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brokenface
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#521

Post by brokenface »

Can't quite work out if anyone's picked for Knald..if not I'd say go with Pnin. Big fan of Nabakov. It's not quite Lolita, but if you like his style of writing, I think you'll find plenty to like in it.

I read Tarzan of the Apes, it's episodic, gets pretty formulaic and it's pretty hard to overlook the racism in both the depiction of the native African tribes, and the general idea of the upper class Europeans being genetically superior. Still if you can accept enough of an 'of its time' excuse for that, and don't get too bothered by absurd plot contrivances, it spins a pretty good yarn in its central narrative, moves along quickly and has some visceral thrills in its various fights to the death. In that sense, it's proper escapist adventure fare. It is always good to go back to source with an iconic character, see where all the clichés came from. I'm not sure I'll be reading the subsequent 23 (!) books.

1. William Makepeace Thackeray - Vanity Fair
2. Jane Austen - Persuasion
3. Nathaniel Hawthorne - The Scarlet Letter
4. George & Weedon Grossmith - The Diary of a Nobody
5. Daniel Defoe - Robinson Crusoe
6. Jonathan Swift - Gulliver's Travels
7. Charles Dickens - Bleak House
8. Upton Sinclair - The Jungle
9. Sapper - Bulldog Drummond
10. James Joyce - Dubliners
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flavo5000
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#522

Post by flavo5000 »

brokenface wrote: April 4th, 2022, 9:30 pm Can't quite work out if anyone's picked for Knald..if not I'd say go with Pnin. Big fan of Nabakov. It's not quite Lolita, but if you like his style of writing, I think you'll find plenty to like in it.

I read Tarzan of the Apes, it's episodic, gets pretty formulaic and it's pretty hard to overlook the racism in both the depiction of the native African tribes, and the general idea of the upper class Europeans being genetically superior. Still if you can accept enough of an 'of its time' excuse for that, and don't get too bothered by absurd plot contrivances, it spins a pretty good yarn in its central narrative, moves along quickly and has some visceral thrills in its various fights to the death. In that sense, it's proper escapist adventure fare. It is always good to go back to source with an iconic character, see where all the clichés came from. I'm not sure I'll be reading the subsequent 23 (!) books.

1. William Makepeace Thackeray - Vanity Fair
2. Jane Austen - Persuasion
3. Nathaniel Hawthorne - The Scarlet Letter
4. George & Weedon Grossmith - The Diary of a Nobody
5. Daniel Defoe - Robinson Crusoe
6. Jonathan Swift - Gulliver's Travels
7. Charles Dickens - Bleak House
8. Upton Sinclair - The Jungle
9. Sapper - Bulldog Drummond
10. James Joyce - Dubliners
How about Gulliver's Travels?

Also I'm getting close to finishing Ambrose Bierce's complete short stories, so I'll be ready soon for another one. What I pick up next?
What's Next?
1. Who Made Stevie Crye? (Michael Bishop, 1984)
For Mary Stevenson Crye, a beautiful young housewife, life had been wonderful -- loving husband, two delightful children, meaningful existence in a small Southern community. Then it all fell apart: with the sudden, unexpected death of her husband, Stevie must struggle to earn a living as a freelance writer. When her typewriter -- the sole economic support for her surviving family -- breaks down, Stevie begins to receive demonic messages through the machine, the prelude to a living nightmare of satanic entities, ghouls from beyond the grave, and the revelation of an unrequited curse over the Crye household.

2. House of Flesh (Bruno Fischer, 1951)
In the forbidding old house, guarded by vicious dogs, lived exotic, mysterious Lola. Murder was done there, it was said, and other deeds, wanton and eerie.

3. The Track of the Cat (Walter Van Tillburg Clark, 1949)
Clark's classic novel is a compelling tale of four men who fear a marauding mountain lion but swear to conquer it. It is also a story of violent human emotions—love and hate, hope and despair—and of the perpetual conflict between good and evil.

4. The Face That Must Die (Ramsey Campbell, 1982)
Ramsey Campbell’s daring look into the mind of a psychotic killer was published in truncated form in 1979; an expanded edition was later published in 1982. The paranoid outlook of the book's main character, Horridge, is a grim commentary on a bleak Liverpool suburb and Thatcher-era England.

5. Hammers on Bone (Cassandra Khaw, 2016)
John Persons is a private investigator with a distasteful job from an unlikely client. He’s been hired by a ten-year-old to kill the kid’s stepdad, McKinsey. The man in question is abusive, abrasive, and abominable.
He’s also a monster, which makes Persons the perfect thing to hunt him. Over the course of his ancient, arcane existence, he’s hunted gods and demons, and broken them in his teeth.

As Persons investigates the horrible McKinsey, he realizes that he carries something far darker. He’s infected with an alien presence, and he’s spreading that monstrosity far and wide. Luckily Persons is no stranger to the occult, being an ancient and magical intelligence himself. The question is whether the private dick can take down the abusive stepdad without releasing the holds on his own horrifying potential.


6. The Opener of the Way (Robert Bloch, 1945)
The Opener of the Way was Robert Bloch’s very first collection, published by Arkham House way back in 1945, when he was all of 28 years old. It contained 21 stories, all but two of which originally appeared in Weird Tales, including classics such as “Waxworks,” “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper,” and the Cthulhu Mythos tale “The Shambler from the Stars,” which inspired Lovecraft to write “The Haunter of the Dark,” his last work.

7. The Arabian Nightmare (Robert Irwin, 1983)
The hero and guiding force of this epic fantasy is an insomniac young man who, unable to sleep, guides the reader through the narrow streets of Cairo—a mysterious city full of deceit and trickery.

He narrates a complex tangle of dreams and imaginings that describe an atmosphere constantly shifting between sumptuously learned experiences, erotic adventure, and dry humor. The result is a thought-provoking puzzle box of sex, philosophy, and theology, reminiscent of Italo Calvino and Umberto Eco.


8. Something about Eve (James Branch Cabell, 1927)
Something About Eve, an entry in the Poictesme series, "shows its non-hero feebly intending to gain promised glory awaiting in the land of 'Antan' but forever delayed on Mispec Moor (anagram: 'Compromise'), wearing literal rose-colored spectacles and beguiled by the woman Maya, while bolder folk like Solomon and Odysseus pass by on the road to Antan

9. A Scent of New-Mown Hay (John Blackburn, 1958)
Across a thousand miles a dead man spoke to London and for Marcia Heath it was the beginning of terror. She was annoyed when her husband was summoned to attend a top secret, high level conference in Whitehall. Her irritation would have turned to fear if she had known the real reason for that summons. But soon they all knew. Tony Heath and Dr. Heath and General Kirk of British Secret Intelligence - they knew what it was the nameless thing that was destroying humanity through the female of the species. But where did it come from and how long had they got to find the antidote? The answer was simple. 'As long as it takes the wind to blow from the East.'

10. Darkness Weaves (Karl Edward Wagner, 1970)
Once Efrel was the beautiful consort of a king. Now she is a hideous creature who lives only for revenge. She has allies to aid her, but only Kane, the Mystic Swordsman, can rally her forces for battle. Only he can deliver the vengeance she has devised in her knowledge of black magic.
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Knaldskalle
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#523

Post by Knaldskalle »

brokenface wrote: April 4th, 2022, 9:30 pm Can't quite work out if anyone's picked for Knald..if not I'd say go with Pnin. Big fan of Nabakov. It's not quite Lolita, but if you like his style of writing, I think you'll find plenty to like in it.
:thumbsup: Pnin will be next.
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Please don't hurt yourself, talk to someone.
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Leopardi
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#524

Post by Leopardi »

Knaldskalle wrote: March 26th, 2022, 7:28 pm I went to a "book sale" held by the local "friends of the library" last week. Paperbacks were $0.50 and hardbacks were $1. I walked home with $21.50 worth of books. I'm currently reading Iain M. Banks' "Excession" and I'll probably be done with that within the next month or so (I'm not the voracious reader I used to be). Anyway, I was just wondering if there were some tips on what to pick up next from my new stack:

Gene Wolfe: Endangered Species (1989). Short story collection, apparently. Loved his "Book of the New Urth" with Severian the Torturer.
Henry James: The Portrait of a Lady (1880). Dunno anything about this one, other than it's a "classic." and I'm working my way through those, alternating with "classic" sci-fi.
Gustave Flaubert: Madam Bovary (1856). Another classic.
Charles Dickens: The Pickwick Papers (1837). I really like reading Dickens. I recently read A Tale of Two Cities and enjoyed it tremendously. I've started listening to Great Expectations as an audiobook in the car so it was an easy choice to pick this one up.
Joseph Conrad: The Secret Agent (1907). I find Conrad to be the second-most difficult author to read (after Shakespeare), but it's so rewarding. I've read Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim and Nostromo and I just had to pick this one up.
Vladimir Nabokov: Pnin (1957). Some years ago I read Lolita, expecting to loathe it (given the subject matter) but I was so wrong. Loved it, it was so funny! I've been on the lookout for more Nabokov ever since, but the online used bookstores generally have his books priced rather high, so at $0.50 this was a no-brainer.
George Orwell: Animal Farm (1945). I've seen the animated movie, so I know the story, I just never read it. I also picked up 1984 for the eldest daughter to read, but I'm not sure if it's "age appropriate" for a 14 year old. It does have some brutal stuff in it, which she's totally not into, but I lean towards her reading it anyway because it's so important. She's in a "creative writing" program in high school as well, so it seems like it would be unavoidable for her to read it at some point anyway.
John Bunner: Stand on Zanzibar (1968). Apparently a Sci-fi classic. That's all I know.
Isaac Asimov: Foundation's Edge (1982). The fourth book in The Foundation series. I've read, and own, the first three, so why not?
Greg Bear: Eon (1985). I've seen this book in so many libraries and bookstores, yet I never picked it up. I know nothing about it, except it's the first book in a series.
H. Rider Haggard: She (1886). I read King Solomon's Mines as a kid and always loved the movies based on it, but I've never actually read anything else by Haggard, so I picked this up.
Robert A. Heinlein: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966). Never read any Heinlein before and I know this one is considered a classic.
C.S. Lewis: Out of the Silent Planet (1938). I picked up the whole Space Trilogy ("Perelandra", "That Hideous Strength") since I know it's considered a classic in sci-fi.
Robert E. Howard: Conan. I've never read any of the Conan the Barbarian stories before, so I thought I'd give them a shot. This apparently collects the earliest stories. Wife rolled her eyes at me when she saw it, but... whatever.

I picked up some other stuff as well, mostly books I want the kids to read or other "must-own" classics that I've already read.
I've read a few from this list - here's my (brief) take:

The Portrait of a Lady: This can be a heavy and sometimes frustrating read. James' prose was invariably demanding by this stage of his writing career, and Isabel Archer doesn't necessarily resonate as much with the modern mindset as perhaps she should. Definitely a classic, but if you haven't read anything by James before I think I'd recommend going with one of his earlier works - they're not 'light' by any means but I did find them more accessible.

