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Favourite books read in 2019?

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Carmel1379
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Favourite books read in 2019?

#1

Post by Carmel1379 » December 29th, 2019, 6:37 pm

best wishes for 2020 :)


mine:

ctrlcreep, Fragnemt
Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
Watts, Blindsight
Liu, The Three-Body Problem
Plant, Writing on Drugs
Blanchot, Thomas the Obscure
Bakker, Neuropath
Lin, Trip: Psychedelics, Alienation, and Change
Lin, Taipei
Bear, Blood Music
Céline, Journey to the End of the Night
Egan, Quarantine
Plant, Zeros + Ones
Fisher, Ghosts of My Life
Nietzsche, Ecce Homo
Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
Cioran, On the Heights of Despair
Metzinger, The Ego Tunnel
Hesse, Steppenwolf

Also shout-out to Hatcher's Algebraic Topology, Lee's Intro to Topological Manifolds, and Goldblatt's Topoi: The Categorial Analysis of Logic, which I just started perusing and already merits a shout-out.



Yours?
Last edited by Carmel1379 on December 29th, 2019, 7:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#2

Post by Traveller » December 29th, 2019, 7:16 pm

How does Neuropath compare to his other works? The Three-Body Problem and Thomas the Obscure are on my to-read-list; hopefully I'll find some time in the second half of 2020 for those (and more).

I had not the best of years in terms of reading. Thus only read half of what I had intended, plus two rereads.

My favorites this year:
The Great Ordeal (The Aspect-Emperor #3) - R. Scott Bakker
The Unholy Consult (The Aspect-Emperor #4) - R. Scott Bakker
Cinema 1: The Movement-Image - Gilles Deleuze
Cinema 2: The Time-Image - Gilles Deleuze

Enjoyable, but not as good:
Cosmic Pessimism - Eugene Thacker (didn't really enjoy Infinite Resignation, and In the Dust of This Planet was merely okay)
Dune - Frank Herbert
Kellanved's Reach: Path to Ascendancy Book 3 - Ian Esslemont
How To Read Lacan - Slavoj Zizek
Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe - Thomas Ligotti
Hitchcock/Truffaut - François Truffaut

Without rating:
A New History of Western Philosophy - Anthony Kenny
Metaphysics - Michael J. Loux, Thomas M. Crisp

Planned for the next first few months of 2020:
Nausea - Jean-Paul Sartre
Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia - Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari
The World Viewed: Reflections on the Ontology of Film - Stanley Cavell
The Philosophy of Disenchantment - Edgar Saltus
The Evolution of Modern Metaphysics - A. W. Moore
Curse of the Mistwraith (The Wars of Light and Shadow Series, Band 1) - Janny Wurts
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July Challenge: Image
But at the bottom, the immanent philosopher sees in the entire universe only the deepest longing for absolute annihilation, and it is as if he clearly hears the call that permeates all spheres of heaven: Redemption! Redemption! Death to our life! and the comforting answer: you will all find annihilation and be redeemed!

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#3

Post by Carmel1379 » December 29th, 2019, 8:07 pm

I haven't read any of his other fiction works yet, fantasy for adults isn't a genre I've yet really had the pleasure to explore (but I've got Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun lined up to try out and after that I'll start Bakker's The Prince of Nothing series (are those your favourite books of all time?)). Neuropath is explicitly criminological and philosophical (& essentially an excuse of a novel for Bakker to transmit his ideas such as "the semantic apocalypse" and "blind brain theory" to a wider audience), has amazing character-building, a feel for those little unconsciously-transmitted behavioural cues and signals, and excellently fleshes-out a divorcee's love for his children, a love-hate friendship, adult sexual desire, and a myriad other things. Some of the titles of the lists it appears on at goodreads are "I Dont Want to Be In This Book", "Books that punch life and happiness in the gut, and make the reader want to go to the nearest bridge over water and jump (but they don't, because that would be horrible)", "Dark & Depraved Science Fiction", and so on ;-) I think you'll dig it well enough.

Ligotti's pretty good. Hope to read Deleuze's Cinema books (& his Difference and Repetition) in 2020. Enjoy Anti-Oedipus!
Last edited by Carmel1379 on December 29th, 2019, 8:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#4

Post by burneyfan » December 29th, 2019, 8:22 pm

My very favorites from the past year (in no order), for fiction readers:

Whiskey When We're Dry by John Larison
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Too Loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Effi Briest by Theodor Fontane
Brighton Rock by Graham Greene
The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy
Niccolo Rising and Spring of the Ram by Dorothy Dunnett

I agree that Journey to the End of the Night is a great one, Carmel -- I read it several years ago.

Favorite non-fiction:

The Library Book by Susan Orlean
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
Bound for Canaan: The Epic Story of the Underground Railroad by Fergus M. Bordewich

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#5

Post by nimimerkillinen » December 29th, 2019, 10:32 pm

out of 7 read liked these the most

Lao Tzu - Tao Te Ching Sacred Text: 81 Verses
Hesse - Demian
Dick - Ubik

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#6

Post by blocho » December 29th, 2019, 11:55 pm

I read 14 books in 2019, six of which I would recommend. In order of consumption:

Michael Lewis, The Fifth Risk
Daniel Yergin, The Prize
Rick Perlstein, Before the Storm
Mark O'Connell, To Be a Machine
Richard Russo, That Old Cape Magic
Edmund Morris, Colonel Roosevelt

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#7

Post by funkybusiness » December 30th, 2019, 1:18 am

Till the Riders sleep by ev'ry road,
All through our crippl'd Zone,
With a face on ev'ry mountainside,
And a Soul in ev'ry stone....

Now everybody—


Joyce - Finnegans Wake for me. It and various related texts preoccupied most of my reading time.
and the Eddas, both of 'em.

and I don't remember if it was late last year or early this, but John Williams - English Renaissance Poetry was a worthy alt-primer of the title subject.

