luck! :)

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#298

Post by funkybusiness » July 13th, 2018, 8:03 am

I highly recommend The Crying of Lot 49, Pynchon is one of my favorite authors so don't hesitate if you have any and all questions.

and I would suggest not to start with Notes from the Underground if you've never read anything of Dostoyevsky's before. Maybe Crime and Punishment or The Idiot to start. All of them are exceptional but, although all of Dostoyevsky's books are steeped in the times in which they are written, NftU is a constant reference to very specific literary and political activities and the time, milieu and tradition in which it was written. So, I would suggest reading up on 19th century Russia first. Or, get a copy with excellent notes. (Notes on Notes from the Underground! There's a title waiting to be written). Although, no one really likes earning a degree on a book before they read it, so maybe NftU just doesn't appeal to me as a "read it and put it on the shelf" sort of book, if any of that makes sense.

I haven't read a ton of PKDick but I did particularly enjoy UBIK and Flow My Tears was the favorite book of one of my best friends in high school.




In other news, I read Zama by Antonio de Benedetto not long ago and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is the least bit interested in it, even if Lucrecia Martel isn't your thing. It's brief and almost perfect.

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#299

Post by beavis » July 13th, 2018, 8:21 am

Ubik is a great book indeed. Of his work that I still need to read I am most looking forward to either flow my tears or The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, but it seems the former is slightly more popular amongst the fans.

I have tried some dostojevsky before, but never at the right time. Somehow I never felt confortable reading his work, got lost in the names and so on. I think I am somewhat knowledgeable about the time period and am interested in politics (The Devils would have been my other choice for him) and it seems this small novel is referenced a lot by other authors I admire (mostly Camus), so I think I could go for it. But please correct me again if you still think this is unwise.

Is Pynchon similar to DeLillo? I have some books from him (bought after seeing Cosmopolis :)) but let him fall of this read-list. Here I chose again a small but highly regarded book to dip my toes in. the other works seem quite hefty.

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#300

Post by funkybusiness » July 13th, 2018, 9:00 am

Regarding Dostoyevsky, if you know about the political movements of 19th c. Russia and generally what the Tsars of the century were and what they did, I don't think The Devils is too difficult, that's in fact probably it's only barrier preventing it from being a first-read suggestion for Dostoyevsky a la Crime and Punishment (that and its general allegorical structure* but I think anyone as well-versed in film as you shouldn't have a problem with that factor). If you're looking for any other Russian lit. recommendations, I'd suggest A Sportsman's Sketches (alt tl. Sketches from a Hunter's Album) by Ivan Turgenev (short stories, realism in the later tradition of Ibsen and Joyce, 1850s) and The Ice Trilogy by Vladimir Sorokin (early '00s, a journey through the life of a cult through the whole of the 20th century, a myriad of genre stylings in an all-out assault on modern Russian culture and politics).


Regarding Pynchon/DeLillo, no, not really. Pynchon is very funny and extremely paranoid, a hyperactive personification of 1960s culture, psychedelic, gag-heavy, punny, irreverent, ten thousand references to pop culture phenomena. DeLillo seems, at first, severely serious in comparison, but he hides his humour in irony and occasionally outright mockery. He's quite a bit more sly and calm than Pynchon. Although both of them tend to write post-modern historical novels (or at least the 2nd half of DeLillo's output aka his "Major Works") with deeply embedded allegorical structures (those things again!) that most people seem to miss \: Pynchon's characters are a. a multitude, there are sometimes hundreds, although maybe only a couple dozen are important and b. zany, occasionally only appearing for the sake of a joke or a reference to which one needs a guide and a tarot deck to decipher, while DeLillo tends towards smaller casts featuring more realistic characters that can still function as symbols. Cosmopolis is a fine novel to start with, as is White Noise. Libra will seem like a retread of Oliver Stone's JFK, but that's mostly because he ripped it off wholesale without credit (because "it's history, you can't plagiarize history"). Everything before The Names is atypical of his later style. Point Omega might be a decent 2nd or 3rd read for you, if you're interested in post-9/11 deep state foreign policy conspiracy theories and 24 Hour Psycho being used as a metaphor. Underworld is his masterpiece, a re-telling of US cold war history centered around a garbage waste management executive and a lost baseball. but it is pretty long. I wouldn't recommend anything else for starts.
re: Pynchon, if you end up really liking Lot 49, you've got two routes, if you enjoyed the conspiracy/paranoia aspect of it, continue with the California novels, Vineland and Inherent Vice, if you enjoyed the historical aspect and the pop culture, go back a novel to his first, V., and work your way forward (and asking any questions you like about Gravity's Rainbow, it is easily his most difficult read, and is often described as such, but it really shouldn't be as intimidating as, say, The Recognitions or Finnegans Wake. It's probably right there with Ulysses, you simply have to figure out who is saying what and when, and then try to work on the structure and metaphors as you go. some of them, like the flower symbols and horse track betting (one of the best aspects of it that is very easily missed) in Ulysses, or the liturgical calendar in Gravity's Rainbow, you just won't get the first time you read them unless someone tells you beforehand or you read a guidebook or something). Mason & Dixon is probably his greatest achievement and Against the Day is his most accessible (excepting its length) after Lot 49 (and maybe his most enjoyable? it's certainly near the top).

*A technique very common in the Russian literature I've encountered (most of "the greats").

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#301

Post by beavis » July 13th, 2018, 9:18 am

Thanks for these elaborations! I am not sure yet if I like conspiracy material (although I am a big fan of Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco...) And the joy of pop-culture references seems a specifically American thing :) not sure yet if I am thát post-modern; I have similar trepidations with Burroughs. I liked Naked Lunch plenty, but still feel I should love it more. Giving it a second chance with Soft Machine... as long as there is absurdism and extentialism in there!

so much to read still!!

I might change Notes from the Underground to the Devils on my list now

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#302

Post by funkybusiness » July 13th, 2018, 9:30 am

if you're looking for absurdism (...mostly of the Marx Brothers variety) and existentialism (and phony Beatlemania! if there is one aspect of Pynchon's fiction that I forget to mention, it is his peculiar, unique way of rendering fictitious songs, all the time, at least once a chapter, someone breaks into song, like in a film musical, in any number of genres and styles, Beatlemania is particular to Lot 49, as he wrote it at about the same time), you'll probably love The Crying of Lot 49. The conspiracy aspect of Pynchon's novels tends to a post-modern riffing on conspiracies in general, that the conspiracy nut over-simplifies the complex nature of things and thinks they've unraveled the secrets of society/government/world rule and he tends to undermine the conspiracy theorist (while actually developing fictional conspiracy theories, presenting a paranoid state of being where one isn't sure what is real and true).

(I've never been one much for Burroughs, I preferred the film to the book of Naked Lunch).

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#303

Post by Leopardi » July 16th, 2018, 11:18 pm

beavis wrote:
July 13th, 2018, 7:37 am
probably the wrong thread to post this, because I might not have the stamina to really push aside my obsession with movies and start reading more... but, I want to post it somewhere anyway, so here goes, hopefully it gets an interesting remark or reccomendation.