Madame Bovary: This is a master class in realism, just drink in that clean, crisp writing and let that story wash over you. This is a true classic, one of the greatest works of French literature and that's saying something.

The Pickwick Papers: I loved it, honestly it's one of my favourite Dickens works and quintessential early Dickens. There's so much energy, optimism and creativity in that pen of his and it comes out in the little adventures Pickwick and Sam have while collecting their stories. Having said that, the only person who ever took up my recommendation for this book put it down a short ways in with the dismissive comment, "I think I get the idea". Maybe some people find it too repetitive or too cheery, I don't know, I can't think of a better way to start off the Victorian literary era than this one.

The Secret Agent: We're on opposite sides of the fence with Conrad, I totally agree that he's a difficult author to read, but I've never found his books rewarding, unfortunately. I hate leveling this criticism of someone writing in their, what, third or fourth language (which is incredibly impressive), but I often find his writing style awkward and it never fails to take me out of the plot of the story, this one included. But it sounds like you can work past these difficulties and find gold in his stories so I shouldn't say I don't recommend it, just that I couldn't get out of it what you may.

Animal Farm: I read this one as a teenager, long enough ago that I should probably read it again, but even at that age I remember thinking it was quite heavy-handed and didn't care for it all that much as a result. I love Orwell's writing style, and yet strangely I rank his two most hailed books (Animal Farm and 1984) at the bottom in terms of enjoyment. Both are classics, yes, and both are quite important for obvious reasons. But they both came off to me as shouting a little too loudly to the reader how important they are, while Orwell's other writings felt a little more natural. I suspect if I were in a different frame of mind while reading them I might have felt differently about them

She: I'm in the same camp as you, I read King Solomon's Mines and Alan Quatermain and enjoyed them (cringeworthy racial views aside), and I so wanted this one to be more of the same, but unfortunately it kind of fell flat for me. I wouldn't mind your opinion on it, though!

I haven't read any Conan before but I did pick up The Complete Chronicles of Conan a year or two ago, I couldn't resist. Yeah, it may be terrible, but come on, it's Conan!

Anyway, you've already had Pnin picked for you so I'm not selecting one here, just thought I'd throw in my two cents on the titles above because I couldn't resist!
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Leopardi
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#525

Post by Leopardi »

I finished What's Bred in the Bone today, the second in Robertson Davies' Cornish trilogy. I enjoyed the first book in the series quite a bit, and was happy to find this chapter even more impressive in its subject and scope, chronicling the life of (fictitious) Canadian artist Francis Cornish from the circumstances surrounding his birth into a well off family in a small Ontario town near the Quebec border, through his school days and the early days as an artist and art restorer specializing in medieval works, to his death (no spoiler there - he starts the book dead). His guardian daemons play the chorus, interrupting the narrative here and there to discuss the events of his life and to remind us that they're hard at work influencing those events and drawing out his essential being, what's bred in the bone.

Despite being Canadian, I haven't read enough Canadian literature to place Davies in our literary canon, but he surely deserves a seat somewhere in our pantheon and it's works like this one that shows his talents, erudite, colourful and infused with quirky and memorable characters that keep the reader engaged. Looking forward to the final chapter in this trilogy, The Lyre of Orpheus.

Flav, I'll pick Hammers on Bone for you because that title just makes me shudder. Here's my list:
Spoiler
1. 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.

2 Scrambles Amongst the Alps in the Years 1860-69 & Down the Rhine (Edward Whymper and Lady Blanche Murphy, 1871). "One of the real classics within the adventure genre. The book is a time witness from the decades when the alps were still unexplored, when pedestrianism were a sport and when six bottle of wines, one bottle of whiskey and two cigars was adequate packing for the conquering of a four thousand meter high peak. The conquest of Matterhorn is of course the highlight and a must read for anyone going to climb in the alps." (review by Goodreads user Matias - thanks!). I picked this one up at an antiquarian book fair because it looked just far too great to turn down. My only reluctance with this one is that I'd prefer to be reading it while traveling the Alps myself.

3. Winter in the Blood (James Welch, 1974). "Narrated by a young Native American living on the Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana, Winter in the Blood is the unforgettable story of a man living out the tragedy of his people. Intelligent, sensitive, and self-destructive, he is haunted by the untimely deaths of his father and older brother and the shards of his once-proud heritage." (from the back of the Penguin Classics edition). A seminal work in the Native American Renaissance (with acknowledgment that this isn't the best name for the movement).

4. The Leavenworth Case (Anna Katharine Green, 1878). "Anna Katharine Green's bestseller The Leavenworth Case was the first mystery of its kind. Introducing the first American series detective, Ebenezer Gryce, it was published nine years before Sherlock Holmes, making Green an enormously popular and influential writer who changed the mystery genre forever." (from the back of the Penguin Classics edition)

5. The Black Robe (Wilkie Collins, 1881). Rich, handsome and reclusive Lewis Romayne is asked to visit his dying aunt and, while there, gets mixed up in a duel that leads to the death of his opponent. Haunted by this turn of events, he's approached by a representative of the church, who tries to help save his soul by converting him, but with a hidden agenda in mind. A biting anti-Catholic epistolary novel by social critic Wilkie Collins.

6. Workers in the Dawn (George Gissing, 1880). "In this, his first published novel, George Gissing establishes the hallmarks of his life-long literary obsession with class, money and sex. Against the turbulent background of London in the late nineteenth century he explores the overwhelming obstacles that face men of education, intelligence and talent, who strive to escape from the artisan class into which they were born. The novel marks a turning point in the history of English fiction. Through his subversive treatment of the conventions of fiction, Gissing becomes a founding member of the fin-de-siècle literary realism and anticipates the twentieth century novels of D.H. Lawrence and George Orwell." (from the back of the wonderful Victorian Secrets edition, which I picked up only a short while ago!)

7. Bracebridge Hall (Washington Irving, 1822). "Bracebridge Hall is a collection of tales and essays set for the most part at the manor house Irving had used in the Christmas chapters of [his more celebrated work] The Sketch Book...[It would provide a foundation] for the purpose of making a slight thread of a story on which to string his remarks and sketches of human manner and feeling." An early(ish) work from the Geoffrey Crayon days.

8. Juneteenth (Ralph Ellison, 1999). "This volume is a visionary tour de force, a lyrical, necessary contribution to America's perennial racial dialogue, and a novel powerfully reinforcing Ellison's place in literary history" (from Publishers Weekly). Ellison's much-anticipated follow-up to his masterpiece, Invisible Man was never completed, and Juneteenth represents the first attempt at publishing his sprawling manuscript.

9. The Journey Through Wales & The Description of Wales (Gerald of Wales, 1188-1191). "Gerald of Wales was one of the most dynamic and colorful churchmen of the 12th century. His JOURNEY describes a mission to Wales undertaken in 1188 by Baldwin, Archbishop of Canterbury, with Gerald as his companion. THE DESCRIPTION provides a picture of the day-to-day existence of ordinary Welshmen of the time. Both offer a wealth of fascinating first-hand historical detail." (from the back of the Penguin edition)

10. Life on the Mississippi (Mark Twain, 1883). "Fashioned from the same experiences that would inspire the masterpiece Huckleberry Finn, Life on the Mississippi is Mark Twain's most brilliant and most personal nonfictional work. It is at once an affectionate evocation of the vital river life in the steamboat era and a melancholy reminiscence of its passing after the Civil War, a priceless collection of humerous anecdotes and folktales, and a unique glimpse into Twain's life before he began to write" (from the back of the Bantam Classic edition). I've always found Twain's nonfiction more enjoyable than his works of fiction, so I have high hopes for this one.
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#526

Post by flavo5000 »

Leopardi wrote: April 11th, 2022, 11:29 am I finished What's Bred in the Bone today, the second in Robertson Davies' Cornish trilogy. I enjoyed the first book in the series quite a bit, and was happy to find this chapter even more impressive in its subject and scope, chronicling the life of (fictitious) Canadian artist Francis Cornish from the circumstances surrounding his birth into a well off family in a small Ontario town near the Quebec border, through his school days and the early days as an artist and art restorer specializing in medieval works, to his death (no spoiler there - he starts the book dead). His guardian daemons play the chorus, interrupting the narrative here and there to discuss the events of his life and to remind us that they're hard at work influencing those events and drawing out his essential being, what's bred in the bone.

Despite being Canadian, I haven't read enough Canadian literature to place Davies in our literary canon, but he surely deserves a seat somewhere in our pantheon and it's works like this one that shows his talents, erudite, colourful and infused with quirky and memorable characters that keep the reader engaged. Looking forward to the final chapter in this trilogy, The Lyre of Orpheus.

Flav, I'll pick Hammers on Bone for you because that title just makes me shudder. Here's my list:
Spoiler
1. 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.

2 Scrambles Amongst the Alps in the Years 1860-69 & Down the Rhine (Edward Whymper and Lady Blanche Murphy, 1871). "One of the real classics within the adventure genre. The book is a time witness from the decades when the alps were still unexplored, when pedestrianism were a sport and when six bottle of wines, one bottle of whiskey and two cigars was adequate packing for the conquering of a four thousand meter high peak. The conquest of Matterhorn is of course the highlight and a must read for anyone going to climb in the alps." (review by Goodreads user Matias - thanks!). I picked this one up at an antiquarian book fair because it looked just far too great to turn down. My only reluctance with this one is that I'd prefer to be reading it while traveling the Alps myself.

3. Winter in the Blood (James Welch, 1974). "Narrated by a young Native American living on the Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana, Winter in the Blood is the unforgettable story of a man living out the tragedy of his people. Intelligent, sensitive, and self-destructive, he is haunted by the untimely deaths of his father and older brother and the shards of his once-proud heritage." (from the back of the Penguin Classics edition). A seminal work in the Native American Renaissance (with acknowledgment that this isn't the best name for the movement).

4. The Leavenworth Case (Anna Katharine Green, 1878). "Anna Katharine Green's bestseller The Leavenworth Case was the first mystery of its kind. Introducing the first American series detective, Ebenezer Gryce, it was published nine years before Sherlock Holmes, making Green an enormously popular and influential writer who changed the mystery genre forever." (from the back of the Penguin Classics edition)

5. The Black Robe (Wilkie Collins, 1881). Rich, handsome and reclusive Lewis Romayne is asked to visit his dying aunt and, while there, gets mixed up in a duel that leads to the death of his opponent. Haunted by this turn of events, he's approached by a representative of the church, who tries to help save his soul by converting him, but with a hidden agenda in mind. A biting anti-Catholic epistolary novel by social critic Wilkie Collins.

6. Workers in the Dawn (George Gissing, 1880). "In this, his first published novel, George Gissing establishes the hallmarks of his life-long literary obsession with class, money and sex. Against the turbulent background of London in the late nineteenth century he explores the overwhelming obstacles that face men of education, intelligence and talent, who strive to escape from the artisan class into which they were born. The novel marks a turning point in the history of English fiction. Through his subversive treatment of the conventions of fiction, Gissing becomes a founding member of the fin-de-siècle literary realism and anticipates the twentieth century novels of D.H. Lawrence and George Orwell." (from the back of the wonderful Victorian Secrets edition, which I picked up only a short while ago!)

