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Books... (Read 550687 times)

seankenny

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#2100 Re: Books...
May 25, 2024, 04:35:28 pm
Stalker is great. Have you seen Solaris, by the same director?

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#2101 Re: Books...
May 25, 2024, 04:40:55 pm
Yes! That's my favourite Tarkovsky.

seankenny

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#2102 Re: Books...
May 25, 2024, 05:00:21 pm
I was lucky enough to see Andrei Rublev in the cinema. On paper, it’s a tough sell: a two and a half hour black and white film about a 15th century Russian icon painter. But it’s totally amazing - as other worldly as Solaris in its own way. I’d watch either film again without hesitation.

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#2103 Re: Books...
May 25, 2024, 05:25:21 pm
One of my favourite films.  Watching it in the cinema is a totally different and almost transformative experience compared to watching at home. I’ve had dreams about scenes and the characters.

Roadside Picnic sounds ace.  Will give that a read.

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#2104 Re: Books...
May 25, 2024, 06:29:31 pm
The Mosfilm Youtube channel has a Tarkovsky playlist of full films with subtitles...
https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PL7EqAsBxqGgjarBzACNmCNDdr0y0iFu8U&si=Y2V3MTOxmFSd5rvv

andy popp

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#2105 Re: Books...
May 25, 2024, 07:17:24 pm
I'm on an Armenian roll right now. We were going to go to Armenia this summer to visit an old friend who lives in Yerevan, but trouble in the region has scuppered that. I'm gutted to be honest.

But I'd bought books in anticipation. I've read An Armenian Sketchbook by the great Russian novelist and reporter Vassily Grossman - a kind of travelogue, beautiful, sad, and funny - and am now about a quarter way into Franz Werfel's monumental The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, set during the Armenian genocide of 1915.

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#2106 Re: Books...
May 25, 2024, 10:53:23 pm
Grossman was a Ukrainian writer, or Soviet writer, if you want.

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#2107 Re: Books...
May 26, 2024, 04:45:09 am
You're right, of course! Apologies. Anyway, the book is excellent.

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#2108 Re: Books...
May 26, 2024, 11:43:51 am
It was quite a disappointment to learn that Natalia Grossman is likely not related to Vassily.

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#2109 Re: Books...
May 29, 2024, 12:45:09 pm
I've mainly been on a fantasy reading spree for the last few years starting with the Wheel of Time which is the best series of books I've read of any genre (and yes that includes LoTR).

I then read some China Mieville starting with The City and the City which was interesting but only ok, and then moved onto the Bas Lag trilogy, the first of which, Perdido Street Station, was disturbing but excellent and significantly (shockingly?) different to TC&TC! All of the books in this series were excellent.

I'm now approaching the end of the The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant having read the first three. I have found them challenging, particularly the first one and in almost every book I find myself getting frustrated with the main character but aways, without fail, by the time I get to the end, I'm quickly onto the next!

Will probably read the Last Chronicles next but am after recommendations on a similar vein for what to read next! Ideally by different authors to those listed above... Thanks!

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#2110 Re: Books...
May 29, 2024, 01:01:05 pm
Or, to be fair, any of Meiville's other work that someone would highly recommend!

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#2111 Re: Books...
May 29, 2024, 03:33:09 pm
I've mainly been on a fantasy reading spree for the last few years starting with the Wheel of Time which is the best series of books I've read of any genre (and yes that includes LoTR).

I then read some China Mieville starting with The City and the City which was interesting but only ok, and then moved onto the Bas Lag trilogy, the first of which, Perdido Street Station, was disturbing but excellent and significantly (shockingly?) different to TC&TC! All of the books in this series were excellent.

I'm now approaching the end of the The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant having read the first three. I have found them challenging, particularly the first one and in almost every book I find myself getting frustrated with the main character but aways, without fail, by the time I get to the end, I'm quickly onto the next!

Will probably read the Last Chronicles next but am after recommendations on a similar vein for what to read next! Ideally by different authors to those listed above... Thanks!

I love Wheel of Time too, deeply flawed but somehow still just amazing, I have re-read them multiple times and still like them.