So, recently I cleaned out my book collection quite substantially and now I made a list of 30 books I absolutely should read, better sooner than later
Half of them from the 1001 books to read before you die list and the other half my own selection, but all waiting for me on my shelves

Peter Handke - The Left-Handed Woman
Bruno Schulz - The Street of Crocodiles
Sadegh Hedayat - The Blind Owl
Fyodor Dostoevsky - Notes from the Underground
Thomas Pynchon - The Crying of Lot 49
J.J.Slauerhoff - Het Verboden Rijk
Marguerite Duras - De Vice-Consul
Georges Bataille - The Abbot C
Thomas Bernhard - Correction
Joris-Karl Huysmans - Down There
Italo Calvino - If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler
George Orwell - Nineteen Eighty-Four
J.G. Ballard - Super-Cannes
Herman Broch - The Death of Virgil
Thomas Mann - The Magic Mountain

Louis Couperus - Extaze
William S. Burroughs - The Soft Machine
Junichiro Tanizaki - The Key
Witold Gombrowicz - Kosmos
Eugène Ionesco - The Hermit
Robert Walser - Jakob von Gunten
Philip K. Dick - Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said
Gerard Reve - De Avonden
Gene Wolfe - The Shadow of the Torturer (+ rest of the series if good)
László Krasznahorkai - The World Goes On
Alasdair Gray - 1982, Janine
Michel Houellebecq - The Possibility of an Island
Olga Tokarczuk - Flights
Fernando Pessoa - The Book of Disquiet
Robert Musil - The Man Without Qualities

Ranked on the number of pages. Quite a few small books in there and two really big ones. The last few years I average about a pathetic 1 book a year... I hope to go up to at least 5 (I can't let go of movies that much yet :)). If I manage that, then this list would take me 6 years to complete.... So it should be possible to at least get it done before I'm 50. That seems like a nice goal to work on!

Some of my favorite writers are in here (Duras, Ballard, Houellebecq, Dick), some books that I should have read ages ago (Dutch classic De Avonden, world classic 1984, dostoevsky), some that I really liked the movie of (Kosmos, the Book of Disquiet, Jakob von Gunten, the Blind Owl, the Left-Handed Woman), some fin-de-siecle / symbolism works... the only thing that seems like a blind stab for me is "1982, Janine" that might be a Scottish cult novel, but I hardly know anything else about it, or know people who have read it, still I think it could be something that I would totally like...

whish me luck! :)
Good luck! There are a fair number of titles on your list that should probably go on mine as well. Are you planning on joining in on the action here? I'd be interested in hearing what you have to say about them, it might spur me to finally read them myself! Of the books I've read on your list, I found that
  • Notes From the Underground was a masterpiece (but I agree with Funky's warnings; this was my first Dostoevsky and I would have been better served by a stronger background in Russian politics when I read it)
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four was well-written and politically astute, of course, but not my favourite Orwell novel all in all (I actually preferred Burmese Days and Coming Up For Air)
  • The Magic Mountain I didn't really care for as much as I should, it was a little too dry for my taste, but I do have a respect for the book, if that makes any sense
The Book of Disquiet is high on my list of books to read after I saw Arthur reading it last year - seems like an amazing work.

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#304

Post by Leopardi » July 16th, 2018, 11:36 pm

I'm nearly finished 1066: The Story of a Year, an interesting deep-dive into what went down that fateful year, breaking it down in handy month-by-month chapters. There were times where the material was a little dry, but in general I found it worthwhile and illuminating. I thought September was the most interesting chapter, I hadn't appreciated just how important the Battle of Stamford Bridge was to British history, but it's now imprinted indelibly on my memory.

I'll pick Baudelaire's Selected Writings on Art and Literature for myself next, as I usually prefer non-fiction in the summer months.

Here's my list:

1. The Devil's Doctor: Paracelsus and the World of Renaissance Magic and Science (Philip Ball). Another fascinating history book!

2. Victorian London: The Tale of a City 1840-1870 (Liza Picard). Since I had such success with Dr. Johnson's London by the same author, I'll throw this one on the list next.

3. Printer's Error: Irreverent Stories from Book History (Rebecca and J. P. Romney). The title says it all - I like books and like history, so this will be right up my alley, I'm sure. The excerpts I've read so far show great promise.

4. Working (Studs Terkel). "Perhaps Studs Terkel's best known book, Working is a compelling look at jobs and the people who do them. Consisting of over one hundred interviews with everyone from a gravedigger to a studio head, from a policeman to a piano tuner, this book provides an enduring portrait of people's feelings about their working lives." (from the back of the book). I'm hoping to have the same success with this book as I had with Terkel's Hard Times, a masterful oral history of the Great Depression.

5. Connections (James Burke). "In this highly acclaimed and bestselling book, James Burke brilliantly examines the ideas, inventions and coincidences that have culminated in the major technological advances of today. With dazzling insight, he untangles the pattern of interconnecting events: the accidents of time, circumstance, and place that gave rise to the major inventions of the world." (from the back of the book). I loved the television miniseries way back when, so I'm not sure why it took me so long to pick this book up.

6. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (Michael Chabon). I don't know much about this title, but both Sebby and my partner really enjoyed it so I'll give it a try!

7. A Very Capable Life (John Leigh Walters). The author, Johnnie Walters, was a big part of my early television memories with his show, Trivia Company, where he wandered the downtown area of my hometown and paid cash prizes for answers to his trivia questions. I loved his brash but lovable personality and I jumped at the chance to learn more about him through this memoir he wrote of his mother. Winner of the Edna Staebler Award for creative non-fiction with Canadian significance.

8. The New Physics (ed. Paul Davies). I purchased this book back in the early 90's with every intention of reading it, and did, in fact use it a few times during my undergrad physics years, but I've never actually read it all the way through. Each of the 18 chapters is written by an expert in their respective field (Hawking, Guth, Leggett, Salam and other big names appear here, for example) and the text looks to be written at a level an advanced undergraduate physics student could understand. It should be interesting to see how each of the topics has changed over the last quarter century, and how many of the predictions made have been proven correct.

9. The Last of the Wild Rivers (Wallace A. Schaber) A book devoted entirely to the Du Moine watershed, the last of the ten major Quebec tributaries of the Ottawa River to resist hydro and mining development as well as colonization, according to the back of the book. Some local history for a waterway that's about a five minute walk from where I live (the Ottawa River, that is, not the Du Moine).
[/quote]

10. Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife (Mary Roach) A lighthearted look at what we know about death and the afterlife from a scientific (and pseudo-scientific) perspective. From the author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.

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#305

Post by beavis » July 17th, 2018, 4:58 am

Leopardi wrote:
July 16th, 2018, 11:18 pm
Are you planning on joining in on the action here?
Thanks for the thoughts. I have planned this action strategically before my 5 week holliday that starts next week, to see for myself how much i can commit to this after my initial enthusiasm. I've tried it before and failed, so i do not dare to commit to the game here, in fear of having to hang my head in shame :) but i could now and then write something after i've finished a book, if nobody finds it strange that i would do that without actually joining in....