7. Bracebridge Hall (Washington Irving, 1822). "Bracebridge Hall is a collection of tales and essays set for the most part at the manor house Irving had used in the Christmas chapters of [his more celebrated work] The Sketch Book...[It would provide a foundation] for the purpose of making a slight thread of a story on which to string his remarks and sketches of human manner and feeling." An early(ish) work from the Geoffrey Crayon days.

8. Juneteenth (Ralph Ellison, 1999). "This volume is a visionary tour de force, a lyrical, necessary contribution to America's perennial racial dialogue, and a novel powerfully reinforcing Ellison's place in literary history" (from Publishers Weekly). Ellison's much-anticipated follow-up to his masterpiece, Invisible Man was never completed, and Juneteenth represents the first attempt at publishing his sprawling manuscript.

9. The Journey Through Wales & The Description of Wales (Gerald of Wales, 1188-1191). "Gerald of Wales was one of the most dynamic and colorful churchmen of the 12th century. His JOURNEY describes a mission to Wales undertaken in 1188 by Baldwin, Archbishop of Canterbury, with Gerald as his companion. THE DESCRIPTION provides a picture of the day-to-day existence of ordinary Welshmen of the time. Both offer a wealth of fascinating first-hand historical detail." (from the back of the Penguin edition)

10. Life on the Mississippi (Mark Twain, 1883). "Fashioned from the same experiences that would inspire the masterpiece Huckleberry Finn, Life on the Mississippi is Mark Twain's most brilliant and most personal nonfictional work. It is at once an affectionate evocation of the vital river life in the steamboat era and a melancholy reminiscence of its passing after the Civil War, a priceless collection of humerous anecdotes and folktales, and a unique glimpse into Twain's life before he began to write" (from the back of the Bantam Classic edition). I've always found Twain's nonfiction more enjoyable than his works of fiction, so I have high hopes for this one.
How about Gissing's Workers in the Dawn? I've got New Grub Street on my list to read at some point and am curious about other thoughts on this author.
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#527

Post by mightysparks »

It took me a while to get to my pick - And Then There Were None - but I started reading it last night and enjoyed it so much that I finished it already. I didn't remember much about the film so aside from the general plot of 'ten people brought to a mansion on an island' it was like a brand new plot. Very nicely paced and good page turner. I liked that there was no fluff, no romantic subplots or anything like that just ten guilty people dealing with their consciences, the threat of death and paranoia as they try to work out who 'Owen' is. Didn't really need the epilogue bit but I'm not a fan of that exposition dump in mystery stories anyway. Regardless, great stuff. 8/10

1. Lucifer's Hammer (Larry Niven, 1977) | NPR's Top 100 Science-Fiction & Fantasy Books
Spoiler
The gigantic comet had slammed into Earth, forging earthquakes a thousand times too powerful to measure on the Richter scale, tidal waves thousands of feet high. Cities were turned into oceans; oceans turned into steam. It was the beginning of a new Ice Age and the end of civilization. But for the terrified men and women chance had saved, it was also the dawn of a new struggle for survival--a struggle more dangerous and challenging than any they had ever known.
2. Perdido Street Station (China Mieville, 2000) | NPR's Top 100 Science-Fiction & Fantasy Books
Spoiler
Beneath the towering bleached ribs of a dead, ancient beast lies the city of New Crobuzon, where the unsavory deal is stranger to no one--not even to Isaac, a gifted and eccentric scientist who has spent a lifetime quietly carrying out his unique research. But when a half-bird, half-human creature known as the Garuda comes to him from afar, Isaac is faced with challenges he has never before encountered. Though the Garuda's request is scientifically daunting, Isaac is sparked by his own curiosity and an uncanny reverence for this curious stranger. Soon an eerie metamorphosis will occur that will permeate every fiber of New Crobuzon--and not even the Ambassador of Hell will challenge the malignant terror it evokes.
3. Lolita (Vladimir Nabokov, 1955) | thegreatestbooks.org's Top 100 Greatest Books of All Time
Spoiler
Humbert Humbert - scholar, aesthete and romantic - has fallen completely and utterly in love with Dolores Haze, his landlady's gum-snapping, silky skinned twelve-year-old daughter. Reluctantly agreeing to marry Mrs Haze just to be close to Lolita, Humbert suffers greatly in the pursuit of romance; but when Lo herself starts looking for attention elsewhere, he will carry her off on a desperate cross-country misadventure, all in the name of Love. Hilarious, flamboyant, heart-breaking and full of ingenious word play, Lolita is an immaculate, unforgettable masterpiece of obsession, delusion and lust.
4. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain, 1884) | thegreatestbooks.org's Top 100 Greatest Books of All Time
Spoiler
A nineteenth-century boy from a Mississippi River town recounts his adventures as he travels down the river with a runaway slave, encountering a family involved in a feud, two scoundrels pretending to be royalty, and Tom Sawyer's aunt who mistakes him for Tom.
5. Rosemary's Baby (Ira Levin, 1967) | flavo's mix of horror lists
Spoiler
Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse, an ordinary young couple, settle into a New York City apartment, unaware that the elderly neighbors and their bizarre group of friends have taken a disturbing interest in them. But by the time Rosemary discovers the horrifying truth, it may be far too late!
6. The Turn of the Screw (Henry James, 1898) | flavo's mix of horror lists
Spoiler
A very young woman's first job: governess for two weirdly beautiful, strangely distant, oddly silent children, Miles and Flora, at a forlorn estate...An estate haunted by a beckoning evil. Half-seen figures who glare from dark towers and dusty windows- silent, foul phantoms who, day by day, night by night, come closer, ever closer. With growing horror, the helpless governess realizes the fiendish creatures want the children, seeking to corrupt their bodies, possess their minds, own their souls... But worse-much worse- the governess discovers that Miles and Flora have no terror of the lurking evil. For they want the walking dead as badly as the dead want them.
7. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte, 1847) | 1001 Books to Read Before You Die
Spoiler
The story revolves around the tempestuous romance between Heathcliff, an orphan who is taken home to Wuthering Heights on impulse, and Catherine Earnshaw, a strong-willed girl whose mother died delivering her and who becomes Heathcliff's close companion.
8. Robinson Crusoe (Daniel Defoe, 1719) | 1001 Books to Read Before You Die
Spoiler
Daniel Defoe relates the tale of an English sailor marooned on a desert island for nearly three decades. An ordinary man struggling to survive in extraordinary circumstances, Robinson Crusoe wrestles with fate and the nature of God. This edition features maps.
9. The Color Purple (Alice Walker, 1982) | Random library choice
Spoiler
A powerful cultural touchstone of modern American literature, The Color Purple depicts the lives of African American women in early twentieth-century rural Georgia. Separated as girls, sisters Celie and Nettie sustain their loyalty to and hope in each other across time, distance and silence. Through a series of letters spanning twenty years, first from Celie to God, then the sisters to each other despite the unknown, the novel draws readers into its rich and memorable portrayals of Celie, Nettie, Shug Avery and Sofia and their experience. The Color Purple broke the silence around domestic and sexual abuse, narrating the lives of women through their pain and struggle, companionship and growth, resilience and bravery. Deeply compassionate and beautifully imagined, Alice Walker's epic carries readers on a spirit-affirming journey towards redemption and love.
10. The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II (Iris Chang, 1997) | Random library choice
Spoiler
In December 1937, the Japanese army invaded the ancient city of Nanking, systematically raping, torturing, and murdering more than 300,000 Chinese civilians. This book tells the story from three perspectives: of the Japanese soldiers who performed it, of the Chinese civilians who endured it, and of a group of Europeans and Americans who refused to abandon the city and were able to create a safety zone that saved many.
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#528

Post by flavo5000 »

mightysparks wrote: April 15th, 2022, 9:41 am
3. Lolita (Vladimir Nabokov, 1955) | thegreatestbooks.org's Top 100 Greatest Books of All Time
Spoiler
Humbert Humbert - scholar, aesthete and romantic - has fallen completely and utterly in love with Dolores Haze, his landlady's gum-snapping, silky skinned twelve-year-old daughter. Reluctantly agreeing to marry Mrs Haze just to be close to Lolita, Humbert suffers greatly in the pursuit of romance; but when Lo herself starts looking for attention elsewhere, he will carry her off on a desperate cross-country misadventure, all in the name of Love. Hilarious, flamboyant, heart-breaking and full of ingenious word play, Lolita is an immaculate, unforgettable masterpiece of obsession, delusion and lust.
Despite the ick factor on this one, it's actually very funny and worth reading.
4. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain, 1884) | thegreatestbooks.org's Top 100 Greatest Books of All Time
Spoiler
A nineteenth-century boy from a Mississippi River town recounts his adventures as he travels down the river with a runaway slave, encountering a family involved in a feud, two scoundrels pretending to be royalty, and Tom Sawyer's aunt who mistakes him for Tom.
This is a breezy read as long as you don't mind seeing the n-word constantly.
6. The Turn of the Screw (Henry James, 1898) | flavo's mix of horror lists
Spoiler
A very young woman's first job: governess for two weirdly beautiful, strangely distant, oddly silent children, Miles and Flora, at a forlorn estate...An estate haunted by a beckoning evil. Half-seen figures who glare from dark towers and dusty windows- silent, foul phantoms who, day by day, night by night, come closer, ever closer. With growing horror, the helpless governess realizes the fiendish creatures want the children, seeking to corrupt their bodies, possess their minds, own their souls... But worse-much worse- the governess discovers that Miles and Flora have no terror of the lurking evil. For they want the walking dead as badly as the dead want them.
This is a hard one... On one hand, it's a very well-known and influential story, plus it's pretty short. But on the other hand, James' prose is so flowery and difficult to focus on that frankly I had a lot of trouble getting through this one. to be fair though, I read it a long time ago back in college, so I may like it more now.
7. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte, 1847) | 1001 Books to Read Before You Die
Spoiler
The story revolves around the tempestuous romance between Heathcliff, an orphan who is taken home to Wuthering Heights on impulse, and Catherine Earnshaw, a strong-willed girl whose mother died delivering her and who becomes Heathcliff's close companion.
FYI, this one is also on the big horror list for it's place as an influential work of Victorian gothic fiction. Your enjoyment of this will depend on your tolerance for dreary Victorian literature in general. It's not what I would call an easy, pleasant read.
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#529

Post by mightysparks »

I’m guessing I won’t like Screw or Heights coz I tend to not like that kind of stuff but they are classics and at worst I just get more used to those styles.. Lolita I expect to be pretty fun. Finn idk but my family is pretty racist so I’m numb to the n word lol.
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Post by gunnar »

I didn't like Turn of the Screw and it turned me off of wanting to read any other stories by Henry James. I also didn't like Wuthering Heights. Robinson Crusoe was okay, but very dry and boring. I agree with flavo's assessment of Huck Finn.

Perdido Street Station is a book that has been on my 'To Read' list for a while. I'll get to it eventually.