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#8

Post by Carmel1379 » December 30th, 2019, 2:04 am

It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.

Well here he is skidded out onto the Zone like a planchette on a Ouija board, and what shows up inside the empty circle in his brain might string together into a message, might not, he'll just have to see.


Joyce's prose looks the most intimidating among the English language. Someday:) Before rereading Gravity's Rainbow.

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#9

Post by Carmel1379 » December 30th, 2019, 2:14 am

burneyfan wrote:
December 29th, 2019, 8:22 pm
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Satan's grandest ball. Had to read this one for Polish class, it's incredibly good

Will read my first McCarthy (Blood Meridian) in the coming year. And I just decided to read one by Hrabal too. I'm unfamiliar with the other authors you've read, thanks for the new names :D

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#10

Post by Carmel1379 » December 30th, 2019, 2:19 am

blocho wrote:
December 29th, 2019, 11:55 pm
Daniel Yergin, The Prize
Image

Added to my nonfiction reading list

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#11

Post by Carmel1379 » December 30th, 2019, 2:42 am

nimimerkillinen wrote:
December 29th, 2019, 10:32 pm
out of 7 read liked these the most

Lao Tzu - Tao Te Ching Sacred Text: 81 Verses
Hesse - Demian
Dick - Ubik
The 'Tao Te Ching' is nice. Have you read 'The Zhuangzi'?

Every year since I've started these threads I've told myself to read 'Demian', well, here's another empty promise to you Carmel, plus to make things more difficult we dare you to read it in German :pinch:

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#12

Post by funkybusiness » December 30th, 2019, 3:18 am

Carmel1379 wrote:
December 30th, 2019, 2:04 am
It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.

Well here he is skidded out onto the Zone like a planchette on a Ouija board, and what shows up inside the empty circle in his brain might string together into a message, might not, he'll just have to see.


Joyce's prose looks the most intimidating among the English language. Someday:) Before rereading Gravity's Rainbow.
In Finnegans Wake it's not exactly user-friendly. But reading from Dubliners on, it's almost as if there's an attempt to acclimate the reader to its increasing complexity. I'm just blown away at how he can pack endless meaning into every single word in FW. I haven't read it but someone has written an entire book of analyzing just the first page. (It doesn't look like a particularly good book about FW, but it exists nonetheless.)

re: Gravity's Rainbow, it's one of those books where there are so many sections that I'm reminded of constantly, and feel the pull to re-read even just those parts. Like, every time I have to change a light bulb, I know what's up. And, I'm honestly not trying to be a contrarian, but it's my 3rd favorite Pynchon book, after Mason & Dixon and Vineland, although I will acknowledge GR is more rigorous in its structure than at least Vineland.

and I've also been telling future me I'm going to read Demian for years. That and The Glass Bead Game. I've read all the other major works by Hesse excepting those and yeah it is odd that I skipped those ones. and Journey to the East but I don't know if one would classify that as a major work.

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#13

Post by mightysparks » December 30th, 2019, 3:28 am

Carmel1379 wrote:
December 30th, 2019, 2:14 am
burneyfan wrote:
December 29th, 2019, 8:22 pm
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Satan's grandest ball. Had to read this one for Polish class, it's incredibly good

Will read my first McCarthy (Blood Meridian) in the coming year. And I just decided to read one by Hrabal too. I'm unfamiliar with the other authors you've read, thanks for the new names :D
I'm reading Blood Meridian now, about halfway through after reading a bunch last night. I'm not liking it as much as I'd hoped (it's good, I'm just not really getting into it), but some of it is pretty brutal.

As for the thread topic, I sort of got back into reading this year and I was really enjoying reading for about an hour so before bed every night, but then I fell out of the habit and didn't read for nearly 2 months. I wanted to try and read a book a week next year but I don't know if I'll accomplish that. I'm hoping to finish Blood Meridian before the end of the year, but aside from that I've read 13 books this year, my favourites:

1. Red Dragon - Thomas Harris
2. The Diary of a Young Girl - Anne Frank
3. Spin - Robert Charles Wilson
4. The Hellbound Heart - Clive Barker

I also FINALLY read The Shining, which was good but I prefer the miniseries and Kubrick's film, Jurassic Park and Stiff were also pretty good.
"I do not always know what I want, but I do know what I don't want." - Stanley Kubrick

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#14

Post by blocho » December 30th, 2019, 3:52 am

Carmel1379 wrote:
December 30th, 2019, 2:19 am
blocho wrote:
December 29th, 2019, 11:55 pm
Daniel Yergin, The Prize
Image

Added to my nonfiction reading list
And that was on my mind basically the entire time I was reading the book. Yergin begins the book with a quote of Churchill's regarding the geopolitical important of oil: "Mastery itself was the prize of the venture." All writers of history should be so lucky as to find a perfect quote for their story. It also beautifully encapsulates the character of Daniel Plainview. For him and his non-fiction counterparts, money was only one aspect of the pursuit. Mastery was the true objective.

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#15

Post by nimimerkillinen » December 30th, 2019, 2:58 pm

Carmel1379 wrote:
December 30th, 2019, 2:42 am
nimimerkillinen wrote:
December 29th, 2019, 10:32 pm
out of 7 read liked these the most

Lao Tzu - Tao Te Ching Sacred Text: 81 Verses
Hesse - Demian
Dick - Ubik
The 'Tao Te Ching' is nice. Have you read 'The Zhuangzi'?