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#306

Post by clemmetarey » July 23rd, 2018, 12:00 pm

@beavis
The only one I've read from your list is The Magic Mountain. I agree with Leopardi, even though I think I enjoyed it more than he did. It is definitly not an easy read, I admit I was lost sometimes because of the subject of some conversations, and the style could come out as indigestible and heavy, but I appreciate the efforts that must have gone into writting it.
Do you use public transports? This is where always all of my readings takes place. :)

I decided to join the fun, this morning I finished Le détective de Freud by Olivier Barde-Cabuçon. Taking place in Paris in 1911, a young psychoanalyst is asked by Freud to investigate the murder of a collegue. He will be helped in his task by a Marxist detective, and Carl Jung himself.
I had trouble getting into it at first, because the events were happening in a very basic way, like someone made a list of things to include in a detective novel and added them one by one. But the book becomes better, and I quickly dived into the story. We get short but pertinent glimpses of the theories of Freud, Jung and Marx through conversations, presented in an easy way so that even someone with zero knowledges on these subjects can understand them. The crime story is entertaining, nothing out of the ordinary but worth a read for sure.

I already have picked my next read (Houellebecq' The Elementary Particles), but I promised I'll come up with a list next time.

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#307

Post by Leopardi » July 30th, 2018, 2:55 am

clemmetarey wrote:
July 23rd, 2018, 12:00 pm
I decided to join the fun, this morning I finished Le détective de Freud by Olivier Barde-Cabuçon. Taking place in Paris in 1911, a young psychoanalyst is asked by Freud to investigate the murder of a collegue. He will be helped in his task by a Marxist detective, and Carl Jung himself.
I had trouble getting into it at first, because the events were happening in a very basic way, like someone made a list of things to include in a detective novel and added them one by one. But the book becomes better, and I quickly dived into the story. We get short but pertinent glimpses of the theories of Freud, Jung and Marx through conversations, presented in an easy way so that even someone with zero knowledges on these subjects can understand them. The crime story is entertaining, nothing out of the ordinary but worth a read for sure.

I already have picked my next read (Houellebecq' The Elementary Particles), but I promised I'll come up with a list next time.
Awesome, thanks for joining the game! I like the sound of Elementary Particles - I might just keep an eye out for it.

I finished Selected Writings on Art and Literature. Baudelaire has a confidence in his opinion that's admirable and a depth and breadth of knowledge that's extraordinarily impressive. As you might expect, some essays are more interesting than others; I thought his views on Edgar Allan Poe and Wagner were entertaining (it should be noted, though, that music was not Baudelaire's strong point, but that doesn't stop him from going out there and punching above his weight), while his frequent exaltations of Delacroix got a little repetitive after a while. His Salon surveys are breezy and, if you're not already familiar with every last artist and work he's talking about (and I wasn't), they can pass by without his praise or criticism really sinking in. Even here, though, there are frequent digressions where he offers his opinions on all sorts of art topics, so I'd still consider them well worth a read. All in all a worthwhile read, more interesting than I was expecting.

I'll pick The Devil's Doctor: Paracelsus and the World of Renaissance Magic and Science next since my description for it is lacking and it's been on the list for a long while.

1. Selected Journalism 1850-1870 (Charles Dickens, 1850-1870). "[Selections] from the pieces Dickens wrote after he founded Household Words in 1850 until his death in 1870. It contains 'Night Walks', 'On Strike' and 'New Year's Day' which are among Dickens' most remarkable pieces." One of my favourite writers.

2. What's Bred in the Bone (Robertson Davies, 1985). The second novel in Davies' celebrated Cornish Trilogy, this series, and Davies' writing in general, so affected my sister that she actually got a tattoo of the title quote some years ago. Shortlisted for the 1986 Booker Prize.

3. Mysteries (Knut Hamsun, 1892). "Mysteries is the story of Johan Nilsen Nagel, a mysteries stranger who suddenly turns up in a small Norwegian town one summer - and just as suddenly disappears. Nagel is a complete outsider, a sort of modern Christ treated as a spirit of near tragedy...But there is a sinister side of him: in his vest he carries a vial of prussic acid..." (Penguin Classics description). A much-lauded work by one of the creators of the modern novel.

4. The Enormous Room (e e cummings, 1922). "From the twentieth century's most inventive poet, a story of wartime imprisonment that is by turns comical, lyrical, and obscene." (From the back of the book). My first exposure to cummings' writings (including his poetry, I believe).

5. The Graveyard School: An Anthology (various authors, 18th-19th c.) "The poetry of the Graveyard School - gloomy meditations on mortality, often composed in churchyards - was immensely popular in 18th century England and was an important forerunner of the Romantic period and a major influence on the development of the Gothic novel. Yet, despite the unquestioned significance of the Graveyard Poets, critical attention has been scant, and until now there has been no anthology of their writings." (back cover). Another great publication by Valancourt Books featuring thirty-three writers from this group.

6. Doctor Faustus (Thomas Mann, 1947). "'The great German novel', part melodrama, part collection of essays, part torture-chamber of language...Doctor Faustus is a monster...but it is part of the mystery of art that a work of art can be full of faults and yet worth ten thousand petty 'successes'" (R. J. Hollingdale)

7. Count Roderic's Castle (Anonymous, 1794). "With a fast-paced plot that features many of the elements for which the Gothic novel is known--brave heroes and detestable villains, ancient castles, dark dungeons, and a vengeful spectre--Count Roderic's Castle (1794) was one of the most popular of the early Gothic novels issued by the famous Minerva Press." (From book jacket)

8. The Landslide (Stephen Gilbert, 1943). "Will my poor book ever be read by anyone? It is about a dragon and a sea serpent, and a kind of prehistoric dog and an old man and a boy and a priest. I sent it to a publisher last July and it has been lost ever since. I know it is good...It is unlike any story that has ever been written before." (from the back of the book). An early work by the author of Ratman's Notebooks (the book on which the film Willard was based)

9. The Ox-Bow Incident (Walter van Tilberg Clark, 1940). "The Ox-Bow Incident is a searing and realistic portrait of frontier life and mob violence in the American West...an emotionally powerful, vivid, and unforgettable re-creation of the Western novel, which Clark transmuted into a universal story about good and evil, individual and community, justice and human nature." (from the back of the book)

10. A Traveler at Forty (Theodore Dreiser, 1913). "[A Traveler at Forty contains] the pregnant observations of an old hand at looking, the sharp remarks and annotations of the creator of Hurstwood, Cowperwood and Pete Gerhardt. The book rises completely out of the commonplace, and becomes something new, illuminating and heretical." (H. L. Mencken) One of my favourite writers offers one of my favourite literary sub-genres, the travel book. This will be more than 900 pages of pure gold, I have no doubt.