I read Lucifer's Hammer about 30 years ago, but don't remember much about it. I seem to remember liking it, but not nearly as much as some of Niven's other books - Ringworld, The Mote in God's Eye, Dream Park, The Integral Trees, etc.
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gunnar wrote: April 15th, 2022, 12:34 pm I didn't like Turn of the Screw and it turned me off of wanting to read any other stories by Henry James. I also didn't like Wuthering Heights. Robinson Crusoe was okay, but very dry and boring. I agree with flavo's assessment of Huck Finn.

Perdido Street Station is a book that has been on my 'To Read' list for a while. I'll get to it eventually.

I read Lucifer's Hammer about 30 years ago, but don't remember much about it. I seem to remember liking it, but not nearly as much as some of Niven's other books - Ringworld, The Mote in God's Eye, Dream Park, The Integral Trees, etc.
Yea, frankly I didn't like Turn of the Screw or Wuthering Heights either although for different reasons. With Wuthering Heights it had a nice sense of atmosphere at times but the characters were so dreary and depressing it was hard to get through. With Turn of the Screw it was purely the writing style and not the story.
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Post by gunnar »

flavo5000 wrote: April 15th, 2022, 1:36 pm Yea, frankly I didn't like Turn of the Screw or Wuthering Heights either although for different reasons. With Wuthering Heights it had a nice sense of atmosphere at times but the characters were so dreary and depressing it was hard to get through. With Turn of the Screw it was purely the writing style and not the story.
Those were pretty much my reactions to each of those as well.
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Post by RolandKirkSunglasses »

First time I read "Lolita" I loved it, the second time I found it far less interesting as I focused less on the paedophilia aspect. "Wuthering Heights" was pretty atmospheric although several characters had similar sounding names, out of the Bronte sisters I prefer "Jane Eyre". I read "Turn of the Screw" ages ago and barely remember it.

Lately I've been going through German and Japanese novels and still have some English novels on my list:

Alfred Doblin - Berlin Alexanderplatz

Thomas Mann - Buddenbrooks

Robert Musil - Young Torless

Joseph Roth - Radetzky March

Junichiro Tanizaki - Some Prefer Nettles

Elizabeth Gaskell - North and South

Iraj Pezeshkzad - My Uncle Napoleon

Yasunari Kawabata - Beauty & Sadness

George Eliot - Adam Bede

Rabelais - Gargantua & Pantagruel
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RolandKirkSunglasses wrote: April 16th, 2022, 1:54 pm First time I read "Lolita" I loved it, the second time I found it far less interesting as I focused less on the paedophilia aspect. "Wuthering Heights" was pretty atmospheric although several characters had similar sounding names, out of the Bronte sisters I prefer "Jane Eyre". I read "Turn of the Screw" ages ago and barely remember it.

Lately I've been going through German and Japanese novels and still have some English novels on my list:

Alfred Doblin - Berlin Alexanderplatz

Thomas Mann - Buddenbrooks

Robert Musil - Young Torless

Joseph Roth - Radetzky March

Junichiro Tanizaki - Some Prefer Nettles

Elizabeth Gaskell - North and South

Iraj Pezeshkzad - My Uncle Napoleon

Yasunari Kawabata - Beauty & Sadness

George Eliot - Adam Bede

Rabelais - Gargantua & Pantagruel
Of these, the only ones I've read anything by are Elizabeth Gaskell (her gothic tales) and some poetry of George Eliot. I've seen both of the film versions of Berlin Alexanderplatz but never read the original novel. I would be curious to hear how the source compares to the films if you've seen any of them.
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Hammers on Bone (Cassandra Khaw, 2016)
Private eye John Persons is taken a little off guard when one day a young boy comes into his office wanting Persons to kill his stepdad. Persons isn't normally in the business of murder-for-hire, but there are special circumstances here. The boy's stepdad, McKinsey, is a literal Lovecraftian monster who has been abusing the boy, his little brother and their mother with potential death of all involved not too far in the future. The boy comes to Persons because Persons is not strictly a human himself and one of the few out there capable of going toe-to-toe with such a monstrosity. Of course, this isn't just a simple "take down the bad guy" story and Persons ends up with more than he bargained for.
I dug this cool, hard-boiled Lovecraftian noir novella. I like how it even rationalizes how the main character would use 1940's crime fiction slang. It also does a good job of building a mysterious and sinister atmosphere while also doing some groovy world building. If I were to have a significant complaint with this one, it really is with the length. This is one that I feel could have been stretched out to twice its length. It feels like it rushes the actual pavement pounding mid-section of the story to get to the solid climax. I also felt that giving it a little more meat on the bones would've made the epilogue more impactful too. Still, it was a fun ride that's definitely recommended if you like horror noir mash ups like William Hjortsberg's Fallen Angel.
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Sorry for the delay, the optics book is taking a long time to read on the bus (I'm not even half done at this point, avoiding the bus because of Covid isn't helping) and I take allergy medication at night which knocks me out enough that I'm not reading much before bed either. But I'm now finished Workers in the Dawn, which I had some issues with but on the whole very much enjoyed.

The story is about a young boy, Arthur Golding, who lives in a desperately poor part of mid-Victorian London with his father. When his father dies, he's taken away to the country where he's briefly exposed to a more affluent and privileged life before he returns to the city to make his way there. We watch him grow into a young, struggling artist while dealing with poverty and corrosive relationships. Gissing's descriptions of this world are stark and very memorable, a real break from the Dickensian approach that dominated a generation before. We're getting a glimpse of the birth of the modern realism movement in English literature here, and it's exhilarating, I love it. Golding's relationships are fascinating to behold, given how autobiographical they appear, mirroring Gissing's own to an extent we'll probably never know, since his journals from this period were never published (not to my knowledge, anyway). It's astonishing to read how frankly he portrays Arthur's relationship with Carrie, given the novel was published only weeks after he wedded Nell Harrison and foreshadowed their deeply troubled marriage so ominously well.

So what knocks do I have against this book? It's Gissing's first, and he has yet to capture realistic dialogue between his characters, at least to my tastes. The language is stilted and clunky more often than it isn't, and it takes away from the narrative at times. Golding isn't much of a sympathetic character in my view, being overly obstinate and condescending (particularly toward Carrie), and it makes it hard to feel for him when he makes his poor life choices (Dreiser did this so very much better a few decades later with Sister Carrie). I was never convinced by Golding's artistic spirit, I feel as though Gissing is too much out of his element writing about this, at least at this stage in his career. His portrayal doesn't compare favourably with Henry James' debut novel from a few years earlier, Roderick Hudson, also a 'troubled young artist' story, that shows a maturity largely absent here. Finally, I feel the need to admonish the publisher, Victorian Secrets, for revealing a tremendous spoiler in the footnotes early on in the book, which seem inexcusable. Nevertheless, they have such a wonderful selection of hard-to-find texts available I'll no doubt snap up quite a few more titles from them in the near future.

It doesn't look like there's anyone to choose for right now (if I'm wrong let me know!), so here's my list:
Spoiler
1. 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.

2 Scrambles Amongst the Alps in the Years 1860-69 & Down the Rhine (Edward Whymper and Lady Blanche Murphy, 1871). "One of the real classics within the adventure genre. The book is a time witness from the decades when the alps were still unexplored, when pedestrianism were a sport and when six bottle of wines, one bottle of whiskey and two cigars was adequate packing for the conquering of a four thousand meter high peak. The conquest of Matterhorn is of course the highlight and a must read for anyone going to climb in the alps." (review by Goodreads user Matias - thanks!). I picked this one up at an antiquarian book fair because it looked just far too great to turn down. My only reluctance with this one is that I'd prefer to be reading it while traveling the Alps myself.

3. Winter in the Blood (James Welch, 1974). "Narrated by a young Native American living on the Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana, Winter in the Blood is the unforgettable story of a man living out the tragedy of his people. Intelligent, sensitive, and self-destructive, he is haunted by the untimely deaths of his father and older brother and the shards of his once-proud heritage." (from the back of the Penguin Classics edition). A seminal work in the Native American Renaissance (with acknowledgment that this isn't the best name for the movement).

4. The Leavenworth Case (Anna Katharine Green, 1878). "Anna Katharine Green's bestseller The Leavenworth Case was the first mystery of its kind. Introducing the first American series detective, Ebenezer Gryce, it was published nine years before Sherlock Holmes, making Green an enormously popular and influential writer who changed the mystery genre forever." (from the back of the Penguin Classics edition)

5. The Black Robe (Wilkie Collins, 1881). Rich, handsome and reclusive Lewis Romayne is asked to visit his dying aunt and, while there, gets mixed up in a duel that leads to the death of his opponent. Haunted by this turn of events, he's approached by a representative of the church, who tries to help save his soul by converting him, but with a hidden agenda in mind. A biting anti-Catholic epistolary novel by social critic Wilkie Collins.

6. Bracebridge Hall (Washington Irving, 1822). "Bracebridge Hall is a collection of tales and essays set for the most part at the manor house Irving had used in the Christmas chapters of [his more celebrated work] The Sketch Book...[It would provide a foundation] for the purpose of making a slight thread of a story on which to string his remarks and sketches of human manner and feeling." An early(ish) work from the Geoffrey Crayon days.

7. Juneteenth (Ralph Ellison, 1999). "This volume is a visionary tour de force, a lyrical, necessary contribution to America's perennial racial dialogue, and a novel powerfully reinforcing Ellison's place in literary history" (from Publishers Weekly). Ellison's much-anticipated follow-up to his masterpiece, Invisible Man was never completed, and Juneteenth represents the first attempt at publishing his sprawling manuscript.

8. The Journey Through Wales & The Description of Wales (Gerald of Wales, 1188-1191). "Gerald of Wales was one of the most dynamic and colorful churchmen of the 12th century. His JOURNEY describes a mission to Wales undertaken in 1188 by Baldwin, Archbishop of Canterbury, with Gerald as his companion. THE DESCRIPTION provides a picture of the day-to-day existence of ordinary Welshmen of the time. Both offer a wealth of fascinating first-hand historical detail." (from the back of the Penguin edition)

9. Life on the Mississippi (Mark Twain, 1883). "Fashioned from the same experiences that would inspire the masterpiece Huckleberry Finn, Life on the Mississippi is Mark Twain's most brilliant and most personal nonfictional work. It is at once an affectionate evocation of the vital river life in the steamboat era and a melancholy reminiscence of its passing after the Civil War, a priceless collection of humorous anecdotes and folktales, and a unique glimpse into Twain's life before he began to write" (from the back of the Bantam Classic edition). I've always found Twain's nonfiction more enjoyable than his works of fiction, so I have high hopes for this one.