Every year since I've started these threads I've told myself to read 'Demian', well, here's another empty promise to you Carmel, plus to make things more difficult we dare you to read it in German :pinch:
no, added it to wishlist

went in blind to demian which was good idea. it was a fast read at least for me and im not used to reading, dunnot about aus deutsch tho :P

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#16

Post by cinephage » December 30th, 2019, 3:46 pm

My best reads this year :

A Fire upon the Deep, by Vernor Vinge - A great Space opera
The Witcher books, by Andrzej Sapkowski - A cycle of 7 books of hard fantasy, I am now ready to face the video game and the Netflix Series...
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, by Haruki Murakami - A strange story of loss and findings, in the unique style of Haruki Murakami
The Atrocity Archives & The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross - Stross's style is highly enjoyable, and I will certainly finish the Laundry cycle. It is a mix of lovecraftian horror and Ian Fleming-style spy novels, with a touch of english humor. Quite a fun read, really...

I'm sorry to say I don't currently read half as much as I used to, though. But I intend to go back to reading as soon as possible...

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#17

Post by Traveller » December 30th, 2019, 4:46 pm

Carmel1379 wrote:
December 29th, 2019, 8:07 pm
I haven't read any of his other fiction works yet, fantasy for adults isn't a genre I've yet really had the pleasure to explore (but I've got Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun lined up to try out and after that I'll start Bakker's The Prince of Nothing series (are those your favourite books of all time?)).
Yes, Bakker's series is essentially the culmination of what I was looking for in fantasy books (and fiction in general): pessimistic, misanthropic, philosophical ruminations about troubled lives of flawed people in a universe where philosophy is not only entangled in introspection but where metaphysics builds the whole foundation for the world and story, all that on a grand sophisticated scale beyond transcendence, with a superb prose that touches - and breaks - the limits of show-don't-tell. I exaggerate a bit of course, but everything else concerning fantasy I read - and have read - now fails to meet the standard set by Bakker. It's why I don't think I'll enjoy a reread of Erikson's Malazan series as much as I'd want to (long time favorite, and where my user name originates from). Based on your favorites the series could (should?) be up your alley (especially since you are already familiar with him - just be aware that the books throw you right in...
Carmel1379 wrote:
December 29th, 2019, 8:07 pm
Neuropath is explicitly criminological and philosophical (& essentially an excuse of a novel for Bakker to transmit his ideas such as "the semantic apocalypse" and "blind brain theory" to a wider audience), has amazing character-building, a feel for those little unconsciously-transmitted behavioural cues and signals, and excellently fleshes-out a divorcee's love for his children, a love-hate friendship, adult sexual desire, and a myriad other things. Some of the titles of the lists it appears on at goodreads are "I Dont Want to Be In This Book", "Books that punch life and happiness in the gut, and make the reader want to go to the nearest bridge over water and jump (but they don't, because that would be horrible)", "Dark & Depraved Science Fiction", and so on ;-) I think you'll dig it well enough.
Thank you for those words about Neuropath; it sounds exactly what I want it to be - and while it was never in doubt that I'll read it someday, I took the necessary steps now to read it this year as well.
Carmel1379 wrote:
December 29th, 2019, 8:07 pm
Ligotti's pretty good. Hope to read Deleuze's Cinema books (& his Difference and Repetition) in 2020. Enjoy Anti-Oedipus!
As it is with all collections of short stories, some shorts are better than others, and Ligotti is no exception. His best work remains The Conspiracy Against the Human Race. Deleuze is - besides the mentioned books - still uncharted territory for me as well, so Difference and Repetition is among others on my to-read-list, too.
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July Challenge: Image
But at the bottom, the immanent philosopher sees in the entire universe only the deepest longing for absolute annihilation, and it is as if he clearly hears the call that permeates all spheres of heaven: Redemption! Redemption! Death to our life! and the comforting answer: you will all find annihilation and be redeemed!

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#18

Post by 3eyes » December 30th, 2019, 7:46 pm

I keep Finnegans Wake on a handy shelf - I don't aspire to read it or try to make sense out of it, but I love dipping into it and dissecting all the multilingual puns. The Willingdone Museyroom with all the hidden military references, the ondt and the gracehoper, etc etc, and much I don't get because I don't know enough about Irish history.

As for reading, my eyes don't let me read much, so I got myself some Asterix & Obelix comics and can groove with all those puns (really curious wat they look like in French).
:run: STILL the Gaffer!

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#19

Post by brokenface » December 30th, 2019, 9:58 pm

Reading Log 2019Show
Jan 2019
David Foster Wallace & Mark Costello - Signifying Rappers
Edna O'Brien - The Little Red Chairs
Steven Levitsky & Daniel Ziblatt - How Democracies Die

Feb
James Ellroy - American Tabloid

Mar
Mario Giordano - Aunt Poldi & the Sicilian Lions
Philippe Sands - East West Street

Apr
Serhii Plokhy - Chernobyl
Donna Tartt - The Goldfinch

May
Salam Pax - The Baghdad Blog
Kapka Kassabova - Border

Jun
Carlos Ruiz Zafon - The Labyrinth of the Spirits
Adam Rutherford - The Book of Humans

Jul
Jennifer Lynch - The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer
Stephen King - Elevation

Aug
Jasper Fforde - Early Riser
Gabriel Garcia Marquez - Strange Pilgrims
Haruki Murakami - Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
Ma Jian - China Dream
Stephen King - The Colorado Kid

Sep
Patrick Modiano - Missing Person

Oct
China Mieville - The Last Days of New Paris

Nov
Stephen King - Doctor Sleep

Dec
Sam Bourne (Jonathan Freedland) - To Kill the Truth
Denis Johnson - Train Dreams
Mario Benedetti - Who Among Us?
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - Americanah
Shirley Jackson - Dark Tales

Started (incomplete at 31 Dec)
Umberto Eco - Baudelino [second failure at this, might have to just admit I cannot get into it, much as I've liked some other Ecos]
Jean Rhys - Collected Short Stories
Aldous Huxley - Jesting Pilate
Pretty much kept the same rate as last yr, average 2 books a month. I'd like to get this up to 1 a week. But then I also have some big beasts I'd like to read which won't be quick reads (Life & Fate, Gravity's Rainbow, Dune are all in my near-future plans..)