Have you read The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson? Usually liked by people who like WoT. Very dark and complex and extremely epic fantasy.
Have you read any Guy Gavriel Kay? Tigana and The Lions of Al Rassan are both incredible reads.
I'll plug my own fantasy novel too The Hand of Fire which was very inspired by WoT and other fantasy classics  ;D

On a different tip, I picked up reading Larry McMurtry again, with his Streets of Laredo following reading Lonesome Dove a few years ago. Wow. Unputdownably good. So bleak but with threads of hope, sometimes hard to follow the headhopping between characters which he doesn't signal that well, but all in an incredible author.

I enjoyed The Axeman's Jazz by Ray Celestin, would read more of this series.

And I've been really enjoying Ross Macdonald's hard-boiled detective series - can't get enough of them really, trying to ration my reading so I don't use them all up too quickly.

Non-fiction I've recently read Empireland and Mary's Beard's Emperor of Rome, both of which I felt were a bit meh. Topics that I would have thought I would find more interesting if treated in a more interesting way, both felt a little superficial. 

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#2112 Re: Books...
May 29, 2024, 03:43:01 pm
The Traitor Son cycle by Miles Cameron might be interesting for readers who enjoy medivial-based high fantasty? Written by a former navy officer and historian, so expect a lot of descriptions of the logistic issues with moving a small army.

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#2113 Re: Books...
May 30, 2024, 08:20:01 am
Moscow X by David McCloskey is an excellent spy thriller. Recommended if you like those.

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#2114 Re: Books...
May 30, 2024, 08:31:06 am
I thought his last one, Damascus Station, was really good.  I read an interview show with former heads of MI5 and MI6 and one of them said it was the best depiction of running operations in a hostile environment they'd read. Definitely worth a read for anyone who likes lots of "trade craft" in their spy novels.

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#2115 Re: Books...
May 30, 2024, 09:12:29 am
Or, to be fair, any of Meiville's other work that someone would highly recommend!

My favourite one of his was Kraken, this was really good.

Was trying to think of who writes in any way similar, I think Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere is the closest I can think of. For some reason I feel that Josiah Bancroft's Senlin Ascends has similarity to Mieville, maybe in the sort of literary style, maybe in the element of alien cityscape.

Re: Chronicles of Thomas Covenant I always struggled with how utterly unlikeable the protagonist is, very difficult to forgive his behaviour. In subject matter Guy Gavriel Kay's Fionavar Tapestry is similar. If you like a really horrible protagonist, then grimdark is for you - Mark Lawrence's Prince of Thorns springs to mind as the highest quality example of the subgenre.

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#2116 Re: Books...
May 30, 2024, 10:05:04 am
Thanks everyone, plenty to go at there!

Re liking a horrible protagonist, I'm not sure I do! I think I'm sticking with the Covenant books because the world building is so good and also Giants...

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#2117 Re: Books...
May 30, 2024, 10:14:52 am
I thought his last one, Damascus Station, was really good.  I read an interview show with former heads of MI5 and MI6 and one of them said it was the best depiction of running operations in a hostile environment they'd read. Definitely worth a read for anyone who likes lots of "trade craft" in their spy novels.

Moscow X is every bit as good as his first novel. If the depiction of the current Russian regime is remotely close to reality, it's very, very frightening.

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#2118 Re: Books...
May 30, 2024, 11:25:25 am
Roadside Picnic

Dead good, worth a read!

Thanks for the reminder Wellsy, really enjoyed this.

Wellsy

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#2119 Re: Books...
May 30, 2024, 01:13:03 pm
Yeah it's good isn't it, and very readable. I think it's also an interesting counterpart to the sci-fi themes of the time that were often about unique geniuses who could master anything they encountered through reason and moral fortitude. This is about very ordinary, if at times impressively competent, people encountering things that are very unknowable and I thought that was cool.

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#2120 Re: Books...
June 01, 2024, 03:09:37 pm
Some things I’ve read over the last few months I thought worth sharing.

The Maniac: Benjamin Labatut.

A novel about John von Neumann and his impact on our world.  From his childhood as prodigy and genius and into his work as a physicist and mathematician. Inventor of game theory, cellular automata and the first programmable computer and early pioneer of AI.  He sounds horrendous to be with. Fiercely intelligent, intolerant and a workaholic.  The novel also roots the creation of computing at the heart of warfare and draws out the implications of that for us and society.

The novel takes an interesting turn in its final third long after Neumann’s death, covering the showdown between the South Korean Go Master Lee Sedol and the AI program AlphaGo (which is largely based upon JvN’s original theories).  Humans wrestling with the implications of a machine ‘intelligence’.  It’s very good. Entertaining and thought provoking.