10. Selected Writings (Sir Walter Raleigh, c. 1590-1618). "Sir Walter Ralegh (?1532-1618) was a man of extraordinary energy and ambition. Yet in his writing, both poetry and prose, his preoccupations are with disappointment, defeat and the need for endurance. This major selection of his work was the first to appear for over half a century. It contains the poems which are undoubtedly his and the famous contested ones, large extracts from his prose works, The Discovery of Guiana, The Last Fight of the Revenge, and his magisterial The History of the World, and letters." (from the back of the Penguin edition).
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I chose Bracebridge Hall for myself and finished it today. Other than his most famous tales (Sleepy Hollow, Rip Van Winkle) I've generally found Irving's writing on the dry side. This short book started off with promise, with the author visiting the Bracebridge family, who lived at Aston Hall in Birmingham, England and deciding to write sketches about residents of the hall and the town of Aston. We get glimpses of manorial life in pre-Victorian England that culminate in a wedding, which is interesting enough, but the sketches begin to get repetitive, and it's hard not to compare these sketches with those of London life given by Dickens about fifteen years later (in Sketches by Boz) which shine by comparison both in detail and in spirit. Not bad by any means, genuinely interesting in places, but all in all it didn't quite hit the mark I was hoping it would.


I'll choose Mysteries next since it's the first book on the list and it's been there a while. Here's my updated list:
Spoiler
1. Scrambles Amongst the Alps in the Years 1860-69 & Down the Rhine (Edward Whymper and Lady Blanche Murphy, 1871). "One of the real classics within the adventure genre. The book is a time witness from the decades when the alps were still unexplored, when pedestrianism were a sport and when six bottle of wines, one bottle of whiskey and two cigars was adequate packing for the conquering of a four thousand meter high peak. The conquest of Matterhorn is of course the highlight and a must read for anyone going to climb in the alps." (review by Goodreads user Matias - thanks!). I picked this one up at an antiquarian book fair because it looked just far too great to turn down. My only reluctance with this one is that I'd prefer to be reading it while traveling the Alps myself.

2. Winter in the Blood (James Welch, 1974). "Narrated by a young Native American living on the Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana, Winter in the Blood is the unforgettable story of a man living out the tragedy of his people. Intelligent, sensitive, and self-destructive, he is haunted by the untimely deaths of his father and older brother and the shards of his once-proud heritage." (from the back of the Penguin Classics edition). A seminal work in the Native American Renaissance (with acknowledgment that this isn't the best name for the movement).

3. The Leavenworth Case (Anna Katharine Green, 1878). "Anna Katharine Green's bestseller The Leavenworth Case was the first mystery of its kind. Introducing the first American series detective, Ebenezer Gryce, it was published nine years before Sherlock Holmes, making Green an enormously popular and influential writer who changed the mystery genre forever." (from the back of the Penguin Classics edition)

4. The Black Robe (Wilkie Collins, 1881). Rich, handsome and reclusive Lewis Romayne is asked to visit his dying aunt and, while there, gets mixed up in a duel that leads to the death of his opponent. Haunted by this turn of events, he's approached by a representative of the church, who tries to help save his soul by converting him, but with a hidden agenda in mind. A biting anti-Catholic epistolary novel by social critic Wilkie Collins.

5. Juneteenth (Ralph Ellison, 1999). "This volume is a visionary tour de force, a lyrical, necessary contribution to America's perennial racial dialogue, and a novel powerfully reinforcing Ellison's place in literary history" (from Publishers Weekly). Ellison's much-anticipated follow-up to his masterpiece, Invisible Man was never completed, and Juneteenth represents the first attempt at publishing his sprawling manuscript.

6. The Journey Through Wales & The Description of Wales (Gerald of Wales, 1188-1191). "Gerald of Wales was one of the most dynamic and colorful churchmen of the 12th century. His JOURNEY describes a mission to Wales undertaken in 1188 by Baldwin, Archbishop of Canterbury, with Gerald as his companion. THE DESCRIPTION provides a picture of the day-to-day existence of ordinary Welshmen of the time. Both offer a wealth of fascinating first-hand historical detail." (from the back of the Penguin edition)

7. Life on the Mississippi (Mark Twain, 1883). "Fashioned from the same experiences that would inspire the masterpiece Huckleberry Finn, Life on the Mississippi is Mark Twain's most brilliant and most personal nonfictional work. It is at once an affectionate evocation of the vital river life in the steamboat era and a melancholy reminiscence of its passing after the Civil War, a priceless collection of humorous anecdotes and folktales, and a unique glimpse into Twain's life before he began to write" (from the back of the Bantam Classic edition). I've always found Twain's nonfiction more enjoyable than his works of fiction, so I have high hopes for this one.

8. Selected Writings (Sir Walter Raleigh, c. 1590-1618). "Sir Walter Ralegh (?1532-1618) was a man of extraordinary energy and ambition. Yet in his writing, both poetry and prose, his preoccupations are with disappointment, defeat and the need for endurance. This major selection of his work was the first to appear for over half a century. It contains the poems which are undoubtedly his and the famous contested ones, large extracts from his prose works, The Discovery of Guiana, The Last Fight of the Revenge, and his magisterial The History of the World, and letters." (from the back of the Penguin edition).

9. Tom Brown at Oxford (Thomas Hughes, 1859)."...a sequel to the better-known Tom Brown's School Days...the story follows the character of Tom Brown to fictional St Ambrose's College, Oxford. The novel offers a vivid impression of university life in the mid nineteenth century." (from Wikipedia). I'm a little hesitant about this one since I haven't read the first in the series (and don't own it).

10. Letters from an American Farmer and Sketches of Eighteenth-Century America (J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, 1782). "America’s physical and cultural landscape is captured in these two classics of American history. Letters provides an invaluable view of the pre-Revolutionary and Revolutionary eras; Sketches details in vivid prose the physical setting in which American settlers created their history." (from Goodreads and, I think, the back of the Penguin edition (too lazy to check right now)).
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Post by flavo5000 »

Leopardi wrote: July 5th, 2022, 2:19 am I chose Bracebridge Hall for myself and finished it today. Other than his most famous tales (Sleepy Hollow, Rip Van Winkle) I've generally found Irving's writing on the dry side. This short book started off with promise, with the author visiting the Bracebridge family, who lived at Aston Hall in Birmingham, England and deciding to write sketches about residents of the hall and the town of Aston. We get glimpses of manorial life in pre-Victorian England that culminate in a wedding, which is interesting enough, but the sketches begin to get repetitive, and it's hard not to compare these sketches with those of London life given by Dickens about fifteen years later (in Sketches by Boz) which shine by comparison both in detail and in spirit. Not bad by any means, genuinely interesting in places, but all in all it didn't quite hit the mark I was hoping it would.


I'll choose Mysteries next since it's the first book on the list and it's been there a while. Here's my updated list:
Spoiler
1. Scrambles Amongst the Alps in the Years 1860-69 & Down the Rhine (Edward Whymper and Lady Blanche Murphy, 1871). "One of the real classics within the adventure genre. The book is a time witness from the decades when the alps were still unexplored, when pedestrianism were a sport and when six bottle of wines, one bottle of whiskey and two cigars was adequate packing for the conquering of a four thousand meter high peak. The conquest of Matterhorn is of course the highlight and a must read for anyone going to climb in the alps." (review by Goodreads user Matias - thanks!). I picked this one up at an antiquarian book fair because it looked just far too great to turn down. My only reluctance with this one is that I'd prefer to be reading it while traveling the Alps myself.

2. Winter in the Blood (James Welch, 1974). "Narrated by a young Native American living on the Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana, Winter in the Blood is the unforgettable story of a man living out the tragedy of his people. Intelligent, sensitive, and self-destructive, he is haunted by the untimely deaths of his father and older brother and the shards of his once-proud heritage." (from the back of the Penguin Classics edition). A seminal work in the Native American Renaissance (with acknowledgment that this isn't the best name for the movement).

3. The Leavenworth Case (Anna Katharine Green, 1878). "Anna Katharine Green's bestseller The Leavenworth Case was the first mystery of its kind. Introducing the first American series detective, Ebenezer Gryce, it was published nine years before Sherlock Holmes, making Green an enormously popular and influential writer who changed the mystery genre forever." (from the back of the Penguin Classics edition)

4. The Black Robe (Wilkie Collins, 1881). Rich, handsome and reclusive Lewis Romayne is asked to visit his dying aunt and, while there, gets mixed up in a duel that leads to the death of his opponent. Haunted by this turn of events, he's approached by a representative of the church, who tries to help save his soul by converting him, but with a hidden agenda in mind. A biting anti-Catholic epistolary novel by social critic Wilkie Collins.

5. Juneteenth (Ralph Ellison, 1999). "This volume is a visionary tour de force, a lyrical, necessary contribution to America's perennial racial dialogue, and a novel powerfully reinforcing Ellison's place in literary history" (from Publishers Weekly). Ellison's much-anticipated follow-up to his masterpiece, Invisible Man was never completed, and Juneteenth represents the first attempt at publishing his sprawling manuscript.

6. The Journey Through Wales & The Description of Wales (Gerald of Wales, 1188-1191). "Gerald of Wales was one of the most dynamic and colorful churchmen of the 12th century. His JOURNEY describes a mission to Wales undertaken in 1188 by Baldwin, Archbishop of Canterbury, with Gerald as his companion. THE DESCRIPTION provides a picture of the day-to-day existence of ordinary Welshmen of the time. Both offer a wealth of fascinating first-hand historical detail." (from the back of the Penguin edition)

7. Life on the Mississippi (Mark Twain, 1883). "Fashioned from the same experiences that would inspire the masterpiece Huckleberry Finn, Life on the Mississippi is Mark Twain's most brilliant and most personal nonfictional work. It is at once an affectionate evocation of the vital river life in the steamboat era and a melancholy reminiscence of its passing after the Civil War, a priceless collection of humorous anecdotes and folktales, and a unique glimpse into Twain's life before he began to write" (from the back of the Bantam Classic edition). I've always found Twain's nonfiction more enjoyable than his works of fiction, so I have high hopes for this one.

8. Selected Writings (Sir Walter Raleigh, c. 1590-1618). "Sir Walter Ralegh (?1532-1618) was a man of extraordinary energy and ambition. Yet in his writing, both poetry and prose, his preoccupations are with disappointment, defeat and the need for endurance. This major selection of his work was the first to appear for over half a century. It contains the poems which are undoubtedly his and the famous contested ones, large extracts from his prose works, The Discovery of Guiana, The Last Fight of the Revenge, and his magisterial The History of the World, and letters." (from the back of the Penguin edition).

9. Tom Brown at Oxford (Thomas Hughes, 1859)."...a sequel to the better-known Tom Brown's School Days...the story follows the character of Tom Brown to fictional St Ambrose's College, Oxford. The novel offers a vivid impression of university life in the mid nineteenth century." (from Wikipedia). I'm a little hesitant about this one since I haven't read the first in the series (and don't own it).

10. Letters from an American Farmer and Sketches of Eighteenth-Century America (J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, 1782). "America’s physical and cultural landscape is captured in these two classics of American history. Letters provides an invaluable view of the pre-Revolutionary and Revolutionary eras; Sketches details in vivid prose the physical setting in which American settlers created their history." (from Goodreads and, I think, the back of the Penguin edition (too lazy to check right now)).
I was actually going to suggest Mysteries anyway. I've been curious about Richard Marsh but never read any of his myself. I've thought about recording one of his for Librivos though, maybe either The Chase of the Ruby or Spoils of Man.
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#539

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flavo5000 wrote: July 5th, 2022, 1:52 pm
I was actually going to suggest Mysteries anyway. I've been curious about Richard Marsh but never read any of his myself. I've thought about recording one of his for Librivos though, maybe either The Chase of the Ruby or Spoils of Man.
Marsh has been a bit hit and miss for me overall, but when things click I really like the guy. After Curios I'm looking forward to what comes next from him (I see The Joss: A Reversion is next for him chronologically on my shelves, incidentally. Hopefully it comes up soon.).