My favourite fiction read this year: American Tabloid, The Labyrinth of the Spirits, Amerikanah, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki

Non-fiction I mostly enjoyed history: Chernobyl, East West Street, Border all v good.

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#20

Post by Carmel1379 » January 2nd, 2020, 10:47 pm

funkybusiness wrote:
December 30th, 2019, 3:18 am
Carmel1379 wrote:
December 30th, 2019, 2:04 am
It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.

Well here he is skidded out onto the Zone like a planchette on a Ouija board, and what shows up inside the empty circle in his brain might string together into a message, might not, he'll just have to see.


Joyce's prose looks the most intimidating among the English language. Someday:) Before rereading Gravity's Rainbow.
In Finnegans Wake it's not exactly user-friendly. But reading from Dubliners on, it's almost as if there's an attempt to acclimate the reader to its increasing complexity. I'm just blown away at how he can pack endless meaning into every single word in FW. I haven't read it but someone has written an entire book of analyzing just the first page. (It doesn't look like a particularly good book about FW, but it exists nonetheless.)

re: Gravity's Rainbow, it's one of those books where there are so many sections that I'm reminded of constantly, and feel the pull to re-read even just those parts. Like, every time I have to change a light bulb, I know what's up. And, I'm honestly not trying to be a contrarian, but it's my 3rd favorite Pynchon book, after Mason & Dixon and Vineland, although I will acknowledge GR is more rigorous in its structure than at least Vineland.

and I've also been telling future me I'm going to read Demian for years. That and The Glass Bead Game. I've read all the other major works by Hesse excepting those and yeah it is odd that I skipped those ones. and Journey to the East but I don't know if one would classify that as a major work.
Thanks, I'll do it your way, embark with Dubliners or Young Man, through Ulysses (I'm guessing that was your major read last year?), and finish with FW. Perhaps by the time I start this quest we'll live in a hivemind with book-to-mind uploading capabilities... in which case I'll let you know what I think of FW's first page and that book ;)

G's R was my first Pynchon, I just delved straight into it and agree it's indeed a book to connect to everything. Now, one new Pynchon per year seems like a good tempo, I got V. lined up next.

Hope to see your (and my) thoughts on Demian on next year's thread :P
Last edited by Carmel1379 on January 2nd, 2020, 11:03 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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#21

Post by Carmel1379 » January 2nd, 2020, 11:02 pm

cinephage wrote:
December 30th, 2019, 3:46 pm
My best reads this year :

A Fire upon the Deep, by Vernor Vinge - A great Space opera
The Witcher books, by Andrzej Sapkowski - A cycle of 7 books of hard fantasy, I am now ready to face the video game and the Netflix Series...
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, by Haruki Murakami - A strange story of loss and findings, in the unique style of Haruki Murakami
The Atrocity Archives & The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross - Stross's style is highly enjoyable, and I will certainly finish the Laundry cycle. It is a mix of lovecraftian horror and Ian Fleming-style spy novels, with a touch of english humor. Quite a fun read, really...

I'm sorry to say I don't currently read half as much as I used to, though. But I intend to go back to reading as soon as possible...
The Witcher books (& games) are a quintessential part of modern Polish culture which are sadly still part of my blind spot and will likely remain so for a long time. But for what it's worth, I enjoyed the first two episodes of the Netflix series (probably won't continue though), and apparently the general response (including Sapkowski's) has been rather positive

Wind-Up was my favourite Murakami of the few I've read during a streak 7-8 (damn!) years ago until I re-read Norwegian Wood after talking about it with fakeusername on last year's book thread for it to just wreck my heart

I started reading Stross' Singularity Sky a couple of weeks ago! Pretty promising, and seeing his next works described as Lovecraftian only increases the appetite

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#22

Post by Carmel1379 » January 2nd, 2020, 11:14 pm

Traveller wrote:
December 30th, 2019, 4:46 pm
Carmel1379 wrote:
December 29th, 2019, 8:07 pm
I haven't read any of his other fiction works yet, fantasy for adults isn't a genre I've yet really had the pleasure to explore (but I've got Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun lined up to try out and after that I'll start Bakker's The Prince of Nothing series (are those your favourite books of all time?)).
Yes, Bakker's series is essentially the culmination of what I was looking for in fantasy books (and fiction in general): pessimistic, misanthropic, philosophical ruminations about troubled lives of flawed people in a universe where philosophy is not only entangled in introspection but where metaphysics builds the whole foundation for the world and story, all that on a grand sophisticated scale beyond transcendence, with a superb prose that touches - and breaks - the limits of show-don't-tell. I exaggerate a bit of course, but everything else concerning fantasy I read - and have read - now fails to meet the standard set by Bakker. It's why I don't think I'll enjoy a reread of Erikson's Malazan series as much as I'd want to (long time favorite, and where my user name originates from). Based on your favorites the series could (should?) be up your alley (especially since you are already familiar with him - just be aware that the books throw you right in...
Thanks for your words back, I will start the book series this year :party:

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#23

Post by Carmel1379 » January 3rd, 2020, 12:03 am

brokenface wrote:
December 30th, 2019, 9:58 pm
Reading Log 2019Show
Jan 2019
David Foster Wallace & Mark Costello - Signifying Rappers
Edna O'Brien - The Little Red Chairs
Steven Levitsky & Daniel Ziblatt - How Democracies Die

Feb
James Ellroy - American Tabloid

Mar
Mario Giordano - Aunt Poldi & the Sicilian Lions
Philippe Sands - East West Street