The Stirrings: Catherine Walker.

A fantastic memoir about growing up in Sheffield in the late 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.  Walker is a superb writer and for all of us who live(d) in Sheffield, especially in the 80’s and 90’s it’s a rich and accurate description of the place and times.  The backdrop though is Peter Sutcliffe and the violence of men. It’s really quite brilliant, enjoyable and disturbing at times. Highly recommended.

High Weirdness: Erik Davies.

An edited-for-readability version of Davies’ PhD thesis on the “High Weirdness” of the 1970’s expressed through the lives of Terence McKenna, Robert Anton Wilson and Philip K Dick.  I was right into RaW in my teens and early twenties of course so I enjoyed this one a lot.  Rather than try to prove or disprove anything, Davies adopts a phenomenological stance toward the experiences of these men (he does acknowledge it is men and has a great chapter on why that might be and the privilege extended to them and himself as the writer). It’s pretty mad and both entertaining and serious at the same time.

Sparks of Bright Matter: Leeanne O’Donnell

A new novel set in the 1700’s around the time of the Jacobite rebellion centered around a budding alchemist Peter Woulffe who has his copy of the Mutus Liber (a real alchemical text) nicked before he can deliver it to Baron (Emmanuel) Swedenborg.  On one level it can be read as a historical romp adventure yarn. Another level as a critique of social class and the mores of the time. The sequences in Ireland are brilliant and rich. Finally on another level, the story and characters themselves play out the alchemical transformation portrayed in the Mutus Liber itself (I’ve got one at home).  I enjoyed it and suspect it’d make a good holiday read. I’ve never read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell but “Sparks” has been compared favourably, so if you liked that I suspect you’ll like this one.

American Cosmic (UFOs Religon and Technology) : Diane Pasulka.

Pasulka is a professor of religous studies whose research and previous books were about Catholicism and purgatory.  Someone suggested she should take a look at the UFO/UAP phemomenon which she did and has written this brilliant book.  A reviewer at Vox described the book as not "so much about the truth of UFOs or aliens as it is about what the appeal of belief in those things says about our culture and the shifting roles of religion and technology in it. On the surface, it's a book about the popularity of belief in aliens, but it's really a deep look at how myths and religions are created in the first place and how human beings deal with unexplainable experiences." 

I really enjoyed it and then went on to read…

Unidentified Hyper Object: James D Madden.

Madden is Professor of Philosophy at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. His research has included phenomenology, philosophy of mind, analytic philosophy, and cognitive science.  After reading Pasulka’s book, Madden decided to risk sticking his head above the parapet of the academy and bravely takes a look at the UAP phenomenon from a philosophical perspective.  I loved it of course, especially the sections on Graham Harman’s object oriented ontology and Timothy Morton’s related development of the notion of a hyperobject. The proposal here is that “the UFO/UAP is not the many, disparate things that barely show up in our Umwelt, but one gigantic thing, a hyperobject, existing on a scale and complexity that defies our understanding”.  It’s pretty mindbending, but serious and grounded in solid theoretical discipline.

And then I went on to read…

Notes on Complexity, A Scientific Theory of Connection, Consciousness, and Being: Neil Thiese

A professor at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine, pathologist and stem cell biologist, Thiese has written this quite brilliant work on complexity and its implications for us as human beings.  Many of the boundaries we take for granted are not just scientifically artificial but intellectually, spiritually and psychologically suffocating (there’s a parallel here with Iain McGilchrist’s hemispheric studies and theories).  It’s a theory that attempts to provide rigorous scientific underpinnings to timeless questions of consciousness, of being, self and our place in the world and the universe.  Very good.

How we break. Navigating the wear and tear of living: Vincent Deary.

The sequel to his quite brilliant “How We Are” from 2014 that I must have reviewed several pages back on this thread.  Deary is a psychologist who works in the fatigue clinic in Durham or Northumberland.  Here’s a good review in the Grauniad https://www.theguardian.com/books/2024/feb/01/how-we-break-by-vincent-deary-review-look-after-yourself .  Be gentle with yourself and others.

Derek Jarman: Pharmacopoeia (A Dungeness Notebook).

A beautiful collection of Jarman’s journal entries, poems and prose from his time at prospect cottage on the shingle isle of Dungeness.  He was gardening, planting and tending to the cottage he built and lived out the remainder of his life after the HIV diagnosis.

