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Help me out / culture me up / book reccos please

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matthewscott8
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Help me out / culture me up / book reccos please

#1

Post by matthewscott8 »

I would like to become better read, can anyone help with some reccomendations? Trying to upculture a bit, expand my cultural envelope out. Here are books I've liked so far in my life:

The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas Pere
The Cancer Ward - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
The Green Child - Herbert Asquith
Savage Night - Jim Thompson
The Islanders - Pascal Garnier
The Quest of the Holy Grail - Unknown 13th Century author
Dune - Frank Herbert
The Well At The World's End - William Morris
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
Good Morning, Midnight - Jean Rhys
White Jazz - James Ellroy
Tristan - Béroul
1984 - George Orwell
The Mahé Circle - Georges Simenon
Les Misérables - Victor Hugo
The Antiquities of Rome - Joachim du Bellay
The Good Soldier - Ford Madox Ford
Cities of the Red Night - William Burroughs
The Invention of Morel - Adolfo Bioy Casares
Red Harvest - Dashiell Hammett
The Story of Venus and Tannhauser - Aubrey Beardsley
Nada - Jean-Patrick Manchette
The Comfort of Strangers - Ian McEwan
I was Dora Suarez - Derek Raymond
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
Aquarium - Viktor Suvorov
Last edited by matthewscott8 on January 18th, 2021, 10:18 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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St. Gloede
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#2

Post by St. Gloede »

Honestly, you have likely read far more than me, but I do love Virginia Woolf and would strongly recommend The Waves and Orlando in particular. To the Lighthouse may be a good way to ease yourself in as well.
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#3

Post by OldAle1 »

I haven't read nearly enough myself, particularly over the last, oh, 33 years or so, and I think I've only read three of your picks (1984, Dune, Brave New World), though I have read other books by Morris and Solzhenitsyn. Getting serious about film at the end of college really cut into my reading and I'm sure probably was one of many reasons why I didn't finish up to well, and never went on to grad school or teaching or... anything. But I still always want to go back to those days and those feelings, when literature was the most important thing in my life, and while I read much much less than ever before, what I do read tends to stick with me much more than 99% of films, even the films I like. I will give four rec, three of them very long novels or novel-series, one a novella that can be read in a few hours:

Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany - I wouldn't recommend this to most people, but I think it could suit you Matt - the gender-fluidity elements in particular seem like they might be right up your alley, and I think you could deal with the Joycean structure, and probably the length would not be problematic for you. I read it actually for the most part while on daily train rides in 1998-9 or so and it strangely worked really well in that environment; it's also very much a big-city book and I could feel a kinship between some elements of late-90s Chicago and late-60s San Francisco (where it was mostly written, and inspired by, though the fictional metropolis of the novel is certainly intended to be anyplace and no place).

The Blind Owl by Sadegh Hedayat - the next-to-most recent novel that I read for the first time, just over a year ago - my what a poor 2020 I had reading-wise, despite COVID. Anyway, this seems like the missing link between Kafka and Borges, with more than a bit of Poe thrown into the mix, and I think I liked it as much as anything I've read by any of those more famous writers. It's probably also a key to understanding some of the complexities of Persian culture better - I don't think it would have been adapted at least four times on film in Iran (and once outside the country, by Raoul Ruiz) if it didn't have some peculiar significance and relevance. Should be read all in one go (it's short) if possible I think. Read in my brother's apartment in Burlington, VT, December 2019.

The Gormenghast trilogy by Mervyn Peake - unlike any other "fantasy" I've read or probably any other that's been written, a work less overtly mad than the preceding two choices but nonetheless such a pure work of the unconscious in it's way that you read it thinking "I could never imagine this on my own, I could never dream these dreams". At least that was my feeling. Dickens in a never-never alternate world of everything awful about English traditions - and yet strangely comforting and beautiful amid the grotesquerie as well. This I read mostly sitting at a Greek restaurant 2 blocks from where I lived in Evanston, IL, 1995-96.