Apr
Serhii Plokhy - Chernobyl
Donna Tartt - The Goldfinch

May
Salam Pax - The Baghdad Blog
Kapka Kassabova - Border

Jun
Carlos Ruiz Zafon - The Labyrinth of the Spirits
Adam Rutherford - The Book of Humans

Jul
Jennifer Lynch - The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer
Stephen King - Elevation

Aug
Jasper Fforde - Early Riser
Gabriel Garcia Marquez - Strange Pilgrims
Haruki Murakami - Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
Ma Jian - China Dream
Stephen King - The Colorado Kid

Sep
Patrick Modiano - Missing Person

Oct
China Mieville - The Last Days of New Paris

Nov
Stephen King - Doctor Sleep

Dec
Sam Bourne (Jonathan Freedland) - To Kill the Truth
Denis Johnson - Train Dreams
Mario Benedetti - Who Among Us?
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - Americanah
Shirley Jackson - Dark Tales

Started (incomplete at 31 Dec)
Umberto Eco - Baudelino [second failure at this, might have to just admit I cannot get into it, much as I've liked some other Ecos]
Jean Rhys - Collected Short Stories
Aldous Huxley - Jesting Pilate
Pretty much kept the same rate as last yr, average 2 books a month. I'd like to get this up to 1 a week. But then I also have some big beasts I'd like to read which won't be quick reads (Life & Fate, Gravity's Rainbow, Dune are all in my near-future plans..)

My favourite fiction read this year: American Tabloid, The Labyrinth of the Spirits, Amerikanah, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki

Non-fiction I mostly enjoyed history: Chernobyl, East West Street, Border all v good.
Nice average, interesting selection. From your read authors I have Mieville's Perdido Street Station lined up for this year:)

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#24

Post by weirdboy » January 3rd, 2020, 4:59 am

Hands down my favorite book read last year was James Joyce's Ulysses.
I also really liked the Strugatsky brothers' The Doomed City.
For non-fiction my favorite that I read last year was Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick.


I really liked The Three-Body Problem up until a certain section where it became a lot less "mysterious" and it felt like a bit of a letdown after that point, and not just due to the loss of mystery/suspense but also because other structural and literary elements that I felt were very strong in the first part of the book felt lacking towards the end.


I suppose I should add that I also read the Witcher book series this year and thought they were very well done. I suppose if I were rating subgenres they might be my favorite fantasy that I read last year.


And I did also read Pynchon's Mason & Dixon a few months ago, which I very much enjoyed and was amazed at his ability to string together sentences that sound just like they were written by a drunk Ben Franklin. Gravity's Rainbow is still my favorite of his, although certainly he displays his unusual knack for distilling highly technical and historical subject matter into succinct and often humorous prose.

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#25

Post by OldAle1 » January 3rd, 2020, 7:10 pm

As usual for the past... 20? ... years, I didn't read much, at least not in terms of books. Some of you must put 40 hours into the day to read a lot AND watch a lot AND go to school or work. But I digress. Anyway, I read around 15 books complete, not including a few short kid's chapter books with my nieces, who I saw a lot more than usual this past year (maybe that's why I didn't get to read or watch so much - damn family). Most were nonfiction works that were mixed bags at best - I don't seem to do so well in picking nonfiction as I do in fiction, or in film, for whatever reason. I guess I go with what the library has on a subject sometimes and it's not so great. But I did have a couple of excellent reads at the end of the year and can give a Top 2:

1. The Blind Owl by Sadegh Hedayat. With all the Iranian films I've seen, and my love for Forugh Farrokhzad, one would think I'd have gotten to more Iranian literature and other arts (finally listened to my first CD of specifically Iranian music this year actually, and it was a pretty good little sampler). But I didn't until this year, and only after I saw one of the films based on this indescribable novella. Rightly noted in the intro for the influences of Poe and Kafka, I'd say there's also a little bit of confluence with Borges, though I seriously doubt Hedayat would have known the latter since Borges had written little by the mid-30s when The Blind Owl was written. In any case this is a wild surrealistic nightmare full of sex, drugs and death, with endless repetitions of tiny little themes, tropes, images, all of which combine to make it probably the most realistic narrative description of the nonnarrative quality of dream that I've encountered yet, surpassing even Kafka in this regard. I read it in two days, two sittings, but I'd recommend doing it in one go if possible to get the fullest effect.

2. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. I love Scorsese's film of this, and I had picked up the book a while ago somewhere, so it was only a matter of time, but as it is I read it in the library while my nieces were fucking around on the computers there, and again it was a two-sitting, two consecutive day read. If you've seen the film, you know the book - turns out to be an extremely faithful adaptation, although of course certain sequences like the chase in the train station are changed, lengthened in this case or shortened in others. This is just a beautiful paean to the power of history, of libraries, of knowledge in general, and of recapturing, even resurrecting the past to better understand our present. And I think an absolute must for anyone who loves both children's literature and film of course - how many other books fit into this category?

And I have to mention the worst book I read this past year - also the worst book I've read ever, and likely the worst novel that has ever been written by anybody, perhaps even the worst work of "art" of any kind ever perpetrated on an evil world all to eager to use it to justify selfishness, greed, bigotry, misogyny and just malice in general - Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.

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#26

Post by fakeusername2 » January 17th, 2020, 7:26 am

Any advice on how to actually finish Gravity's Rainbow? I tried twice several years back and never made it even halfway. Oh well, but if I'm permitted to recommend an overlong masterpiece it would be House of Leaves. I would describe it as Delillo academic satire meets Pynchon postmodernism meets unsuspecting soul discovers Lovecraft in Borges' Library of Babel, if that crazy logic makes sense. It gets my vote for best novel of the past twenty-five years.