“I waited a lifetime to build my garden,
I built my garden with the colours of healing,
On the sepia shingle at Dungeness.
I planted a rose and then an elder,
Lavender, sage, and Crambe maritima,
Lovage, parsley, santolina,
Hore hound, fennel, mint and rue.
Here was a garden to soothe the mind,
A garden of circles and wooden henges,
Circles of stone, and sea defences.”

Lovely stuff.

Frontičres, the food of France’s borderlands. Alex Jackson.

Have we had a recipe book on this thread before?  I’m a keen cook so like to read these things as well as cook the dishes.  Jackson is the chef at Noble Rot and this book contains recipes and history from the edge lands of France. The South coast with its North African influence (my partner W is French with Morrocan parents - she’s a Berber), the Southwest and Spanish plus Basque influences, the Alps and Alsace.  Mouthwatering and full of interesting history, people and places.

Right now I’m halfway through Hellhound on his trail by Hampton Sides.  A non-fiction account of how Martin Luther King and James Earl Ray (his assassin) came to be in the same place in Memphis and what happened afterwards.  It reads like a taught thriller and is really worthwhile, not just on the people but the atmosphere and politics of the time.




Johnny Brown

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#2121 Re: Books...
June 01, 2024, 08:22:05 pm
Nice one, Ben, lot of interesting sounding stuff to explore there...

Quote
The Stirrings: Catherine Walker.

It's Taylor innit? Been intrigued by this since - weird flex alert - she followed me on Twitter (no idea why). Will pick up a copy as Ellie was curious too and is squarely in the core audience.

Quote
High Weirdness: Erik Davies.
American Cosmic (UFOs Religon and Technology) : Diane Pasulka.
Unidentified Hyper Object: James D Madden
Notes on Complexity, A Scientific Theory of Connection, Consciousness, and Being: Neil Thiese

These all sound great! Which would you recommend first? Have you read John Higgs' book on the KLF, I will have recommended it many pages back? Touches on similar ground although no doubt in a lighter manner. Also reminds me I ground to a halt half way through a McGilchrist tome a couple of years back... need to revisit.


seankenny

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#2122 Re: Books...
June 01, 2024, 09:38:29 pm
If anyone fancies a somewhat lighter exploitation of the intersection of American new age religiosity and UFOs then I can recommend Hari Kunzru’s novel Gods Without Men. The Californian high desert setting is very prominent in the book, so a nice treat for anyone who loves that environment.

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#2123 Re: Books...
June 01, 2024, 09:44:24 pm
Some things I’ve read over the last few months I thought worth sharing.

The Maniac: Benjamin Labatut.

A novel about John von Neumann and his impact on our world.  From his childhood as prodigy and genius and into his work as a physicist and mathematician. Inventor of game theory, cellular automata and the first programmable computer and early pioneer of AI.  He sounds horrendous to be with. Fiercely intelligent, intolerant and a workaholic.  The novel also roots the creation of computing at the heart of warfare and draws out the implications of that for us and society.

The novel takes an interesting turn in its final third long after Neumann’s death, covering the showdown between the South Korean Go Master Lee Sedol and the AI program AlphaGo (which is largely based upon JvN’s original theories).  Humans wrestling with the implications of a machine ‘intelligence’.  It’s very good. Entertaining and thought provoking.

The Stirrings: Catherine Walker.

A fantastic memoir about growing up in Sheffield in the late 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.  Walker is a superb writer and for all of us who live(d) in Sheffield, especially in the 80’s and 90’s it’s a rich and accurate description of the place and times.  The backdrop though is Peter Sutcliffe and the violence of men. It’s really quite brilliant, enjoyable and disturbing at times. Highly recommended.

High Weirdness: Erik Davies.

An edited-for-readability version of Davies’ PhD thesis on the “High Weirdness” of the 1970’s expressed through the lives of Terence McKenna, Robert Anton Wilson and Philip K Dick.  I was right into RaW in my teens and early twenties of course so I enjoyed this one a lot.  Rather than try to prove or disprove anything, Davies adopts a phenomenological stance toward the experiences of these men (he does acknowledge it is men and has a great chapter on why that might be and the privilege extended to them and himself as the writer). It’s pretty mad and both entertaining and serious at the same time.