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#308

Post by Leopardi » August 11th, 2018, 11:51 pm

I finished The Devil's Doctor: Paracelsus and the World of Renaissance Magic and Science today, and really enjoyed the level of detail Ball was able to give on the life and philosophy (if you can call it that) of Paracelsus, a person for which I have a newfound respect after reading the book. He may not have had many direct contributions to Renaissance science but it's astounding how influential he actually was, particularly in the area of medical science. I may actually pick up a tome or two of his to get a more direct look at his ramblings. On the downside, I think Ball could have been more thorough with some of the other related figures from this era, it seemed a bit lacking at times (but, in fairness, there may well just not have been a lot of information available), and I felt the last few chapters were a bit too breezy dealing with the history of magic and science since Paracelsus (the 17th century and beyond), it really should have been beefed up a bit more. All in all, though, a well-researched book on what is I'm sure a frustratingly inscrutable part of history. Recommended.

I'll pick Doctor Faustus for myself next, playing on the theme of controversial occult figures in history (Faust does make an appearance in the Paracelsus book as you might expect).

Here's my list:

1. Victorian London: The Tale of a City 1840-1870 (Liza Picard). Since I had such success with Dr. Johnson's London by the same author, I'll throw this one on the list next.

2. Printer's Error: Irreverent Stories from Book History (Rebecca and J. P. Romney). The title says it all - I like books and like history, so this will be right up my alley, I'm sure. The excerpts I've read so far show great promise.

3. Working (Studs Terkel). "Perhaps Studs Terkel's best known book, Working is a compelling look at jobs and the people who do them. Consisting of over one hundred interviews with everyone from a gravedigger to a studio head, from a policeman to a piano tuner, this book provides an enduring portrait of people's feelings about their working lives." (from the back of the book). I'm hoping to have the same success with this book as I had with Terkel's Hard Times, a masterful oral history of the Great Depression.

4. Connections (James Burke). "In this highly acclaimed and bestselling book, James Burke brilliantly examines the ideas, inventions and coincidences that have culminated in the major technological advances of today. With dazzling insight, he untangles the pattern of interconnecting events: the accidents of time, circumstance, and place that gave rise to the major inventions of the world." (from the back of the book). I loved the television miniseries way back when, so I'm not sure why it took me so long to pick this book up.

5. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (Michael Chabon). I don't know much about this title, but both Sebby and my partner really enjoyed it so I'll give it a try!

6. A Very Capable Life (John Leigh Walters). The author, Johnnie Walters, was a big part of my early television memories with his show, Trivia Company, where he wandered the downtown area of my hometown and paid cash prizes for answers to his trivia questions. I loved his brash but lovable personality and I jumped at the chance to learn more about him through this memoir he wrote of his mother. Winner of the Edna Staebler Award for creative non-fiction with Canadian significance.

7. The New Physics (ed. Paul Davies). I purchased this book back in the early 90's with every intention of reading it, and did, in fact use it a few times during my undergrad physics years, but I've never actually read it all the way through. Each of the 18 chapters is written by an expert in their respective field (Hawking, Guth, Leggett, Salam and other big names appear here, for example) and the text looks to be written at a level an advanced undergraduate physics student could understand. It should be interesting to see how each of the topics has changed over the last quarter century, and how many of the predictions made have been proven correct.

8. The Last of the Wild Rivers (Wallace A. Schaber) A book devoted entirely to the Du Moine watershed, the last of the ten major Quebec tributaries of the Ottawa River to resist hydro and mining development as well as colonization, according to the back of the book. Some local history for a waterway that's about a five minute walk from where I live (the Ottawa River, that is, not the Du Moine).
[/quote]

9. Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife (Mary Roach) A lighthearted look at what we know about death and the afterlife from a scientific (and pseudo-scientific) perspective. From the author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.
[/quote]

10. Horatio's Drive: America's First Road Trip (Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns) In 1903 there were only 150 miles of paved roads in the entire nation and most people had never seen a “horseless buggy”—but that did not stop Horatio Nelson Jackson, a thirty-one-year-old Vermont doctor, who impulsively bet fifty dollars that he could drive his 20-horsepower automobile from San Francisco to New York City. Here—in Jackson’s own words and photographs—is a glorious account of that months-long, problem-beset, thrilling-to-the-rattled-bones trip with his mechanic, Sewall Crocker, and a bulldog named Bud. (from book jacket). I loved the documentary and this has been sitting on my shelf for almost 15 years, I bet, so it's due to be read.

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#309

Post by sebby » August 21st, 2018, 9:17 am

Leopardi, go for Kavalier and Klay.

Snow Country, like everything Kawabata, was a fine read -- though I'd probably rank it well below The Lake or Thousand Cranes.

1 black house (king)
2 needful things (king)
3 junky (burroughs)
4 men without women (murakami)
5 so you've been publicly shamed (ronson)
6 the song of achilles (m. miller)
7 boy's life (mccammon)
8 moonglow (chabon)
9 a fan's notes (exley)
10 flatland (abbot)

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#310

Post by Leopardi » September 4th, 2018, 12:54 am

I'm just about finished Doctor Faustus but may not have another chance to write in the next week so I'll share my thoughts today. Mann's never been my favourite writer - I respect his writing more than I can say I enjoy it - but this will likely be my favourite of his. It felt more personal than the other books of his I've read (The Magic Mountain and Lotte in Weimar: The Beloved Returns), more focused in subject despite the frequent flights of philosophical fancy he indulged in. I thought the most interesting chapters involved the early years of his protagonist, Adrian, probably because I could see myself in him (to an extent), and this carried me through the later chapters, some of which seemed only there to confound the reader with their dense thoughts and prose. I freely admit the discussions of music theory were often well over my head, and that's my own fault for not knowing the area very well. I also admit that chapter twenty-five (I won't describe it - no spoilers here) was particularly effective and powerful. All in all, a challenging but worthwhile read.

A small Nietzschean asideShow
I had an unlikely coincidence while reading the book: Art and I watched the re-release of 2001: A Space Odyssey last week, and I found it interesting to compare it and Doctor Faustus. Both explore the theme of Nietzsche's dual nature of humanity, the Apollonian and the Dionysian. With 2001 Kubrick shows the birth of the Apollonian in early hominids with the discovery of tools, then surges forward to a time when the Apollonian over-corrects and threatens to eradicate the Dionysian (through the absolute reliance on HAL, who has never before been in error). With Doctor Faustus Mann cleaves nearer to Nietzsche's original thesis, that art is a product of the mix of the Apollonian and Dionysian, and explores Adrian's destructive odyssey into the realm of Dionysus while creating his music. Kubrick warns us against the modern world's reliance on pure intellect and logic, while Mann warns us against giving ourselves over wholly to the seduction of chaos. In a weird sort of way, both 2001 and Doctor Faustus argue similar points but from opposing perspectives.

Sebby, I'll see your Chabon and raise you a Chabon - please read Moonglow. Here's my list:

1. Selected Journalism 1850-1870 (Charles Dickens, 1850-1870). "[Selections] from the pieces Dickens wrote after he founded Household Words in 1850 until his death in 1870. It contains 'Night Walks', 'On Strike' and 'New Year's Day' which are among Dickens' most remarkable pieces." One of my favourite writers.

2. What's Bred in the Bone (Robertson Davies, 1985). The second novel in Davies' celebrated Cornish Trilogy, this series, and Davies' writing in general, so affected my sister that she actually got a tattoo of the title quote some years ago. Shortlisted for the 1986 Booker Prize.