Someone up thread mentioned Zizek's How to Read Lacan. It's an entertaining read -- well, it's Zizek so that's a given -- but I would recommend anyone interested in this topic check out Bruce Fink's A Clinical Introduction to Lacanian Psychoanalysis. It's by far the most lucid and profound of the attempts to distill Lacan's thought into a digestible format. It's also the best of the ten or so books I've read so far this month and I'd surprised if it's not a top ten by the end of the year.

By the way, you recommended me Houellebecq's book Whatever awhile back. I didn't really like that book but I just read Platform and liked it a lot. It's completely fortuitous that I read this one: I'm teaching subliterate undergrads about terrorism soon and wanted to get a list of novels for them to read from and ran across this title. Another instance of the author's prescience and a more entertaining one at that, so I'll invariably end up reading the rest of his novels sometime now.

And lastly, I'm by no means a mathematician but if you're on a topology kick I would recommend Carter, Kamada, and Saito's Surfaces in 4-Space. I know at least two of the authors, Carter and Kamada, have independently written subsequent books on the topic but none that match the combined brilliance of the collaborative project (although the others are great too).



I don't really remember which books I read this past year and which I read earlier (my memory is completely shot), but I think these are among the ones that are great and that weren't more than a year ago:

McCarthy, The Road
Miller, Death of a Salesman
Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence & The Razor's Edge
Chandler, The Big Sleep
Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea
King, The Shining
Conrad, The Secret Agent
Turgenev, First Love
Lawrence, Sons and Lovers

I read way more nonfiction than fiction but mostly not of general interest. A nod to the excellent edited volume Horror Film and Psychoanalysis: Freud's Worst Nightmare, since this is a movie board after all.

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#27

Post by matthewscott8 » January 17th, 2020, 9:29 am

OldAle1 wrote:
January 3rd, 2020, 7:10 pm
Some of you must put 40 hours into the day to read a lot AND watch a lot AND go to school or work.
I used to get very perplexed by this, but I think it's more that a lot of people skim read, have a movie on in the background whilst they're writing code, dump a movie after 20 minutes or a book after 10 pages if they didn't like it and it's all counted as experience. I that if something is really good and to your taste, with this strategy, you would find lots of it, and then maybe you pay more attention once its grabbed you. For me everything I do is immersive and I wouldn't count something as watched or read unless I'd savoured it. You and I and maybe some others will also remember the infamous 2x incident, I used to wonder why that particular individual always skipped over the meaning of a film and had superficial views, and then it became pretty obvious.

Anyway I digress, I haven't been keeping a log of my book reading, I know that the two that I liked a lot recently were:

Nada - Jean-Patrick Manchette
Cause for Alarm - Eric Ambler

Also I'm currently reading The Beautiful Summer by Cesar Pavese which is rocking my world.

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#28

Post by Carmel1379 » January 17th, 2020, 8:29 pm

fakeusername2 wrote:
January 17th, 2020, 7:26 am
Any advice on how to actually finish Gravity's Rainbow? I tried twice several years back and never made it even halfway.
The book consists of distinct episodes, each partitioned off by seven ☐s, and that's as much of a semblance of structure or reliable grounding you can hope for, so I suppose reading one full episode every time you pick up the book might be a good strategy. Jotting down the various (nick)names of encountered characters -- as well as their (initially-presented) basic associations and social standings -- is worth it too imo; some do inexplicably disappear or lose relative importance, but others markedly recur, echo, and relevant information about them is revealed much later on. Keep in mind the episodes don't necessarily follow each other linearly, and as this one character called Sammy Hilbert-Spaess leads me to believe, measurement plays a key role, the fetched eigenvalue of an observable operator is only one among many possible... (or something). . . . what shows up inside the empty circle in his brain might string together into a message, might not, he'll just have to see

"Oh, THE WORLD OVER THERE, it's
So hard to explain!
Just-like, a dream's-got, lost in yer brain!
Dancin' like a fool through that Forbid-den Wing,
Waitin' fer th' light to start shiver-ing—well,
Who ev-ver said ya couldn't move that way,
Who ev-ver said ya couldn't try?
If-ya find-there's-a-lit-tle-pain,
Ya can al-ways-go-back-a-gain, cause
Ya don't-ev-er-real-ly-say, good-by!"

For the record I read G's R over around 5 months, even briefly traveled with that large volume in my backpack just to sporadically beam a few sentences into my brain, understood even fewer than that, and overall consider it one of my most rapturous reads so far. If you find the first page enthralling on a literary level, then it's worth ploughing through the whole thing for more, especially for as brisk and prodigious reader as you ;-)

That's quite an endorsement of House of Leaves, thanks for that, a friend recommended it to me recently as well, I'm set on delving into it soon

Glanced into Platforme and immediately de Balzac's epigraph looks pertinent on the subject of terrorists; now I'm eager to read whole book, also because it's about travelling. Among Houellebecq's fiction Les particules élémentaires (Atomized) is one I read; unlike Whatever it's written in the 3rd person and its two principal characters aren't as noxious, they receive life-spanning accounts, such that their forlorn dispositions, (self-)estranging worldviews, and awkward behaviours can be understood through a broader framework, while the tragedies that befall them invite some sympathy too. It's a more balanced work and expansive in themes, not confined to a single guy's unhinged perspective.

Congrats for & good luck in teaching those undergrads soon! Are you designing the course from the bottom up?

Surfaces in 4-Space - Thanks, I downloaded it this morning, and wow, looks like a dauntingly good read to try to flex (and eventually break) ones imagination. I think I'll get some groundwork done in Knot Theory (which I didn't take as a module when I had the option) first and then move over to this book.