I've finished Mysteries, which was a bit of a mixed bag for me. There were aspects I enjoyed - I thought it had a strong start and a fairly strong finish, I felt the character of Miniman was compelling, I believe Hamsun to be a talented writer, and I thought some of the protagonist's more philosophical and literary rants were insightful, but overall the novel felt a little too loose to me. I assume this is what Hamsun was shooting for, a slightly off, meandering story to accentuate the odd, mysterious circumstances that unfold, but I couldn't help shaking the feeling that it needed a little more direction to be effective. Not a bad book by any measure, and I would happily pick up another by Hamsun in the future, but not quite what I was hoping for from him.

I think I'll pick Scrambles Amongst the Alps in the Years 1860-69 & Down the Rhine for myself next, for mostly practical purposes. The fiber optics text from my companion list is only about 60% done and probably won't be completed until around Labour Day. It's my bus book, and when it's done I'll most likely replace it with one from the present list, and I don't want that to be Scrambles, since it's antiquarian and bulky (i.e. not great for the bus). So I'm hoping to get Scrambles out of the way (or mostly out of the way) in the next month before the text book is completed.

Here's my list:
Spoiler
1. Winter in the Blood (James Welch, 1974). "Narrated by a young Native American living on the Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana, Winter in the Blood is the unforgettable story of a man living out the tragedy of his people. Intelligent, sensitive, and self-destructive, he is haunted by the untimely deaths of his father and older brother and the shards of his once-proud heritage." (from the back of the Penguin Classics edition). A seminal work in the Native American Renaissance (with acknowledgment that this isn't the best name for the movement).

2. The Leavenworth Case (Anna Katharine Green, 1878). "Anna Katharine Green's bestseller The Leavenworth Case was the first mystery of its kind. Introducing the first American series detective, Ebenezer Gryce, it was published nine years before Sherlock Holmes, making Green an enormously popular and influential writer who changed the mystery genre forever." (from the back of the Penguin Classics edition)

3. The Black Robe (Wilkie Collins, 1881). Rich, handsome and reclusive Lewis Romayne is asked to visit his dying aunt and, while there, gets mixed up in a duel that leads to the death of his opponent. Haunted by this turn of events, he's approached by a representative of the church, who tries to help save his soul by converting him, but with a hidden agenda in mind. A biting anti-Catholic epistolary novel by social critic Wilkie Collins.

4. Juneteenth (Ralph Ellison, 1999). "This volume is a visionary tour de force, a lyrical, necessary contribution to America's perennial racial dialogue, and a novel powerfully reinforcing Ellison's place in literary history" (from Publishers Weekly). Ellison's much-anticipated follow-up to his masterpiece, Invisible Man was never completed, and Juneteenth represents the first attempt at publishing his sprawling manuscript.

5. The Journey Through Wales & The Description of Wales (Gerald of Wales, 1188-1191). "Gerald of Wales was one of the most dynamic and colorful churchmen of the 12th century. His JOURNEY describes a mission to Wales undertaken in 1188 by Baldwin, Archbishop of Canterbury, with Gerald as his companion. THE DESCRIPTION provides a picture of the day-to-day existence of ordinary Welshmen of the time. Both offer a wealth of fascinating first-hand historical detail." (from the back of the Penguin edition)

6. Life on the Mississippi (Mark Twain, 1883). "Fashioned from the same experiences that would inspire the masterpiece Huckleberry Finn, Life on the Mississippi is Mark Twain's most brilliant and most personal nonfictional work. It is at once an affectionate evocation of the vital river life in the steamboat era and a melancholy reminiscence of its passing after the Civil War, a priceless collection of humorous anecdotes and folktales, and a unique glimpse into Twain's life before he began to write" (from the back of the Bantam Classic edition). I've always found Twain's nonfiction more enjoyable than his works of fiction, so I have high hopes for this one.

7. Selected Writings (Sir Walter Raleigh, c. 1590-1618). "Sir Walter Ralegh (?1532-1618) was a man of extraordinary energy and ambition. Yet in his writing, both poetry and prose, his preoccupations are with disappointment, defeat and the need for endurance. This major selection of his work was the first to appear for over half a century. It contains the poems which are undoubtedly his and the famous contested ones, large extracts from his prose works, The Discovery of Guiana, The Last Fight of the Revenge, and his magisterial The History of the World, and letters." (from the back of the Penguin edition).

8. Tom Brown at Oxford (Thomas Hughes, 1859)."...a sequel to the better-known Tom Brown's School Days...the story follows the character of Tom Brown to fictional St Ambrose's College, Oxford. The novel offers a vivid impression of university life in the mid nineteenth century." (from Wikipedia). I'm a little hesitant about this one since I haven't read the first in the series (and don't own it).

9. Letters from an American Farmer and Sketches of Eighteenth-Century America (J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, 1782). "America’s physical and cultural landscape is captured in these two classics of American history. Letters provides an invaluable view of the pre-Revolutionary and Revolutionary eras; Sketches details in vivid prose the physical setting in which American settlers created their history." (from Goodreads and, I think, the back of the Penguin edition (too lazy to check right now)).

10. Ruy Blas (Victor Hugo, 1838). "Ruy Blas is a tragic drama by Victor Hugo...Though considered by many to be Hugo’s best drama, the play was initially met with only average success." I can't find much on this title so I've kept its description brief. I think this one may be untranslated, so I'll have to flex my feeble French muscles to make it through.
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#540

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After more than five months, I've finally finished Nonlinear Fiber Optics. I feel like I should probably give some kind of an explanation for why it was important for me to read this book, and why it's an important book, period, but it's not so easy to explain. I'll leave it in spoilers in case anyone's interested.
Spoiler
Okay, I will keep this as brief as I can for two reasons: First, I work in this industry and if I say too much, it could cost me my job (some details will be very vague for this reason, apologies in advance if it's too 'breezy' to follow), and second, it's a bad combination of very involved and not terribly interesting to people outside of the industry, so brevity is a blessing here. And with that, I'll answer a few leading questions:

Why does light go through glass? It's a trick question, because not all light does go through glass. Only a few slivers of it do, the one we know best about is in the visible light spectrum, with wavelengths between about 400-700 nanometers (abbreviated nm). Fiber optic communication relies on another region in the near-infrared region, with wavelengths between about 1525-1625 nm. In this region light passes through light easily, that is, it isn't absorbed much. And why does it do this? It's complicated, but it has to do with the resonance frequencies of glass molecules. If those resonance wavelengths match roughly the wavelength of light hitting them, the photons of light can be absorbed and re-emitted by the glass molecules very efficiently. So two takeaways here: One, that there's a limited window of wavelengths in which fiber optics as we know it today works, and two, that within this window the photons of light interact with the glass molecules as they move along.

Why did the Internet suddenly become high speed about twenty years ago? Another complicated question, but one big factor was that technology evolved enough that we could start manipulating the lasers (and other optical equipment) that generate our data signal very well, well enough that we could start putting signals alongside each other in that window I mentioned without colliding into one another, and better yet, could actually pick off exactly the signal we want at the far end and read the data from it alone, letting all the other signals go to some other destination along the fiber optic line. In other words, the modems started to become coherent. This is the same principle used in radio technology - when you tune to a radio station, you're tuning in to a specific wavelength of signal and disregarding all the other stations that are at other wavelength - but it's happening at much smaller wavelengths (roughly a million times smaller) so it took a while before the technology was good enough to handle it.

So about twenty years ago, a lot of work went into cramming as many of these signals into that window. This technique is called wavelength division multiplexing. These laser signals aren't infinitely narrow - data is imprinted on them by modulating them, which fattens them up, so in practice you can fit a finite number of them into that window. And the reason this is beneficial should be obvious: Suddenly your one channel of data being sent down that light pipe has, say, a hundred buddies with him, all transmitting their own packets of data, and your Internet speeds up a hundredfold as a result. Blammo, instant high speed Internet. The takeaway here is that one of the primary goals in telecom is to cram as much data into that finite window as possible, and that's what we've been doing for the last two decades.

That's the end of the story, right? No, of course not. The other primary goal of telecom R&D is to have no errors in the data being transmitted (your ISP may not have as strong a dedication as we do :P ). And putting laser signals alongside each other can cause lots of weird and interesting optical effects, many of which are toxic to data transmission. Signals can get skewed and distorted in all sorts of ways, and much (but not all) of it is due to that interaction I mentioned to you in the first question, the interaction between the photons of light and the glass molecules they're traveling through. And to mitigate these effects that became exceedingly important with the development of WDM, you need to have an understanding of the physics of these interactions, collectively known as nonlinear optics.

Could you bore us with some physics, please? Yes I can! But I'll keep it very brief. Molecules can be thought of as little vibrating bar magnets (obviously I'm oversimplifying things immensely here!) which we call dipoles. As a result, they have a little local magnetic field created by that dipole which we call the polarization field. Light is an electromagnetic wave, and when it passes through this sea of glass molecules with their sea of polarization fields, they interact. The light will be affected by the polarization field, and the polarization field will be warped a little by the light, and that will have a knock-on effect on neighbouring light waves zipping through alongside the first one, etc., etc. This behaviour is described by what's known as the Optical Kerr Effect (there's a whole zoo of other ones but this one's the easiest one to visualize).

It wouldn't be so bad if those dipoles behaved in a simple way in the presence of an electromagnetic field (i.e. the field created by the light waves passing through). But they don't, they really don't. In a perfect world, polarization, P, would vary linearly with electric field, E. so that P = (stuff) x E. But take a look at the first equation in the DC Kerr Effect section of the wiki link I provided above and you see that, in reality, things are very messy:

P = (constant)[χ(1):E + χ(2):EE + χ(3):EEE + ...]

So if we only had that leftmost term, things would be linear, a nice simple direct relationship between the electromagnetic field you bathe your glass molecules in and how they respond to it. Instead, we have a series of terms (including the linear one), and it's these other terms that lead to a nonlinear relationship between the electromagnetic field and how the glass responds to it. This is pretty common in nature (my later grad work looked at the nonlinear relationship between how you push or pull on a certain type of liquid crystal and how it responds to that stress, for example. If the material's response is nicely proportional to the stress, it's linear (or Newtonian), if it doesn't it's nonlinear (or non-Newtonian). Most are the latter.). Why is the equation written out the way I have above? Those χ terms aren't simple multipliers, they're more complicated things called tensors that generally become harder to deal with the higher the number in brackets beside them gets (usually we're not multiplying, we're doing 'tensor operations', and that's why the equation above is written out the way it is.). Thankfully, the middle term is nonzero usually only in materials with regular structure to their molecules (i.e. not glass) so we can usually ignore it (although the book has a section on ways we can manipulate glass so that we can't ignore it anymore), it's really the rightmost term that causes us so much grief (the rest of the terms in that infinite series become less and less important so we can often ignore them).