3. Mysteries (Knut Hamsun, 1892). "Mysteries is the story of Johan Nilsen Nagel, a mysteries stranger who suddenly turns up in a small Norwegian town one summer - and just as suddenly disappears. Nagel is a complete outsider, a sort of modern Christ treated as a spirit of near tragedy...But there is a sinister side of him: in his vest he carries a vial of prussic acid..." (Penguin Classics description). A much-lauded work by one of the creators of the modern novel.

4. The Enormous Room (e e cummings, 1922). "From the twentieth century's most inventive poet, a story of wartime imprisonment that is by turns comical, lyrical, and obscene." (From the back of the book). My first exposure to cummings' writings (including his poetry, I believe).

5. The Graveyard School: An Anthology (various authors, 18th-19th c.) "The poetry of the Graveyard School - gloomy meditations on mortality, often composed in churchyards - was immensely popular in 18th century England and was an important forerunner of the Romantic period and a major influence on the development of the Gothic novel. Yet, despite the unquestioned significance of the Graveyard Poets, critical attention has been scant, and until now there has been no anthology of their writings." (back cover). Another great publication by Valancourt Books featuring thirty-three writers from this group.

6. Count Roderic's Castle (Anonymous, 1794). "With a fast-paced plot that features many of the elements for which the Gothic novel is known--brave heroes and detestable villains, ancient castles, dark dungeons, and a vengeful spectre--Count Roderic's Castle (1794) was one of the most popular of the early Gothic novels issued by the famous Minerva Press." (From book jacket)

7. The Landslide (Stephen Gilbert, 1943). "Will my poor book ever be read by anyone? It is about a dragon and a sea serpent, and a kind of prehistoric dog and an old man and a boy and a priest. I sent it to a publisher last July and it has been lost ever since. I know it is good...It is unlike any story that has ever been written before." (from the back of the book). An early work by the author of Ratman's Notebooks (the book on which the film Willard was based)

8. The Ox-Bow Incident (Walter van Tilberg Clark, 1940). "The Ox-Bow Incident is a searing and realistic portrait of frontier life and mob violence in the American West...an emotionally powerful, vivid, and unforgettable re-creation of the Western novel, which Clark transmuted into a universal story about good and evil, individual and community, justice and human nature." (from the back of the book)

9. A Traveler at Forty (Theodore Dreiser, 1913). "[A Traveler at Forty contains] the pregnant observations of an old hand at looking, the sharp remarks and annotations of the creator of Hurstwood, Cowperwood and Pete Gerhardt. The book rises completely out of the commonplace, and becomes something new, illuminating and heretical." (H. L. Mencken) One of my favourite writers offers one of my favourite literary sub-genres, the travel book. This will be more than 900 pages of pure gold, I have no doubt.
[/quote]

10. The Mysteries of London (George W. M. Reynolds). "The government feared him. Rival authors like Charles Dickens, whom he outsold, despised him. The literary establishment did its best to write him out of literary history. But when George W.M. Reynolds, journalist, political reformer, Socialist, and novelist, died in 1879, even his critics were forced to acknowledge the truth of his obituary, which declared that he was the most popular writer of his time....The Mysteries of London is a sprawling tableau, seeking to depict life as Reynolds saw it in mid-Victorian London and expose what he viewed as gross injustice toward the poor." (from the back of the book). A massive tome (volumes I and II together are more than 2300 pages), and an astounding literary tour de force from publisher Valancourt Books.

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#311

Post by Leopardi » September 29th, 2018, 11:33 pm

I finished The Amazing Adventure of Kavalier & Clay this week. Chabon has a talent for writing dialogue and I thought he succeeded in capturing the feel of the Golden Age of comics (or at least how I pictured it might have been). Still, for whatever reason the story itself didn't especially grab me, I found that I was drawn to individual scenarios in the book rather than the book as a whole, and none of the characters particularly resonated with me. So a bit of a mixed bag for me, but overall I would say positive, and I would consider reading another book by Chabon, particularly if I had a stronger connection to the subject matter.

I'll pick The Graveyard School: An Anthology for myself (I'm actually almost finished it at this point) to set the mood for October. Here's my list:

1. Victorian London: The Tale of a City 1840-1870 (Liza Picard). Since I had such success with Dr. Johnson's London by the same author, I'll throw this one on the list next.

2. Printer's Error: Irreverent Stories from Book History (Rebecca and J. P. Romney). The title says it all - I like books and like history, so this will be right up my alley, I'm sure. The excerpts I've read so far show great promise.

3. Working (Studs Terkel). "Perhaps Studs Terkel's best known book, Working is a compelling look at jobs and the people who do them. Consisting of over one hundred interviews with everyone from a gravedigger to a studio head, from a policeman to a piano tuner, this book provides an enduring portrait of people's feelings about their working lives." (from the back of the book). I'm hoping to have the same success with this book as I had with Terkel's Hard Times, a masterful oral history of the Great Depression.

4. Connections (James Burke). "In this highly acclaimed and bestselling book, James Burke brilliantly examines the ideas, inventions and coincidences that have culminated in the major technological advances of today. With dazzling insight, he untangles the pattern of interconnecting events: the accidents of time, circumstance, and place that gave rise to the major inventions of the world." (from the back of the book). I loved the television miniseries way back when, so I'm not sure why it took me so long to pick this book up.

5. A Very Capable Life (John Leigh Walters). The author, Johnnie Walters, was a big part of my early television memories with his show, Trivia Company, where he wandered the downtown area of my hometown and paid cash prizes for answers to his trivia questions. I loved his brash but lovable personality and I jumped at the chance to learn more about him through this memoir he wrote of his mother. Winner of the Edna Staebler Award for creative non-fiction with Canadian significance.

6. The New Physics (ed. Paul Davies). I purchased this book back in the early 90's with every intention of reading it, and did, in fact use it a few times during my undergrad physics years, but I've never actually read it all the way through. Each of the 18 chapters is written by an expert in their respective field (Hawking, Guth, Leggett, Salam and other big names appear here, for example) and the text looks to be written at a level an advanced undergraduate physics student could understand. It should be interesting to see how each of the topics has changed over the last quarter century, and how many of the predictions made have been proven correct.

7. The Last of the Wild Rivers (Wallace A. Schaber) A book devoted entirely to the Du Moine watershed, the last of the ten major Quebec tributaries of the Ottawa River to resist hydro and mining development as well as colonization, according to the back of the book. Some local history for a waterway that's about a five minute walk from where I live (the Ottawa River, that is, not the Du Moine).
[/quote]

8. Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife (Mary Roach) A lighthearted look at what we know about death and the afterlife from a scientific (and pseudo-scientific) perspective. From the author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.
[/quote]

9. Horatio's Drive: America's First Road Trip (Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns) In 1903 there were only 150 miles of paved roads in the entire nation and most people had never seen a “horseless buggy”—but that did not stop Horatio Nelson Jackson, a thirty-one-year-old Vermont doctor, who impulsively bet fifty dollars that he could drive his 20-horsepower automobile from San Francisco to New York City. Here—in Jackson’s own words and photographs—is a glorious account of that months-long, problem-beset, thrilling-to-the-rattled-bones trip with his mechanic, Sewall Crocker, and a bulldog named Bud. (from book jacket). I loved the documentary and this has been sitting on my shelf for almost 15 years, I bet, so it's due to be read.
[/quote]

10. A Gentleman in Moscow (Amor Towles) By an odd coincidence, a good friend of mine and my partner both highly recommended this to me within a few days of each other. I'm curious what all the fuss is about, so this goes on the list.