Conrad, The Secret Agent - Did you include this one among the list of novels for your subliterate undergrads too? :thumbsup:

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#29

Post by fakeusername2 » January 18th, 2020, 3:18 am

It makes sense that one would read GR over a long period of time. And that probably explains why I was chronically unable to finish it -- I have piles of bookmarked books that I've never been able to complete simply because I didn't finish them within a reasonable amount of time. I hear Pynchon puts a lot of research into his books such that they can take the reader down interesting rabbit holes, and his writing style is fascinating enough (as that snippet shows), so I should probably give him another go (despite really not liking 'The Crying Lot of 49'). That distinguishes him from those who have tried to emulate him ('Infinite Jest' I'll probably never read, as the writing seems turgid to me and all the references superficial).

I did design my course from the beginning, drawing on others that I like of course. I was originally going to assign the 'The Secret Agent' but decided, largely to minimize the number of 'why are you making us read a novel?' headaches, to let them choose from among eight to ten novels. Another one I read recently that was pretty interesting is Chesterton's 'The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare;' as the subtitle suggests, it takes some surreal turns about three-quarters through. Thanks for the good luck -- I'm not terribly fond of teaching to be honest, but I can think of many worse ways to supplement one's income.

Let me know how you like 'House of Leaves' should you get around to it. (Btw, I don't know where you download books but I find that book4you.org has the widest selection around).

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#30

Post by brokenface » January 18th, 2020, 7:06 pm

Remember loving The Man Who Was Thursday, it's a real curiosity

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#31

Post by brokenface » January 18th, 2020, 8:26 pm

Carmel1379 wrote:
January 3rd, 2020, 12:03 am
brokenface wrote:
December 30th, 2019, 9:58 pm
Reading Log 2019Show
Jan 2019
David Foster Wallace & Mark Costello - Signifying Rappers
Edna O'Brien - The Little Red Chairs
Steven Levitsky & Daniel Ziblatt - How Democracies Die

Feb
James Ellroy - American Tabloid

Mar
Mario Giordano - Aunt Poldi & the Sicilian Lions
Philippe Sands - East West Street

Apr
Serhii Plokhy - Chernobyl
Donna Tartt - The Goldfinch

May
Salam Pax - The Baghdad Blog
Kapka Kassabova - Border

Jun
Carlos Ruiz Zafon - The Labyrinth of the Spirits
Adam Rutherford - The Book of Humans

Jul
Jennifer Lynch - The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer
Stephen King - Elevation

Aug
Jasper Fforde - Early Riser
Gabriel Garcia Marquez - Strange Pilgrims
Haruki Murakami - Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
Ma Jian - China Dream
Stephen King - The Colorado Kid

Sep
Patrick Modiano - Missing Person

Oct
China Mieville - The Last Days of New Paris

Nov
Stephen King - Doctor Sleep

Dec
Sam Bourne (Jonathan Freedland) - To Kill the Truth
Denis Johnson - Train Dreams
Mario Benedetti - Who Among Us?
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - Americanah
Shirley Jackson - Dark Tales

Started (incomplete at 31 Dec)
Umberto Eco - Baudelino [second failure at this, might have to just admit I cannot get into it, much as I've liked some other Ecos]
Jean Rhys - Collected Short Stories
Aldous Huxley - Jesting Pilate
Pretty much kept the same rate as last yr, average 2 books a month. I'd like to get this up to 1 a week. But then I also have some big beasts I'd like to read which won't be quick reads (Life & Fate, Gravity's Rainbow, Dune are all in my near-future plans..)

My favourite fiction read this year: American Tabloid, The Labyrinth of the Spirits, Amerikanah, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki

Non-fiction I mostly enjoyed history: Chernobyl, East West Street, Border all v good.
Nice average, interesting selection. From your read authors I have Mieville's Perdido Street Station lined up for this year:)
Cheers, I have a much healthier relationship with books than films tbh - i.e. less OCD.. I have some favourite writers I'll keep going back to, otherwise I just drift around whatever looks interesting. I don't have the same drive to read all the classics (probably because it's much more of an impossible task!)

I started Perdido Street Station a few years ago & never finished it, I was liking it, just one of those ones that I put down and left too long, so I'd need to start again. Last Days of New Paris was good, had an interesting and unusual premise (alternative history of wartime Paris where someone has set off some sort of surrealistic event so the whole city is overrun with surrealist art come to life)

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#32

Post by weirdboy » January 19th, 2020, 1:28 am

Gravity's Rainbow is up there among my top two or three favorite reads. I think it helps to have a technical background as there is a lot of science and math that ties back into the literary aspects in interesting ways. Also for anyone on ICM struggling to get through, Pynchon also spends a lot of time talking about film in that book. Fritz Lang's Frau im Mond in particular gets plenty of attention, but there are a lot of cinematic references throughout.

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#33

Post by fakeusername2 » January 19th, 2020, 1:46 am

I probably didn't give 'Gravity's Rainbow' a fair chance so I just ordered copy. (I'm pretty sure I railed against Deleuze and Guattari to Carmel before, but I'm reading through 'A Thousand Plateaus' again and enjoying it very much this time. It's worth finding out if the same happens with Pynchon).

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#34

Post by Carmel1379 » January 19th, 2020, 3:17 am

It helps Pynchon has a good sense of humour and never takes himself (or anything, really) too seriously; for all the lengthy literary loftiness and jungly rickrack of references, there's an equal share of satire, camp, and (for a lack of better term right now) "low culture". Fluid dynamics, rocket engineering, and Pavlovian conditioning is meshed with the kinkiest of sexual practices, the most exuberant parties, and passionate romances; drugs, cinema, colonialism, plastics... there's truly something for everybody in this book.

I use b-ok.org, it's the same database as the link you provided. But in the case of House of Leaves I'll borrow or buy a paperback, from the looks of it the book radically breaks with the convention of how words are supposed to be laid out on a single page.