Much of this book covers, either directly or indirectly, how to deal with that third term mathematically (there's no simple and general mathematical solution to the equation, but there's no end of assumptions that one can make to allow one to deal with it in various ways), and how this and other nonlinear effects manifest in the light/glass environment. It's a big book, so you can imagine how complicated all of this can get, even though it's all tied together in that one term! One other takeaway: In most situations, when you make your assumptions and solve whatever equation you end up with, usually that rightmost term is proportional to the intensity of light hitting the glass (see that letter I at the very right of the last equation (n = n0 + n2I) on the Kerr Effect page I shared? That's what I'm talking about.). This is an important (and worrisome) thing for our Internet, as I'll explain.

Tying things together: So, to summarize, the breakthrough of high speed Internet was in large part about getting a whole bunch of these laser signals (all of them carrying Internet traffic) close to each other in frequency. The glass slowly attenuates the power of these signals as photons get scattered away here and there on their journey, so it would be nice to crank up their power nice and high so the signals can go a huge distance before they get whittled away to nothing, right? But that means you need to use intense laser power. And we just learned that you get bizarre (and usually problematic) nonlinear effects when you use intense beams, especially when they're close to each other as they have to be when they're packed into that tight frequency window I mentioned earlier. So, well, shit, what do we do? Well, the book covers the rules of the road, and it's up to modem and system developers to figure out how to deal with all this stuff (no more details here, as I'd like to keep my job!). This is the (or one of the) seminal books bringing all these decades of research together to help us figure out how to do this. So maybe a better title for this book is How to Internet Really Fast (If You Know What You're Doing). If you like your Internet fast, this book was instrumental in making it happen. And since I'm in this field, that's why I felt it was essential reading for me.
Okay, so how was the book? It was a tough read, I won't deny it. The first hundred pages were good, challenging for an upper year physics undergrad, I would say (normally the book is a grad level textbook). It was nice to see discussions of the fundamentals behind some more esoteric work I'll be embarking on next year (can't go into details here). After that first hundred pages, it got rather repetitive, as I guess it had to, because all of this stuff, while stemming from different interpretations of the equation I mention above, will often lead to similar behaviour. I can't really complain about that, it's important that the book be thorough, and that means repetition will be inevitable.

The big knock I have against the book is that it doesn't go through the math clearly enough in many cases, so it's easy to get lost, and if you're reading it like a book rather than consulting it like a textbook, it makes things quite challenging (and, yes, boring). Even as a grad text I think it should have more worked examples, just as heuristic aids along the way. Too much of it reads as a litany of seminal papers in the field. So, in other words, great as a reference, good as a teaching tool, okay as reading material. At least I can say I've read it now.

I'll pick Ruy Blas for myself next, since I'm a little fearful of picking up a book in French after so many years of my French ability languishing, and it makes me anxious to see it on the list.

Here's my list:
Spoiler
1. Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe (Norman Davies) "Europe's history is littered with kingdoms, duchies, empires and republics which have now disappeared but which were once fixtures on the map of their age. What happened to the once-great Mediterranean 'Empire of Aragon'? Where did the half-forgotten kingdoms of Burgundy go?...This original and enthralling book peers through the cracks of history to discover the stories of lost realms across the centuries." (from the back of the Penguin edition)

2. Restoration London: Everyday Life in the 1660s (Liza Picard) "Making use of every possible contemporary source diaries, memoirs, advice books, government papers, almanacs, even the Register of Patents Liza Picard presents a picture of how life in London was really lived in the 1600s: the houses and streets, gardens and parks, cooking, clothes and jewellery, cosmetics, hairdressing, housework, laundry and shopping, medicine and dentistry, sex, education, hobbies, etiquette, law and crime, religion and popular beliefs." (from Goodreads)

3. Vera Vorontzoff (Sofia Kovalevskaya) "A young Russian noblewoman wishes to dedicate herself to a cause but finds herself descending into nihilism." (from Goodreads) A semi-autobiographical novel by the extraordinary mathematician and feminist Sofia Kovalevskaya.

4. One Man, One Matchet (T. M. Aluko). "This is a novel about Yorubaland - the Western Region of Nigeria, where cocoa trees and cocoa beans spell wealth. When a young Agricultural Officer, newly arrived from England, advises that every diseased tree in the District be cut down before the whole crop is infected, every farmer's reaction is to defend his trees, by force if necessary." (From the back of the book). Book #11 in Heinemann's wonderful African Writers Series, and a great replacement for Singing Tales of Africa.

5. The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom (Graham Farmelo). "Paul Dirac was among the great scientific geniuses of the modern age. One of the discoverers of quantum mechanics, the most revolutionary theory of the past century, his contributions had a unique insight, eloquence, clarity, and mathematical power. His prediction of antimatter was one of the greatest triumphs in the history of physics. One of Einstein’s most admired colleagues, Dirac was in 1933 the youngest theoretician ever to win the Nobel Prize in physics." (from the amazon.ca write-up). One of the top scientific minds of the 20th century, and an uncompromising weirdo in the best possible way - who wouldn't want to read a biography on this guy? I spent countless hours studying his work in school, it's about time I learned a little more about the man himself.

6. The History of Canmore (Rob Alexander). "From the valley's first human visitors through mining to modern times, respected local author Rob Alexander presents a well-researched and thoroughly readable account of one of Canada's best-known mountain towns." My partner hails from Canmore (near Banff, in the Canadian Rockies) and I've visited there a few times, so I'd like to learn a little more of its history.

7. The Nest (Gregory A. Douglas). "It was just an ordinary garbage dump on peaceful Cape Cod. No one ever imagined that conditions were perfect for breeding, that it was a warm womb, fetid, moist, and with food so plentiful that everything creeping, crawling, and slithering could gorge to satiation. Then a change in poison control was made, resulting in an unforeseen mutation. Now the giant mutant cockroaches are ready to leave their nest—in search of human flesh!" (from the Valancourt Books description). The very first in Valancourt's Paperbacks From Hell series.

8. Henry James: The Conquest of London: 1870-1881 (Leon Edel). "Set against the international society he was to depict so well, The Conquest of London brings to life the mature Henry James - savoring the delights of European existence, befriending many of the great literary figures of teh day, including Flaubert and Turgenev." Book Two in the five-part biography of one of the English language's greatest novelists.

9. Nietzsche's Great Politics (Hugo Drochon). "Nietzsche's impact on the world of culture, philosophy, and the arts is uncontested, but his political thought remains mired in controversy. By placing Nietzsche back in his late-nineteenth-century German context, Nietzsche's Great Politics moves away from the disputes surrounding Nietzsche's appropriation by the Nazis and challenges the use of the philosopher in postmodern democratic thought." (from Goodreads) I purchased this book on the strength of an essay published years ago by Drochon. He seems to have a good grasp of Nietzsche (I believe this book had as its basis his doctoral dissertation) and this is a particularly challenging topic, so it should be a worthwhile read.

10. Gouzenko: The Untold Story (John Sawatsky). "On the evening of September 5, 1945, Igor Gouzenko, A Soviet cipher clerk, walked out of the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa carrying 109 top-secret documents and went to the Ottawa Journal in an attempt to present this highly sensitive material to the Canadian public. In a period of supposedly friendly relations with Russia, Gouzenko claimed to have proof that a ring of Canadians - including a Member of Parliament - was spying for the Soviets. So devastating was this revelation that historians have credited Gouzenko's defection with having launched the Cold War." (from the book's sleeve blurb). The book is essentially a compilation of anecdotes from people that knew (or thought they knew) this very enigmatic historical figure, who lived a few blocks from my house. I see blocho mentioned Gouzenko in the Unofficial Movies Challenge thread last month (via the 1948 move made about him, The Iron Curtain). Between that and all the mention of top secret documents that are in the news these days (not to mention Russia), this seems like a good time to give the book a try.
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#541

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I finished Ruy Blas yesterday, and boy what a challenge that was to read in French! I'll admit, I could only appreciate it on the most superficial of levels. It was clear the language was as refined as you'll ever see (how could it not be with Victor Hugo at the helm?), but I'm sure virtually every bit of subtext and symbolism was completely lost on me. I believe I bought the book just a few years after high school, when my French was much better than it is now, and I really should have read it then to have any hope of appreciating it the way it should be. Enjoyable, yes, but I should probably read a proper translation at some point.

I'll pick Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe for myself next, since it's been sitting on my bedside table for a few months.

Here's my list:
Spoiler
1. Winter in the Blood (James Welch, 1974). "Narrated by a young Native American living on the Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana, Winter in the Blood is the unforgettable story of a man living out the tragedy of his people. Intelligent, sensitive, and self-destructive, he is haunted by the untimely deaths of his father and older brother and the shards of his once-proud heritage." (from the back of the Penguin Classics edition). A seminal work in the Native American Renaissance (with acknowledgment that this isn't the best name for the movement).

2. The Leavenworth Case (Anna Katharine Green, 1878). "Anna Katharine Green's bestseller The Leavenworth Case was the first mystery of its kind. Introducing the first American series detective, Ebenezer Gryce, it was published nine years before Sherlock Holmes, making Green an enormously popular and influential writer who changed the mystery genre forever." (from the back of the Penguin Classics edition)

3. The Black Robe (Wilkie Collins, 1881). Rich, handsome and reclusive Lewis Romayne is asked to visit his dying aunt and, while there, gets mixed up in a duel that leads to the death of his opponent. Haunted by this turn of events, he's approached by a representative of the church, who tries to help save his soul by converting him, but with a hidden agenda in mind. A biting anti-Catholic epistolary novel by social critic Wilkie Collins.

4. Juneteenth (Ralph Ellison, 1999). "This volume is a visionary tour de force, a lyrical, necessary contribution to America's perennial racial dialogue, and a novel powerfully reinforcing Ellison's place in literary history" (from Publishers Weekly). Ellison's much-anticipated follow-up to his masterpiece, Invisible Man was never completed, and Juneteenth represents the first attempt at publishing his sprawling manuscript.

5. The Journey Through Wales & The Description of Wales (Gerald of Wales, 1188-1191). "Gerald of Wales was one of the most dynamic and colorful churchmen of the 12th century. His JOURNEY describes a mission to Wales undertaken in 1188 by Baldwin, Archbishop of Canterbury, with Gerald as his companion. THE DESCRIPTION provides a picture of the day-to-day existence of ordinary Welshmen of the time. Both offer a wealth of fascinating first-hand historical detail." (from the back of the Penguin edition)

6. Life on the Mississippi (Mark Twain, 1883). "Fashioned from the same experiences that would inspire the masterpiece Huckleberry Finn, Life on the Mississippi is Mark Twain's most brilliant and most personal nonfictional work. It is at once an affectionate evocation of the vital river life in the steamboat era and a melancholy reminiscence of its passing after the Civil War, a priceless collection of humorous anecdotes and folktales, and a unique glimpse into Twain's life before he began to write" (from the back of the Bantam Classic edition). I've always found Twain's nonfiction more enjoyable than his works of fiction, so I have high hopes for this one.