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#312

Post by Leopardi » October 4th, 2018, 3:49 am

I've finished The Graveyard School: An Anthology, a very impressive collection indeed. It boggles my mind that (if the back cover is correct) this is the first compilation of this influential group, and we owe a debt of gratitude to Valancourt Books for undertaking the project.

The Graveyard School originated in the Age of Pope, and it shows. The poems on display are rigidly structured, are chock full of classical and Biblical references, and they often share a moralizing theme that stresses both the importance of religion and the equality of man (i.e. that both kings and paupers share the same fate). As it progresses beyond the Classical Era there's a shift in tone, with more writers focusing on the tone of the poem, establishing a feeling of dread more than peace and sanctity, and it's here where you see its influence on the Gothic Era that would soon follow and carry the torch onward through the Romantic Era. I loved seeing this shift in tone and, again, it's shocking how neglected these writers are despite their having lit that 'slim taper' that would eventually change the face of English literature.

The collection itself is wonderfully diverse, going well beyond the obvious Gray and Young and exploring many voices that are completely unknown to most today, including some of the prominent women writers of the day (Mrs. Carter, Charlotte Smith and others). Brief bios for each writer are included, which I thought was a nice touch, humanizing some of these obscure names for the reader, and the text is annotated (I would have opted for more extensive notes, to be honest, perhaps a future edition will expand them a bit). A great book suitable as a supplementary text for a course on Augustan or Romantic literature, and an enjoyable read for anyone interested in this period.

I'll choose A Very Capable Life next (for no particular reason). Here's my list:

1. Selected Journalism 1850-1870 (Charles Dickens, 1850-1870). "[Selections] from the pieces Dickens wrote after he founded Household Words in 1850 until his death in 1870. It contains 'Night Walks', 'On Strike' and 'New Year's Day' which are among Dickens' most remarkable pieces." One of my favourite writers.

2. What's Bred in the Bone (Robertson Davies, 1985). The second novel in Davies' celebrated Cornish Trilogy, this series, and Davies' writing in general, so affected my sister that she actually got a tattoo of the title quote some years ago. Shortlisted for the 1986 Booker Prize.

3. Mysteries (Knut Hamsun, 1892). "Mysteries is the story of Johan Nilsen Nagel, a mysteries stranger who suddenly turns up in a small Norwegian town one summer - and just as suddenly disappears. Nagel is a complete outsider, a sort of modern Christ treated as a spirit of near tragedy...But there is a sinister side of him: in his vest he carries a vial of prussic acid..." (Penguin Classics description). A much-lauded work by one of the creators of the modern novel.

4. The Enormous Room (e e cummings, 1922). "From the twentieth century's most inventive poet, a story of wartime imprisonment that is by turns comical, lyrical, and obscene." (From the back of the book). My first exposure to cummings' writings (including his poetry, I believe).

5. Count Roderic's Castle (Anonymous, 1794). "With a fast-paced plot that features many of the elements for which the Gothic novel is known--brave heroes and detestable villains, ancient castles, dark dungeons, and a vengeful spectre--Count Roderic's Castle (1794) was one of the most popular of the early Gothic novels issued by the famous Minerva Press." (From book jacket)

6. The Landslide (Stephen Gilbert, 1943). "Will my poor book ever be read by anyone? It is about a dragon and a sea serpent, and a kind of prehistoric dog and an old man and a boy and a priest. I sent it to a publisher last July and it has been lost ever since. I know it is good...It is unlike any story that has ever been written before." (from the back of the book). An early work by the author of Ratman's Notebooks (the book on which the film Willard was based)

7. The Ox-Bow Incident (Walter van Tilberg Clark, 1940). "The Ox-Bow Incident is a searing and realistic portrait of frontier life and mob violence in the American West...an emotionally powerful, vivid, and unforgettable re-creation of the Western novel, which Clark transmuted into a universal story about good and evil, individual and community, justice and human nature." (from the back of the book)

8. A Traveler at Forty (Theodore Dreiser, 1913). "[A Traveler at Forty contains] the pregnant observations of an old hand at looking, the sharp remarks and annotations of the creator of Hurstwood, Cowperwood and Pete Gerhardt. The book rises completely out of the commonplace, and becomes something new, illuminating and heretical." (H. L. Mencken) One of my favourite writers offers one of my favourite literary sub-genres, the travel book. This will be more than 900 pages of pure gold, I have no doubt.

9. The Mysteries of London (George W. M. Reynolds, 1844-1848). "The government feared him. Rival authors like Charles Dickens, whom he outsold, despised him. The literary establishment did its best to write him out of literary history. But when George W.M. Reynolds, journalist, political reformer, Socialist, and novelist, died in 1879, even his critics were forced to acknowledge the truth of his obituary, which declared that he was the most popular writer of his time....The Mysteries of London is a sprawling tableau, seeking to depict life as Reynolds saw it in mid-Victorian London and expose what he viewed as gross injustice toward the poor." (from the back of the book). A massive tome (volumes I and II together are more than 2300 pages), and an astounding literary tour de force from publisher Valancourt Books.

10. The Wayward Bus (John Steinbeck, 1947). "The Wayward Bus...is John Steinbeck's Californian Canterbury Tales...This powerful and unsentimental novel becomes a story of crisis and passion, love and longing, as the travellers reveal their secrets and journey away from their pasts and towards, possibly, the promise of the future. The Wayward Bus, with its profound insight into human desires and failings, remains one of Steinbeck's most powerful novels." (blurb from the Penguin edition). One of my favourite American writers.

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#313

Post by Leopardi » October 4th, 2018, 3:50 am

I've finished The Graveyard School: An Anthology, a very impressive collection indeed. It boggles my mind that (if the back cover is correct) this is the first compilation of this influential group, and we owe a debt of gratitude to Valancourt Books for undertaking the project.

The Graveyard School originated in the Age of Pope, and it shows. The poems on display are rigidly structured, are chock full of classical and Biblical references, and they often share a moralizing theme that stresses both the importance of religion and the equality of man (i.e. that both kings and paupers share the same fate). As it progresses beyond the Classical Era there's a shift in tone, with more writers focusing on the tone of the poem, establishing a feeling of dread more than peace and sanctity, and it's here where you see its influence on the Gothic Era that would soon follow and carry the torch onward through the Romantic Era. I loved seeing this shift in tone and, again, it's shocking how neglected these writers are despite their having lit that 'slim taper' that would eventually change the face of English literature.