In Search of Lost Time AKA Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust - a cheat, because I haven't finished it. I started reading this in March 2016 and got through roughly half of it by early fall of that year, but then rediscovered my then-waning love of film in a big big way starting around September, and never went back to it. Normally I would want to start all over again after 5 years but given the immense length, and the fact that the edition I have (the Scott-Moncrieff/Kilmartin/Mayor/Enright 1992 revised translation) has a very detailed synopses of each part, I'll probably just pick up where I left off. I knew by the early parts of the third volume that this was likely going to be the greatest novel I'd ever read but it is quite heavy-going, at least for me, and to my way of reading and digesting information, it really required a solid 2 hours or so at a time of uninterrupted reading, something that was hard to come by when I was looking after my mother. I don't have any excuse anymore but getting back into it fills me with trepidation, it is such an emotionally overwhelming experience. But I think I'm almost ready.
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#4

Post by RolandKirkSunglasses »

Most of these are classic authors with a couple modern ones thrown in, a mixture of short novels and 800 page epics. Not suggesting you have to read every single one you can pick and choose whichever ones take your fancy:

Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy: 800 page character study and social commentary on 19th century Russia undergoing modernisation

The Leopard - Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa: The movie left out a couple chapters from the book, both are very good.

Master and Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov: Satan turns up in Moscow with his retinue wreaking havoc, a romantic subplot and the story of Pontius Pilate are thrown in the mix too.

Don Quixote - Miguel de Cervantes: Don Quixote thinks he can be a chivalric knight because he's read lots of books about it, hilarity and philosophy ensues.

Great Expectations - Charles Dickens: A shorter book by Dickens

Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoevsky: Dark and sometimes intense psychological study of poverty and insanity.

The Call of the Wild - Jack London: Journey across the Klondike through the eyes of a sled dog.

Sketches from a Hunter's Album - Ivan Turgenev: Short stories about the serfs in 19th century Russia before they were emancipated. Some glorious nature descriptions.

The Greek Myths - Robert Graves: Ancient Greece is part of the "Classics" canon, the myths are interesting even if you've heard variations of them a million times before.

Death in Venice - Thomas Mann: The death of a man in a dying city, a quick read.

Thank you, Jeeves - P.G Wodehouse: Upper class Bertie Wooster gets into trouble, his butler Jeeves sorts everything out for him.

Around the World in 80 Days - Jules Verne: If you like Jules Verne but don't enjoy all the scientific explanations this is a good place to start.

Woman in the Dunes - Kobo Abe: Existential novel turned into a great movie.

The Plague - Albert Camus: Camus books are very short, "The Plague" is more relevant to our pandemic-stricken society.

War with the Newts - Karel Capek: Bit of an obscure one from Czechoslovakia. Humans discover intelligent newts and exploit them for work until the Newts rebel.

Charterhouse of Parma - Stendhal: A fun adventure flick that's shorter than "Red and the Black".

Candide - Voltaire: Another fun journey across the world, only 100 odd pages.

Spring Snow - Yukio Mishima: First part of his 4-part series, gorgeous prose and metaphors from a Japanese author also fluent in French and English.

Wind-Up Bird Chronicle - Haruki Murakami: Usually don't like Murakami, this one has a lot of mystery around it.

Darkness at Noon - Arthur Koestler: Grim story based on Stalin's purges in the 1930s.

Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald: Not my favourite Fitzgerald, it's the one everyone loves.

100 Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Obligatory south american novel. Make sure you get a family tree to keep track of all the characters.

Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf: Easier to follow than "To the Lighthouse".

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - James Joyce: Easy entry into James Joyce.

The Trial - Franz Kafka: Absurdity of bureaucracy.

Father Goriot - Honore de Balzac: Realist 19th century french novel.

Farewell to Arms - Ernest Hemingway: Set during the first world war, told in Hemingway's sparse writing style.

To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee: Obligatory novel about racism.

Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov: The story of a man in love with a girl told by an unreliable narrator.
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#5

Post by Coryn »

RolandKirkSunglasses wrote: January 18th, 2021, 2:48 pm

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - James Joyce: Easy entry into James Joyce.

