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Books... (Read 226622 times)

spidermonkey09

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#1425 Re: Books...
July 09, 2019, 10:29:48 am
I recently finished the Sportswriter by Ford and was left distinctly underwhelmed. Didn't really see what all the fuss was about; I thought the prose was clanky and the 60's folksy American tinge to it made me cringe. Takes all sorts though; am I better off trying another one?

Recently finished An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro which I thought was a masterpiece; one of his best.


andy popp

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#1426 Re: Books...
July 09, 2019, 11:35:18 am
If you didn't like The Sportswriter then I definitely wouldn't recommend trying any of the other three Frank Bascombe novels (I adored them). Canada is the only other novel I've read, which many people rave about - I thought it was good but not outstanding. To Dave C I'd recommend starting with The Sportswriter - the Bascombe novels are also highly regional being very largely set on the New Jersey shore.

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#1427 Re: Books...
July 09, 2019, 12:17:44 pm
Four standouts from the first half of this year (though there have been others): two history books and two short story collections.

Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error. This classic of "history from below" that explores in microscopic detail the everyday life of a small village in Pyrennes at the close of C13th and beginning of the C14th. Wonderfully rich and humane.

William Cronon, Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West . Brilliant, highly original history of the rise of Chicago in the C19th and its relationship to the growth and expansion of America, particularly the way it acted to funnel huge volumes of commodities (pork, beef, wheat) east. A seminal book in both environmental history and the history of capitalism.

Katherine Anne Porter, Pale Horse, Pale Rider. I'd not heard of this author (1890-1980) before but this is very powerful, atmospheric collection of southern US set stories to rank alongside Eudora Welty and Carson McCullers.

George Saunders, Tenth of December. Saunders made his name as a short story write but I'd only read his brilliant but deeply eccentric first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, which now seems less of a one-off, both that book and this collection of short stories displaying Saunders' ability to summon up a great range of voices with considerable economy. I found this funny, sad, sardonic, sympathetic, prescient, and always humane.

DaveC

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#1428 Re: Books...
July 09, 2019, 03:43:41 pm
I read Ladurie's Montaillou a few years back and agree with you 100%.
Also agree about the Saunders short stories. If you want to try something different from him try The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil, a short and plainly satirical novel/novella that is quite unlike anything else I've ever read,  inventive, beautifully written,  and just plain weird.

Ged

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#1429 Re: Books...
July 09, 2019, 07:28:27 pm
I just finished the road (in about 3 sittings). Best book I've read in years. It's extremely unsettling. I had to read something else before going to sleep. Highly recommended.

spidermonkey09

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#1430 Re: Books...
July 09, 2019, 11:17:38 pm
I just finished the road (in about 3 sittings). Best book I've read in years. It's extremely unsettling. I had to read something else before going to sleep. Highly recommended.

The section with the child tugging his dads sleeve as the zealots walk towards them across the field still gives me the shivers. Utterly brilliant book.

Not sure if you've read any other McCarthy, but if you haven't I highly recommend No Country for Old Men (even if you've seen the film) and especially the Border Trilogy, starting with All The Pretty Horses. That trilogy is the best literature I have ever read I think, absolutely peerless.

sheavi

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#1431 Re: Books...
July 10, 2019, 10:20:18 am
Just finished 'The Places in Between' by Rory Stewart which I thought was excellent. Plus Helen Morts Black Car Burning was very good.

Duma

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#1432 Re: Books...
July 10, 2019, 11:04:03 am
Helen Mort is on one of the recent jamcrack episodes if you're interested

Ged

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#1433 Re: Books...
July 10, 2019, 08:32:02 pm
I just finished the road (in about 3 sittings). Best book I've read in years. It's extremely unsettling. I had to read something else before going to sleep. Highly recommended.

The section with the child tugging his dads sleeve as the zealots walk towards them across the field still gives me the shivers. Utterly brilliant book.

Not sure if you've read any other McCarthy, but if you haven't I highly recommend No Country for Old Men (even if you've seen the film) and especially the Border Trilogy, starting with All The Pretty Horses. That trilogy is the best literature I have ever read I think, absolutely peerless.

Thanks, will give them a try

cheque

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#1434 Re: Books...
July 12, 2019, 10:09:28 am
Plus Helen Morts Black Car Burning was very good.

I just read and enjoyed this.

I reread it’s spiritual cousin M John Harrison’s Climbers (both are novels about Peak-based climbers by Peak-based climbers who were previously associated with other types of writing) a few months back too. I’d forgotten everything about it but I realised that reading it when I’d only been climbing for a few years and had a lot in common with the protagonist had a massive effect on me.