The collection itself is wonderfully diverse, going well beyond the obvious Gray and Young and exploring many voices that are completely unknown to most today, including some of the prominent women writers of the day (Mrs. Carter, Charlotte Smith and others). Brief bios for each writer are included, which I thought was a nice touch, humanizing some of these obscure names for the reader, and the text is annotated (I would have opted for more extensive notes, to be honest, perhaps a future edition will expand them a bit). A great book suitable as a supplementary text for a course on Augustan or Romantic literature, and an enjoyable read for anyone interested in this period.

I'll choose A Very Capable Life next (for no particular reason). Here's my list:

1. Selected Journalism 1850-1870 (Charles Dickens, 1850-1870). "[Selections] from the pieces Dickens wrote after he founded Household Words in 1850 until his death in 1870. It contains 'Night Walks', 'On Strike' and 'New Year's Day' which are among Dickens' most remarkable pieces." One of my favourite writers.

2. What's Bred in the Bone (Robertson Davies, 1985). The second novel in Davies' celebrated Cornish Trilogy, this series, and Davies' writing in general, so affected my sister that she actually got a tattoo of the title quote some years ago. Shortlisted for the 1986 Booker Prize.

3. Mysteries (Knut Hamsun, 1892). "Mysteries is the story of Johan Nilsen Nagel, a mysteries stranger who suddenly turns up in a small Norwegian town one summer - and just as suddenly disappears. Nagel is a complete outsider, a sort of modern Christ treated as a spirit of near tragedy...But there is a sinister side of him: in his vest he carries a vial of prussic acid..." (Penguin Classics description). A much-lauded work by one of the creators of the modern novel.

4. The Enormous Room (e e cummings, 1922). "From the twentieth century's most inventive poet, a story of wartime imprisonment that is by turns comical, lyrical, and obscene." (From the back of the book). My first exposure to cummings' writings (including his poetry, I believe).

5. Count Roderic's Castle (Anonymous, 1794). "With a fast-paced plot that features many of the elements for which the Gothic novel is known--brave heroes and detestable villains, ancient castles, dark dungeons, and a vengeful spectre--Count Roderic's Castle (1794) was one of the most popular of the early Gothic novels issued by the famous Minerva Press." (From book jacket)

6. The Landslide (Stephen Gilbert, 1943). "Will my poor book ever be read by anyone? It is about a dragon and a sea serpent, and a kind of prehistoric dog and an old man and a boy and a priest. I sent it to a publisher last July and it has been lost ever since. I know it is good...It is unlike any story that has ever been written before." (from the back of the book). An early work by the author of Ratman's Notebooks (the book on which the film Willard was based)

7. The Ox-Bow Incident (Walter van Tilberg Clark, 1940). "The Ox-Bow Incident is a searing and realistic portrait of frontier life and mob violence in the American West...an emotionally powerful, vivid, and unforgettable re-creation of the Western novel, which Clark transmuted into a universal story about good and evil, individual and community, justice and human nature." (from the back of the book)

8. A Traveler at Forty (Theodore Dreiser, 1913). "[A Traveler at Forty contains] the pregnant observations of an old hand at looking, the sharp remarks and annotations of the creator of Hurstwood, Cowperwood and Pete Gerhardt. The book rises completely out of the commonplace, and becomes something new, illuminating and heretical." (H. L. Mencken) One of my favourite writers offers one of my favourite literary sub-genres, the travel book. This will be more than 900 pages of pure gold, I have no doubt.

9. The Mysteries of London (George W. M. Reynolds, 1844-1848). "The government feared him. Rival authors like Charles Dickens, whom he outsold, despised him. The literary establishment did its best to write him out of literary history. But when George W.M. Reynolds, journalist, political reformer, Socialist, and novelist, died in 1879, even his critics were forced to acknowledge the truth of his obituary, which declared that he was the most popular writer of his time....The Mysteries of London is a sprawling tableau, seeking to depict life as Reynolds saw it in mid-Victorian London and expose what he viewed as gross injustice toward the poor." (from the back of the book). A massive tome (volumes I and II together are more than 2300 pages), and an astounding literary tour de force from publisher Valancourt Books.

10. The Wayward Bus (John Steinbeck, 1947). "The Wayward Bus...is John Steinbeck's Californian Canterbury Tales...This powerful and unsentimental novel becomes a story of crisis and passion, love and longing, as the travellers reveal their secrets and journey away from their pasts and towards, possibly, the promise of the future. The Wayward Bus, with its profound insight into human desires and failings, remains one of Steinbeck's most powerful novels." (blurb from the Penguin edition). One of my favourite American writers.

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Leopardi
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#314

Post by Leopardi » October 15th, 2018, 3:11 am

I finished A Very Capable Life a few days ago. While I picked up the book because it was written by a favourite TV personality from when I was growing up (Johnnie Walters), I was shocked and very pleasantly surprised that the book is a true gem in its own right, quite possibly my favourite Canadian book to date. It describes Walters' mother's immigration from Hungary to Canada as a child and her struggles that follow while moving from city to city in southwestern Ontario. Walters keeps to a simple, unpretentious style that you have to believe mimics his mother's voice to a T, and the relationship he describes between himself and his mother is both honest and endearing. This one deserves to be much more widely read than it is.

I'll pick The Enormous Room for myself next. Here's my list:

1. Victorian London: The Tale of a City 1840-1870 (Liza Picard). Since I had such success with Dr. Johnson's London by the same author, I'll throw this one on the list next.

2. Printer's Error: Irreverent Stories from Book History (Rebecca and J. P. Romney). The title says it all - I like books and like history, so this will be right up my alley, I'm sure. The excerpts I've read so far show great promise.

3. Working (Studs Terkel). "Perhaps Studs Terkel's best known book, Working is a compelling look at jobs and the people who do them. Consisting of over one hundred interviews with everyone from a gravedigger to a studio head, from a policeman to a piano tuner, this book provides an enduring portrait of people's feelings about their working lives." (from the back of the book). I'm hoping to have the same success with this book as I had with Terkel's Hard Times, a masterful oral history of the Great Depression.

4. Connections (James Burke). "In this highly acclaimed and bestselling book, James Burke brilliantly examines the ideas, inventions and coincidences that have culminated in the major technological advances of today. With dazzling insight, he untangles the pattern of interconnecting events: the accidents of time, circumstance, and place that gave rise to the major inventions of the world." (from the back of the book). I loved the television miniseries way back when, so I'm not sure why it took me so long to pick this book up.

5. The New Physics (ed. Paul Davies). I purchased this book back in the early 90's with every intention of reading it, and did, in fact use it a few times during my undergrad physics years, but I've never actually read it all the way through. Each of the 18 chapters is written by an expert in their respective field (Hawking, Guth, Leggett, Salam and other big names appear here, for example) and the text looks to be written at a level an advanced undergraduate physics student could understand. It should be interesting to see how each of the topics has changed over the last quarter century, and how many of the predictions made have been proven correct.

6. The Last of the Wild Rivers (Wallace A. Schaber) A book devoted entirely to the Du Moine watershed, the last of the ten major Quebec tributaries of the Ottawa River to resist hydro and mining development as well as colonization, according to the back of the book. Some local history for a waterway that's about a five minute walk from where I live (the Ottawa River, that is, not the Du Moine).

7. Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife (Mary Roach) A lighthearted look at what we know about death and the afterlife from a scientific (and pseudo-scientific) perspective. From the author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.

8. Horatio's Drive: America's First Road Trip (Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns) In 1903 there were only 150 miles of paved roads in the entire nation and most people had never seen a “horseless buggy”—but that did not stop Horatio Nelson Jackson, a thirty-one-year-old Vermont doctor, who impulsively bet fifty dollars that he could drive his 20-horsepower automobile from San Francisco to New York City. Here—in Jackson’s own words and photographs—is a glorious account of that months-long, problem-beset, thrilling-to-the-rattled-bones trip with his mechanic, Sewall Crocker, and a bulldog named Bud. (from book jacket). I loved the documentary and this has been sitting on my shelf for almost 15 years, I bet, so it's due to be read.

9. A Gentleman in Moscow (Amor Towles) By an odd coincidence, a good friend of mine and my partner both highly recommended this to me within a few days of each other. I'm curious what all the fuss is about, so this goes on the list.

10. The Printer's Devil (Bill Fairbairn) "Bill Fairbairn started as a printer's devil in Scotland setting up newspaper headlines by hand 60 years ago. His vagabond reporter years in three continents followed in quick pursuit. This tale outlines some of the people and events he encountered in Canada working for newspapers, radio and magazine." I met this fellow at a book fair a few years ago and picked up his book since he (and it) sounded interesting. Time to give it a try!

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#315

Post by weirdboy » October 15th, 2018, 3:51 am

I realize that you have now posted the last several updates by yourself so I thought I would chime in. Even though I'm still in the middle of a book, maybe what I'll do is let you pick the one that I'll read after I finish my current read.

What happened to The Wayward Bus? I would have recommended that one but it dropped off the list. I suppose instead I'll go with A Gentleman in Moscow as of the books I've read from your list, that's the one from which I derived the most enjoyment.

1. Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Stout
I cannot remember where the recommendation came from now, but someone I was talking to at a party (?) said I should read this, so I put it on my list. I don't really know much about it apart from that.

2. Middlemarch by George Eliot/Mary Anne Evans
This one is on a bunch of "you're an illiterate noob if you have not read this" lists, so I though maybe I should read it. Prior to seeing it appear on all these literary lists I had not even heard of it, so I suppose I should feel especially out-of-touch with the literati.

3. The Trial by Franz Kafka
I read The Metamorphosis several times, but never this one. I have, of course, seen the Orson Welles film and liked it quite a bit. I can see that it shares a lot of similar themes from The Metamorphosis.

4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
I had always sort of meant to read this growing up, but never did because I always thought that it's a romance novel, and those tend to bore me. Now I discover it may actually be worth my while to read this book.

5. Madness and Civilization by Michel Focault
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6. Tess of the d'Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy
Another one of those classics I never got around to because I assumed it's a romance novel.

7. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
I already know the story pretty well, and it's possible I've even already read this book. However if I did so, it's long enough ago that I cannot say so definitively, so I thought "why not just read it?" This stems from having somewhat recently rewatched the film adaptation with Henry Fonda and wondering about the differences between the film and the novel.

8. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
I have read other stuff from Tolstoy but never this one. In fact, I have never seen a film or TV adaptation either. I don't really know anything about the story whatsoever. But it's been sort of irritating the back of my brain ever since my then-girlfriend and I started talking about it many years ago.

9. Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
I have been re-working my way through Dostoyevsky, but have never read this one.

10. Rock Breaks Scissors - A Practical Guide to Outguessing by William Poundstone
I like game theory, and I highly appreciate practical applications of game theory. Being a poker player for many years, I have long appreciated the monetary and entertainment value of a good prop bet, and I am hoping this book will point me down some avenues of thought that I had not previously considered.

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#316

Post by funkybusiness » October 16th, 2018, 11:26 am

yo, weirdboy, if it's something that interests you, I'd do a read-along/book-club-style thing of several of your choices there, 2-4, re-read 5 if you're interested in the complete translation, History of Madness (that's the copy I've got, not the older abridgement of the title Madness and Civilization), 6, 8, or re-read 9.
If you're not interested, it won't hurt my feelings.

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Leopardi
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#317

Post by Leopardi » October 17th, 2018, 2:59 am

weirdboy wrote:
October 15th, 2018, 3:51 am
I realize that you have now posted the last several updates by yourself so I thought I would chime in. Even though I'm still in the middle of a book, maybe what I'll do is let you pick the one that I'll read after I finish my current read.

What happened to The Wayward Bus? I would have recommended that one but it dropped off the list. I suppose instead I'll go with A Gentleman in Moscow as of the books I've read from your list, that's the one from which I derived the most enjoyment.
I'll read A Gentleman in Moscow next, thanks! Nothing to worry about with The Wayward Bus, I have two lists that I cycle back and forth with, so it'll be in the next one I put up. Nice list, by the way!

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#318

Post by weirdboy » October 17th, 2018, 4:24 am

funkybusiness wrote:
October 16th, 2018, 11:26 am
yo, weirdboy, if it's something that interests you, I'd do a read-along/book-club-style thing of several of your choices there, 2-4, re-read 5 if you're interested in the complete translation, History of Madness (that's the copy I've got, not the older abridgement of the title Madness and Civilization), 6, 8, or re-read 9.
If you're not interested, it won't hurt my feelings.
I am interested but I'm going to be a very inconsistent reader for the next few weeks due to work commitments. By which, I may suddenly find myself with several hours of reading time while stuck on an airplane or similar, but apart from that I'll probably not be doing much useful reading.

Why not pick a book, and I'll work on that one next?

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#319

Post by funkybusiness » October 17th, 2018, 4:38 am

alright, how about you try out Notes from the Underground? hopefully your edition has decent notes about the references. I think it'd be a bit wonky of a read without the context of the 1860s within which he wrote it, see especially the emancipation of the serfs two years prior, Chernyshevsky, the Populist movement and Utopianism. I've found it a bit odd how it's seemingly his most famous work (or at least his most read, as it's short, or there abouts, maybe Crime and Punishment is a bit higher on the list) considering how it's the most of-the-moment, context-dependent of any of his mature works.

here's a list from me, for whoever comes next:
1. Gulliver's Travels
2. Finnegans Wake
3. And Then There Were None
4. The Portrait of a Lady
5. Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition

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#320

Post by sebby » October 17th, 2018, 7:31 am

i'm not a nice man so it's the joyce sprawl for you, funkman.

i finished moonglow and i have the same two thoughts about it as i have after reading any chabon, save for k&k.

#1 man this guy sure knows how to throw words together.
#2 man this guy just isn't a natural storyteller.

my list:

01 the humans / haig
02 so you've been publically shamed / ronson
03 delores claiborne / king
04 we / zamyatin
05 the housekeeper and the professor / ogawa
06 the little stranger / waters
07 will you please be quiet, please? / carver
08 contact / sagan
09 bird box / malerman
10 three men in a boat / jerome

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