I've got a copy of this book from 1917 and I have no idea where I obtained it. Never read it though :)
I saved Latin, what did you ever do ?
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#6

Post by Onderhond »

I stopped reading vigorously year ago (it was one of my big pre-film hobbies), the one writer that has always stuck with me (and whose books I still pick up) is Jeff Noon. Vurt is his most "famous" book and probably the best place to start if you haven't read anything of him yet. Most of his books are urban fantasy/sci-fi novels (some of the stories could've been written by Neil Gaiman, if you're looking for a broader comparison), but it's his vibrant vocabulary that stands out the most.
matthewscott8
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#7

Post by matthewscott8 »

RolandKirkSunglasses wrote: January 18th, 2021, 2:48 pmThe Greek Myths - Robert Graves: Ancient Greece is part of the "Classics" canon, the myths are interesting even if you've heard variations of them a million times before.
This was actually my Bible when I was youngster, this and Grimault's dictionary of classical mythology, which was literally so used it fell apart in the end, luckily my Graves was hardbound, absolutely full of bookmarks tehe
matthewscott8
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#8

Post by matthewscott8 »

OldAle1 wrote: January 18th, 2021, 2:45 pm Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany - I wouldn't recommend this to most people, but I think it could suit you Matt - the gender-fluidity elements in particular seem like they might be right up your alley, and I think you could deal with the Joycean structure, and probably the length would not be problematic for you. I read it actually for the most part while on daily train rides in 1998-9 or so and it strangely worked really well in that environment; it's also very much a big-city book and I could feel a kinship between some elements of late-90s Chicago and late-60s San Francisco (where it was mostly written, and inspired by, though the fictional metropolis of the novel is certainly intended to be anyplace and no place).
I just ordered this, looks right up my street, fingers crossed
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#9

Post by matthewscott8 »

St. Gloede wrote: January 18th, 2021, 2:15 pm Honestly, you have likely read far more than me, but I do love Virginia Woolf and would strongly recommend The Waves and Orlando in particular. To the Lighthouse may be a good way to ease yourself in as well.
I love the film of Orlando. I will take a look see
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#10

Post by OldAle1 »

matthewscott8 wrote: January 18th, 2021, 4:28 pm
OldAle1 wrote: January 18th, 2021, 2:45 pm Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany - I wouldn't recommend this to most people, but I think it could suit you Matt - the gender-fluidity elements in particular seem like they might be right up your alley, and I think you could deal with the Joycean structure, and probably the length would not be problematic for you. I read it actually for the most part while on daily train rides in 1998-9 or so and it strangely worked really well in that environment; it's also very much a big-city book and I could feel a kinship between some elements of late-90s Chicago and late-60s San Francisco (where it was mostly written, and inspired by, though the fictional metropolis of the novel is certainly intended to be anyplace and no place).
I just ordered this, looks right up my street, fingers crossed
Even if you don't like it, I think you will appreciate it's originality and daring nature at the least. It was quite a sensation when it was first published in 1975 - Delany was a big name in American science fiction at the time, a young turk who had been published regularly with success for almost 15 years and won many awards, though he was still only 33 when Dhalgren was published; but it really split the SF community with many (probably most) arguing that it was a pretentious piece of modernist porn, and many others proclaiming it one of the great masterpieces of it's time. Supposedly sold 1 million copies in paperback, which shows you how popular Delany was then, and that there were significant numbers of folks looking for something more "mature" in the genre, whatever that might mean. I think it was kind of the victim of it's own hype, but it definitely marks a turning point in it's author's career, as he has largely given up on genre SF since, concentrating more and more on challenging mixtures of semiotics, fantasy, and autobiography (and porn). I tried reading a bit of one of the Nevèrÿon books once and just could not hack it.
Last edited by OldAle1 on January 18th, 2021, 5:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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#11

Post by blocho »

matthewscott8 wrote: January 18th, 2021, 1:56 pm I would like to become better read, can anyone help with some reccomendations? Trying to upculture a bit, expand my cultural envelope out. Here are books I've liked so far in my life:

The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas Pere
The Cancer Ward - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
The Green Child - Herbert Asquith
Savage Night - Jim Thompson
The Islanders - Pascal Garnier
The Quest of the Holy Grail - Unknown 13th Century author
Dune - Frank Herbert
The Well At The World's End - William Morris
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
Good Morning, Midnight - Jean Rhys
White Jazz - James Ellory
Tristan - Béroul
1984 - George Orwell
The Mahé Circle - Georges Simenon
Les Misérables - Victor Hugo
The Antiquities of Rome - Joachim du Bellay
The Good Soldier - Ford Madox Ford
Cities of the Red Night - William Burroughs
The Invention of Morel - Adolfo Bioy Casares
Red Harvest - Dashiell Hammett
The Story of Venus and Tannhauser - Aubrey Beardsley
Nada - Jean-Patrick Manchette
The Comfort of Strangers - Ian McEwan
I was Dora Suarez - Derek Raymond
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
Aquarium - Viktor Suvorov
We have similar tastes. Some of your favorite writers are some of my favorite writers. Would you consider just delving more deeply into some of their work? If you liked Cancer Ward, then surely you will enjoy One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. If you liked The Comfort of Strangers, then surely you will enjoy The Innocent.
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#12

Post by St. Gloede »

matthewscott8 wrote: January 18th, 2021, 4:29 pm
St. Gloede wrote: January 18th, 2021, 2:15 pm Honestly, you have likely read far more than me, but I do love Virginia Woolf and would strongly recommend The Waves and Orlando in particular. To the Lighthouse may be a good way to ease yourself in as well.
I love the film of Orlando. I will take a look see
Something tells me you'll really enjoy it!
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#13

Post by matthewscott8 »

blocho wrote: January 18th, 2021, 5:13 pm We have similar tastes. Some of your favorite writers are some of my favorite writers. Would you consider just delving more deeply into some of their work? If you liked Cancer Ward, then surely you will enjoy One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. If you liked The Comfort of Strangers, then surely you will enjoy The Innocent.
Nice. It's a one per author list so I have read One Day in the Life of... but I haven't read The Innocent.
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#14

Post by 3eyes »

War and Peace is a must, I'd say - very long, lots of characters to keep track of, but I've always loved it, read it several times, in English and Russian.

If you don't think Jane Austen is your cup of tea, at least try Emma - her slyest.

My favorite Nabokov is Pale Fire - complex but rewarding.

Anthony Trollope is good fun.

Conan Doyle's The Lost World satirizes scientists in a way that doesn't come across in movie versions.

Since you liked both Brave New World and 1984 check out Yevgenii Zamyatin's We.
:run: STILL the Gaffer!
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#15

Post by prodigalgodson »

Hey Matthew! Some of my favorites I think you'd also love:

Middlemarch (George Eliot) - the psychological insight coupled with the incredible empathy makes me think this would be right up your alley; the Epileptic Seizure Comparison of books, if you will ;)
The Big Clock (Kenneth Fearing) - I've only read one from Simenon, but the richly-drawn characters and sordid plot remind me of your favorite author
The Underground Man (Ross MacDonald) - to complement Hammett/Ellroy, etc.
The Getaway (Jim Thompson) - Thompson's best imo, the whole final act is bananas
Underworld USA Trilogy/Second LA Quartet (James Ellroy) - more farfetched but at least as good as the first LA Quartet (second one's only halfway complete so far); Blood's a Rover is my favorite Ellroy book
The Ravishing of Lol V. Stein (Margeurite Duras) - I know you're a fan of her films, and of the three I've read I feel like you'd like this one the most
Warlock (Oakley Hall) - just read this recently, kind of like Middlemarch in the twilight of the wild west
Snow Country (Yasunari Kawabata) - from your taste in film I feel confident you'd love this, really subtle, delicate, warped love story
The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Milan Kundera) - more empathetic, aloof but loving commentary on the human condition, feel like you'd dig the characters and style
Nausea (Jean-Paul Sartre) - haven't read this since high school, but it's one any relative outsider should be able to relate to
To the Lighthouse (Virginia Woolf) - the only thing I've read from Woolf so far, but I'll echo everyone else's recommendations here; she did some crazy work with the English language
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#16

Post by sebby »

Martin Eden is my favorite book so I have to champion that one first and foremost.

I'll also second the Kawabata rec (anything by him is good) and throw in Honeymoon by Patrick Modiano and everything by Junot Diaz for more contemporary fare.
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