BCB, despite having superficially similar subject matter is a much more wide-ranging book than the claustrophobic, detail-orientated Climbers but also narrower in the sense that it’s specifically about Sheffield and the crags and villages very close to it. As I say, I can relate personally more to Climbers and it also feels a bit more accomplished but I can’t help feeling like BCB is a better novel in a lot of ways. You can certainly tell which one was written by a female poet and which was written by a male sci-if author.

andy_e

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#1435 Re: Books...
July 12, 2019, 10:49:49 am
I recently re-read parts of Climbers too after it having been one of my favourite books when I was at school. A lot of the romanticised imagery I remember from it actually came across far more stark, masculine, almost dismissive in its tone. I always remember it being bleak (my passage published in Over the Moors guidebook was clearly heavily influenced by it) but it shocked me with how cynical it seemed.

Your description of Black Car Burning makes me want to go and read it!

DaveC

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#1436 Re: Books...
July 14, 2019, 01:03:37 pm
Thought i'd chuck in a few of the best non-fiction I found last year:
Burning Down the Haus, Tim Mohr A great book that follows a small group of young East Germans who discovered punk via British military radio in the late 70s and maybe, possibly, they started a revolution that brought down the Berlin Wall. Entertaining, readable prose, a great  story and a plethora of intriguing characters who defied one of the most totalitarian states in the Communist bloc and made for one of the biggest surprises of my reading year.
The Order of Time, Carlo Rovelli Italian physicist Rovelli's concise and very personal guide to our current knowledge of space-time is a fabulous little book and if the subject takes your fancy this might be the book for you.
Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean, Jonathan White My best non-fiction read of 2018, an entertaining and engaging tour of the ocean tides, how they work, why they vary so much with a grand tour of many of the world's tidal hot-spots (eg Bay of Fundy, Mont St Michel). A great book.
RisingTideFallingStar, Philip Hoare This authors third venture into the world of water is a composite tale of all the ways we interact with and have come to terms with our planets oceans. As with his previous works, Leviathan and THe Sea Inside, it is full of beautiful prose and a range of eccentric and sometimes mad characters, another fine read.

jwi

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#1437 Re: Books...
July 26, 2019, 11:15:27 am
Le naufrage des civilisations, Amin Maalouf.

Amin Maalouf, author of some splendid historical novels like “Samarkand” about the Persian mathematician and poet Omar Khayyam and “Leo Africanus” about the geographer of that name, recently published a long essay in four parts titled “Le naufrage des civilisations” (The shipwreck of civilisations).

The first part, A Paradise in Flames, about the wrecking of first his mother's Egypt then his father's Lebanon is a touching personal family history. More so because of the Maalouf's ability to raise his perspective from the personal and understand Nasser's (catastrophic) policy of expelling “foreign” elements like his family. The chapter is a canticle of praise for the multicultural societies of his youth and traces how a number of political events (Churchill's mishandling of the Suez crisis etc...) inevitably lead to the breakdown of the political order in the Levant.

The second part (Populations in Ruination) continues to trace the Arab despair from the second world war, to the catastrophic loss of the combined armies against Israel in 1967. A despair that lead all the way to what the Maalouf believes is the ultimate expression of lost hope: suicide bombings. The writer argues that the situation in the middle east is a morass that ultimately will drag the entire world down with it.

The third part (The Year of The Great Reversal) is chiefly concerned with the zeitgeist of the late 70s and how the four conservative revolutions of 1978-79 (Thatcher, Khomeini, Deng Xiaoping and John Paul II) together with the moral duty of the west to oppose communism in all its forms further the morass in the middle east. Alas, Maalouf himself was only present at the Iranian revolution and I feel that the loss of a personal perspective is one of the weaknesses of this chapter. However, the connection between the four conservative revolutions of 78-79 is interesting and not something I've thought about before, but overall this part doesn't live up to the first two.

The forth part (A Disintegrating World) unfortunately is of the genre that I like to call “Liberals who whine” so it reads a bit like an overly long article in The Economist. Overall I think the book should be read for the first two maybe three chapters. The last chapter is chiefly interesting for its Franco-French view on USA (a love lost, but still some feelings) and the EU (the founders should have created a European federation, stopping at the internal free market was an irreparable mistake).

Overall, the best book on the current state of the world I've read the last few years. Miles ahead of King's Grave New World which I think is the second best. Anyone who has an interest in the near east and can slog through French with the help of a dictionary should read the first chapter at least.

andy popp

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#1438 Re: Books...
July 26, 2019, 01:25:11 pm
Thanks JWI, that sounds fascinating. Do you know if its only available in French?

Its interesting to think of China in 1978 as experiencing a conservative revolution, typically the open door policy would be seen as a liberalisation. The other great conservative revolution of the period was, of course, Reagan. In some ways it feels as though we have been in a near permanent conservative revolution ever since.

jwi

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#1439 Re: Books...
July 26, 2019, 01:48:14 pm
Thanks JWI, that sounds fascinating. Do you know if its only available in French?

Its interesting to think of China in 1978 as experiencing a conservative revolution, typically the open door policy would be seen as a liberalisation. The other great conservative revolution of the period was, of course, Reagan. In some ways it feels as though we have been in a near permanent conservative revolution ever since.

The book was released in late March. I would be surprised if there were translations already. An earlier essay “Disordered World” is available in English. I haven't read it but I suspect it covers some of the same ground.