7. Selected Writings (Sir Walter Raleigh, c. 1590-1618). "Sir Walter Ralegh (?1532-1618) was a man of extraordinary energy and ambition. Yet in his writing, both poetry and prose, his preoccupations are with disappointment, defeat and the need for endurance. This major selection of his work was the first to appear for over half a century. It contains the poems which are undoubtedly his and the famous contested ones, large extracts from his prose works, The Discovery of Guiana, The Last Fight of the Revenge, and his magisterial The History of the World, and letters." (from the back of the Penguin edition).

8. Tom Brown at Oxford (Thomas Hughes, 1859)."...a sequel to the better-known Tom Brown's School Days...the story follows the character of Tom Brown to fictional St Ambrose's College, Oxford. The novel offers a vivid impression of university life in the mid nineteenth century." (from Wikipedia). I'm a little hesitant about this one since I haven't read the first in the series (and don't own it).

9. Letters from an American Farmer and Sketches of Eighteenth-Century America (J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, 1782). "America’s physical and cultural landscape is captured in these two classics of American history. Letters provides an invaluable view of the pre-Revolutionary and Revolutionary eras; Sketches details in vivid prose the physical setting in which American settlers created their history." (from Goodreads and, I think, the back of the Penguin edition (too lazy to check right now)).

10. Metamorphoses (Ovid, 8 A.D.). In his Metamorphoses, Ovid...draws on Greek mythology, Latin folklore, and legend from even further afield, to create a series of narrative poems, ingeniously linked by the common theme of transformation. A chaotic universe is subdued into harmonious order; animals turn to stone, men and women become trees, stones and stars. Ovid is a master of variation: his understanding of human nature knows no bounds; style is elegantly tailored to fit the subject; and the gentle vein of humour which runs through his work is exploited with subtlety, sympathy and delightful self-irony." (from the back of the Penguin edition). One of the heavyweights in the Western Canon, and one of the more influential works ever written.
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#542

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Leopardi wrote: August 27th, 2022, 11:25 pm I'll pick Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe for myself next, since it's been sitting on my bedside table for a few months.
Weirdly enough there's a copy in exactly same status with me. It was a charity shop pickup. I did read the intro and first chapter, but it dropped to bottom of the pile and hasn't made its way back up yet. I should give it another go but I suspect I don't know enough of the remembered history of most of these countries to be reading a tome on the forgotten!
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#543

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brokenface wrote: August 28th, 2022, 7:50 am
Leopardi wrote: August 27th, 2022, 11:25 pm I'll pick Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe for myself next, since it's been sitting on my bedside table for a few months.
Weirdly enough there's a copy in exactly same status with me. It was a charity shop pickup. I did read the intro and first chapter, but it dropped to bottom of the pile and hasn't made its way back up yet. I should give it another go but I suspect I don't know enough of the remembered history of most of these countries to be reading a tome on the forgotten!
Whoa, that's an odd coincidence! I'm on the first chapter now and so far, so good, but there are enough not-so-positive reviews on Goodreads that I'm a little worried about this one, especially considering its size.

I finished Scrambles Amongst the Alps in the Years 1860-69 & Down the Rhine today, and what a joy it was to read them! Scrambles was especially thrilling, as I've always wanted to try mountaineering but never dared, being afraid of heights. This book had the perfect mix of serious climbing discussion (by a pioneer in the field), adventure (reaching peaks never before ascended) and old Alpine atmosphere that instantly brought me back to my own wanders in the Alps. There was an almost unbearable feeling of nostalgia in me while reading this one, I've only ever hiked to the top of more accessible mountains in these parts, but it was still a rush for me and I could put myself in the place of Whymper as he described his ascents. I loved that he also took the time to describe in detail the technology of the day, the funiculars that were beginning to appear, the tools of mountaineering and his opinions of them (including his own invention, the Whymper tent that remained in use well into the 20th century), his strategies for successful climbing, his interactions with the locals and his cameraderie with his climbing companions. Not just that, but Whymper was a talented sketch artist and the book was absolutely filled with evocative illustrations from him to complement his text. Just a perfect book that could only have been better if I were reading it in Zermatt or Chamonix.

The title is a bit misleading - it only really goes to 1865, ending with the first successful ascent of the Matterhorn, on his seventh (or was it eighth?) attempt at it. And when I say 'successful' I only mean the ascent; shortly into their descent from this triumph four of the people in his party fell tragically to their deaths (including 18-year old Lord Francis Douglas, whose body still hasn't been found, the most recent search for him was in 2015, I believe), leading to a massive controversy that almost resulted in Queen Victoria outlawing Britons from climbing mountains. No joke. This disaster was considered the end of the Golden Age of Alpinism, but the book details Whymper's earlier successes, including an ascent of Mount Pelvoux, thought to be the tallest peak in the Dauphiné Alps, which shows how little-mapped this region was at the time. It turns out it was only the fourth-tallest peak, and Whymper found this out only when he had completed Pelvoux and saw beyond it. The tallest in that range, Barre des Écrins he tackled a few years later in 1864, becoming the first to ascend it. This and other awe-inspiring ascents, including some in the Mont Blanc massif, are described in the book.

Whymper's travels took him far beyond the Alps - he made forays into the Andes, the Canadian Rockies, and Greenland - and needless to say I'll be on the lookout for anything else I can find written by him on these expeditions. Great stuff.

The second book in the volume, Down the Rhine (by Lady Blanche Murphy) is a fairly standard travel book, but still entertaining for me, especially because my first trip to Europe followed (in part) the same route Murphy took. I liked hearing about the destinations I stopped at, but displaced by a century and a quarter. It ends abruptly, with a stop in Aachen and no mention of what happened next on the trip or how it ended, which seemed a little strange.

I'll read The Journey Through Wales & The Description of Wales next, since I'm having some wanderlust and Wales sounds pretty good to me right now.

Here's my list:
Spoiler
1. Restoration London: Everyday Life in the 1660s (Liza Picard) "Making use of every possible contemporary source diaries, memoirs, advice books, government papers, almanacs, even the Register of Patents Liza Picard presents a picture of how life in London was really lived in the 1600s: the houses and streets, gardens and parks, cooking, clothes and jewellery, cosmetics, hairdressing, housework, laundry and shopping, medicine and dentistry, sex, education, hobbies, etiquette, law and crime, religion and popular beliefs." (from Goodreads)

2. Vera Vorontzoff (Sofia Kovalevskaya) "A young Russian noblewoman wishes to dedicate herself to a cause but finds herself descending into nihilism." (from Goodreads) A semi-autobiographical novel by the extraordinary mathematician and feminist Sofia Kovalevskaya.

3. One Man, One Matchet (T. M. Aluko). "This is a novel about Yorubaland - the Western Region of Nigeria, where cocoa trees and cocoa beans spell wealth. When a young Agricultural Officer, newly arrived from England, advises that every diseased tree in the District be cut down before the whole crop is infected, every farmer's reaction is to defend his trees, by force if necessary." (From the back of the book). Book #11 in Heinemann's wonderful African Writers Series, and a great replacement for Singing Tales of Africa.

4. The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom (Graham Farmelo). "Paul Dirac was among the great scientific geniuses of the modern age. One of the discoverers of quantum mechanics, the most revolutionary theory of the past century, his contributions had a unique insight, eloquence, clarity, and mathematical power. His prediction of antimatter was one of the greatest triumphs in the history of physics. One of Einstein’s most admired colleagues, Dirac was in 1933 the youngest theoretician ever to win the Nobel Prize in physics." (from the amazon.ca write-up). One of the top scientific minds of the 20th century, and an uncompromising weirdo in the best possible way - who wouldn't want to read a biography on this guy? I spent countless hours studying his work in school, it's about time I learned a little more about the man himself.

5. The History of Canmore (Rob Alexander). "From the valley's first human visitors through mining to modern times, respected local author Rob Alexander presents a well-researched and thoroughly readable account of one of Canada's best-known mountain towns." My partner hails from Canmore (near Banff, in the Canadian Rockies) and I've visited there a few times, so I'd like to learn a little more of its history.

6. The Nest (Gregory A. Douglas). "It was just an ordinary garbage dump on peaceful Cape Cod. No one ever imagined that conditions were perfect for breeding, that it was a warm womb, fetid, moist, and with food so plentiful that everything creeping, crawling, and slithering could gorge to satiation. Then a change in poison control was made, resulting in an unforeseen mutation. Now the giant mutant cockroaches are ready to leave their nest—in search of human flesh!" (from the Valancourt Books description). The very first in Valancourt's Paperbacks From Hell series.

7. Henry James: The Conquest of London: 1870-1881 (Leon Edel). "Set against the international society he was to depict so well, The Conquest of London brings to life the mature Henry James - savoring the delights of European existence, befriending many of the great literary figures of teh day, including Flaubert and Turgenev." Book Two in the five-part biography of one of the English language's greatest novelists.

8. Nietzsche's Great Politics (Hugo Drochon). "Nietzsche's impact on the world of culture, philosophy, and the arts is uncontested, but his political thought remains mired in controversy. By placing Nietzsche back in his late-nineteenth-century German context, Nietzsche's Great Politics moves away from the disputes surrounding Nietzsche's appropriation by the Nazis and challenges the use of the philosopher in postmodern democratic thought." (from Goodreads) I purchased this book on the strength of an essay published years ago by Drochon. He seems to have a good grasp of Nietzsche (I believe this book had as its basis his doctoral dissertation) and this is a particularly challenging topic, so it should be a worthwhile read.

9. Gouzenko: The Untold Story (John Sawatsky). "On the evening of September 5, 1945, Igor Gouzenko, A Soviet cipher clerk, walked out of the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa carrying 109 top-secret documents and went to the Ottawa Journal in an attempt to present this highly sensitive material to the Canadian public. In a period of supposedly friendly relations with Russia, Gouzenko claimed to have proof that a ring of Canadians - including a Member of Parliament - was spying for the Soviets. So devastating was this revelation that historians have credited Gouzenko's defection with having launched the Cold War." (from the book's sleeve blurb). The book is essentially a compilation of anecdotes from people that knew (or thought they knew) this very enigmatic historical figure, who lived a few blocks from my house. I see blocho mentioned Gouzenko in the Unofficial Movies Challenge thread last month (via the 1948 move made about him, The Iron Curtain). Between that and all the mention of top secret documents that are in the news these days (not to mention Russia), this seems like a good time to give the book a try.

10. From One to Zero: A Universal History of Numbers (Georges Ifrah) "Traces the development of numerical systems in Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Chinese, Babylonian, and Mayan cultures, and examines the origins of the Hindu-Arabic numerals we use today." (from the back of the book) I'm hoping this will be an interesting cross-cultural account of how our concepts of numbers developed.
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kongs_speech
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Finally started On the Road.
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JLG wrote: Photography is truth ... and cinema is truth 24 times a second.
First to check CODA (2021)
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