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#35

Post by mightysparks » January 19th, 2020, 4:00 am

Every time I’ve gone to a bookstore to buy House of Leaves they haven’t had it in stock :(
"I do not always know what I want, but I do know what I don't want." - Stanley Kubrick

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#36

Post by brokenface » January 19th, 2020, 10:20 pm

mightysparks wrote:
January 19th, 2020, 4:00 am
Every time I’ve gone to a bookstore to buy House of Leaves they haven’t had it in stock :(
Just ask them to order it in :shrug:

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#37

Post by funkybusiness » January 19th, 2020, 11:38 pm

yo for real, bookstore employees usually love ordering things in.

apologies to Carmel, I didn't intentionally ignore your replies to me above. Actually, I first read Ulysses back in high school, more than a decade ago (oh fuck I'm getting old). Finnegans Wake has been hovering in the corner ever since. in fact, my high school history teacher had a copy of FW on their bookshelf in the classroom. It took me a few years to connect that the book he talked about being cyclical and every word being made up was by the same author as Ulysses, which I think I read the following year, possibly the year after. But then about three-ish years ago I did read thru his works chronologically, and again, I would suggest that as the best reading order.
regarding Pynchon, the heavy hitters definitely are time-consuming, V. took me forever to finish the first time, it was my 2nd Pynchon read (after Lot 49). GW and Mason & Dixon are equally as dense, but The Crying of Lot 49 and Inherent Vice are very easy reads, like, an afternoon for the former and a weekend for the latter, so I wouldn't be so worried about setting aside massive amounts of time to read those, although, the lingering effects of having read them can last for..., well, years at this point. and Against the Day, despite being 1200pg, reads really smoothly. Much like how Mason & Dixon is styled in the prose of its setting (like weirdboy mentions above, a drunken Ben Franklin is an apt comparison), AtD is styled like the pulpy genre fiction that was popular turn of the century, leading to very easily read prose. Although it, much like M&D (and GW to a lesser extent), is highly, almost excessively, allegorical to events decades or even century(s) later. lastly, Vineland is middle of the road in all Pynchonian aspects. Its length, style, difficultly, and period in which it was written, seem almost mathematically averaged as it might relate to the rest of his oeuvre. But it also contains the remnants of the great, lost post-GW Pynchon work, a novel that was to be about -> highlight for minor, minor spoilers, an insurance adjuster after Godzilla tramples thru Tokyo end spoilers. I've yet to read Bleeding Edge. I'm hoping he publishes another book (the longest of odds) so then I can read BE and not be "done" with his books.

@OldAle, Forugh Farrokhzad, nods approvingly. and yeah The Blind Owl looks really good, I might try that out soon.

@weirdboy, probably my favorite part in any Pynchon novel is in Mason & Dixon, Vaucanson's Digesting Duck hunting down the famous chef who cooked his compatriots. It's got all the best Pynchon attributes, it's strange, gutbustingly funny, and bizarrely poignant, and 95% of it is true.

Film as it relates to an alchemical process in the section of an old west revenge tale in Against the Day is my 2nd favorite part of any Pynchon novel, if anyone was wondering.

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#38

Post by Carmel1379 » January 20th, 2020, 10:18 pm

No worries funky; actually, clearly, it's me who's been the most negligent :$

weirdboy wrote:
January 3rd, 2020, 4:59 am
I really liked The Three-Body Problem up until a certain section where it became a lot less "mysterious" and it felt like a bit of a letdown after that point, and not just due to the loss of mystery/suspense but also because other structural and literary elements that I felt were very strong in the first part of the book felt lacking towards the end.
I feel like I roughly know up until which section you mean. It's more probable than not Liu conceived of his story as a trilogy right from the start, hence eventually deciding to accelerate exposition for the purposes of anticipating the follow-up volumes, altering the stakes, transitioning to a new set of problematics & possibilities, while the groundwork of concessions / resolutions / introduction-of-new-elements-as-facts has to have been laid; personally I wasn't too bothered, while now I'm one third of the way through the second volume, 'The Dark Forest', and honestly it's excellent, even better than the first one so far imo.

What are the top one or two all-time favourite reads besides Gravity's Rainbow?

brokenface wrote:
January 18th, 2020, 8:26 pm
Cheers, I have a much healthier relationship with books than films tbh - i.e. less OCD.. I have some favourite writers I'll keep going back to, otherwise I just drift around whatever looks interesting. I don't have the same drive to read all the classics (probably because it's much more of an impossible task!)
For someone with no iCM account and no film lists completion ambitions, it took me a while to understand what you meant by OCD in this context :D

funkybusiness wrote:
January 19th, 2020, 11:38 pm
Actually, I first read Ulysses back in high school, more than a decade ago (oh fuck I'm getting old). Finnegans Wake has been hovering in the corner ever since. in fact, my high school history teacher had a copy of FW on their bookshelf in the classroom. It took me a few years to connect that the book he talked about being cyclical and every word being made up was by the same author as Ulysses, which I think I read the following year, possibly the year after. But then about three-ish years ago I did read thru his works chronologically, and again, I would suggest that as the best reading order.
Yeah, it's funny how these coincidences sometimes happen, how it can take some time to discover a book has stealthily orbited us (& we around them) in one way or another, or at least craftily been sneaking around in our past all along without us consciously realising it's there, and the obvious links it has to the other things we're doing. Recently among my parents' book collection I found not one, but two editions of 'Dubliners' (the Panther one even has illustrations, imagine that), and since I have rummaged through the stash at least a dozen times in the last six years already, clearly in the past I have either omitted or not given them a second's conscious thought, so yeah, seems like fate has spoken this time (/the influence of you writing about Joyce on this thread). Also found 'Ulysses' translated in Polish, but we don't talk about that.

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