Reagan is dealt with at length, but is Maalouf views the American conservative revolution (and many other conservative reversals) as a direct consequence of the spirit of the age that produced Thatcher and Khomeini.

andy popp

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#1440 Re: Books...
July 26, 2019, 02:05:05 pm
Thanks Jonas, bugger that the FT is paywalled.

It is nearly impossible for me to separate the elections of Thatcher and Reagan in terms of their origins, spirit, and consequences - they are for me in effect the same moment (conversely I think the parallels between Trump and Brexit are often over-played).

For a long time the 60s and the 80s were seen as the critical revolutionary decades of the second half of the C20th but with greater distance the 70s are emerging as a perhaps more important pivot.

jwi

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#1441 Re: Books...
July 26, 2019, 02:49:32 pm
Thanks Jonas, bugger that the FT is paywalled.

Sorry. Also found a review in The Guardian, but that was the usual unintelligible claptrap characteristic of their book section.

andy popp

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#1442 Re: Books...
July 26, 2019, 03:14:01 pm
Thanks Jonas, bugger that the FT is paywalled.

Sorry.

Its not your fault!

While we're in the Middle East I'm going to take the opportunity to recommend anything by Egyptian Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz - I've read the so-called Cairo trilogy (a masterpiece) and more recently two slim novellas, Adrfit on the Nile and The Beggar, which were both also excellent.

largeruk

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#1443 Re: Books...
July 26, 2019, 07:14:05 pm
@andy popp


andy popp

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#1444 Re: Books...
July 26, 2019, 07:26:07 pm
Thank you very much!

Falling Down

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#1445 Re: Books...
July 27, 2019, 04:07:54 pm
This is such a great thread - thanks to everyone who contributes. My 'to-read' list just gets longer and longer.

Thanks for the reminder of the new Phillip Hoare book Dave, I loved the other two so much. I've got Black Car Burning ready to go.

The final instalment of Don Winslow's epic Cartel trilogy got published recently. The final book The Border sees Art Keller heading up the DEA and features a thinly disguised Donald Trump and Jared Kushner amongst the cast of largely corrupt, horrifying individuals. It's as absorbing, brutal and scary as the previous two. The three of them are absolutely brilliant political crime thrillers.

Robert Mcfarlane's Underland: A Deep Time Journey is his best effort yet by far.  It's beautifully written, thought provoking and both frightening and hopeful at the same time. An exploration of the Athropocene and what lies beneath us.

I recommended David Abram's 'The Spell of the Sensuous' to Dan on one of his threads and decided to read it again.  I enjoyed and understood it more, fifteen years on and second time around. This is one of those books that invites you to experience the world in a very different way to the one we have been accustomed to and it succeeds. Not everyone's cup of tea, but, in these times it was very welcome.

'Call Them By Their True Names' is Rebecca Solnit's latest collection of essays. Essentially a work of environmental and feminist activism, the essays explore Trump, police violence, the Standing Rock protests, race and pretty much everything else that's going on in America. She writes so well and there's a thread of hope that runs throughout.

Octavia's Brood : Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements is a collection of short stories written to imagine a different future by exploring the connections between radical speculative fiction and movements for social change.

Other than that I've been mainlining Charles Olson and his Maximus poems set in and around Gloucester, Massachusetts.  Can't get enough of it.

Oh and I got to meet the demon dog himself, James Ellroy at his recent book reading in London and made him laugh with a joke  8)

andy popp

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#1446 Re: Books...
July 28, 2019, 01:31:51 pm
This is such a great thread - thanks to everyone who contributes. My 'to-read' list just gets longer and longer.

Other than that I've been mainlining Charles Olson and his Maximus poems set in and around Gloucester, Massachusetts.  Can't get enough of it.


I've been to Gloucester, Mass. Its very quaint, I'll have to check out Olson.

To the wider point, this thread really is great, so much diversity of reading and opinions. Another good sources of suggestions and discussions of books is the weekly, reader generated "Tips, Links, and Suggestions" column on the books page of the Guardian website - very civilized and informed with virtually none of the idiocy you get in most newspaper comment sections.

Falling Down

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#1447 Re: Books...
July 28, 2019, 03:44:29 pm
I’d avoid going straight to the Maximus poems - they’re a bit, erm, dense and challenging.


andy popp

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#1448 Re: Books...
July 29, 2019, 01:46:11 am
Noted.

DaveC

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#1449 Re: Books...
July 29, 2019, 02:07:55 pm
I love being back on this thread again,  always looking for new reading suggestions and I've had a few gems from here.  Currently only posting from my phone but must haul out the laptop and get some of this years best posted,  I've been on a golden run of late.  I will just finish by saying that if you have not yet read one or both of Max Porter's books,  Grief Is the Thing With Feathers and/or Lanny then you should do so,  I think the latter is as good as anything I've read in recent years and the former is not far behind it, beautiful lyrical prose, excellent stories full of wonderfully drawn characters and all delivered with admirable economy, neither book is very big. Have I hyped them up enough yet? 😇