Sparks of Bright Matter: Leeanne O’Donnell

A new novel set in the 1700’s around the time of the Jacobite rebellion centered around a budding alchemist Peter Woulffe who has his copy of the Mutus Liber (a real alchemical text) nicked before he can deliver it to Baron (Emmanuel) Swedenborg.  On one level it can be read as a historical romp adventure yarn. Another level as a critique of social class and the mores of the time. The sequences in Ireland are brilliant and rich. Finally on another level, the story and characters themselves play out the alchemical transformation portrayed in the Mutus Liber itself (I’ve got one at home).  I enjoyed it and suspect it’d make a good holiday read. I’ve never read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell but “Sparks” has been compared favourably, so if you liked that I suspect you’ll like this one.

American Cosmic (UFOs Religon and Technology) : Diane Pasulka.

Pasulka is a professor of religous studies whose research and previous books were about Catholicism and purgatory.  Someone suggested she should take a look at the UFO/UAP phemomenon which she did and has written this brilliant book.  A reviewer at Vox described the book as not "so much about the truth of UFOs or aliens as it is about what the appeal of belief in those things says about our culture and the shifting roles of religion and technology in it. On the surface, it's a book about the popularity of belief in aliens, but it's really a deep look at how myths and religions are created in the first place and how human beings deal with unexplainable experiences." 

I really enjoyed it and then went on to read…

Unidentified Hyper Object: James D Madden.

Madden is Professor of Philosophy at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. His research has included phenomenology, philosophy of mind, analytic philosophy, and cognitive science.  After reading Pasulka’s book, Madden decided to risk sticking his head above the parapet of the academy and bravely takes a look at the UAP phenomenon from a philosophical perspective.  I loved it of course, especially the sections on Graham Harman’s object oriented ontology and Timothy Morton’s related development of the notion of a hyperobject. The proposal here is that “the UFO/UAP is not the many, disparate things that barely show up in our Umwelt, but one gigantic thing, a hyperobject, existing on a scale and complexity that defies our understanding”.  It’s pretty mindbending, but serious and grounded in solid theoretical discipline.

And then I went on to read…

Notes on Complexity, A Scientific Theory of Connection, Consciousness, and Being: Neil Thiese

A professor at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine, pathologist and stem cell biologist, Thiese has written this quite brilliant work on complexity and its implications for us as human beings.  Many of the boundaries we take for granted are not just scientifically artificial but intellectually, spiritually and psychologically suffocating (there’s a parallel here with Iain McGilchrist’s hemispheric studies and theories).  It’s a theory that attempts to provide rigorous scientific underpinnings to timeless questions of consciousness, of being, self and our place in the world and the universe.  Very good.

How we break. Navigating the wear and tear of living: Vincent Deary.

The sequel to his quite brilliant “How We Are” from 2014 that I must have reviewed several pages back on this thread.  Deary is a psychologist who works in the fatigue clinic in Durham or Northumberland.  Here’s a good review in the Grauniad https://www.theguardian.com/books/2024/feb/01/how-we-break-by-vincent-deary-review-look-after-yourself .  Be gentle with yourself and others.

Derek Jarman: Pharmacopoeia (A Dungeness Notebook).

A beautiful collection of Jarman’s journal entries, poems and prose from his time at prospect cottage on the shingle isle of Dungeness.  He was gardening, planting and tending to the cottage he built and lived out the remainder of his life after the HIV diagnosis.

“I waited a lifetime to build my garden,
I built my garden with the colours of healing,
On the sepia shingle at Dungeness.
I planted a rose and then an elder,
Lavender, sage, and Crambe maritima,
Lovage, parsley, santolina,
Hore hound, fennel, mint and rue.
Here was a garden to soothe the mind,
A garden of circles and wooden henges,
Circles of stone, and sea defences.”

Lovely stuff.

Frontičres, the food of France’s borderlands. Alex Jackson.

Have we had a recipe book on this thread before?  I’m a keen cook so like to read these things as well as cook the dishes.  Jackson is the chef at Noble Rot and this book contains recipes and history from the edge lands of France. The South coast with its North African influence (my partner W is French with Morrocan parents - she’s a Berber), the Southwest and Spanish plus Basque influences, the Alps and Alsace.  Mouthwatering and full of interesting history, people and places.

Right now I’m halfway through Hellhound on his trail by Hampton Sides.  A non-fiction account of how Martin Luther King and James Earl Ray (his assassin) came to be in the same place in Memphis and what happened afterwards.  It reads like a taught thriller and is really worthwhile, not just on the people but the atmosphere and politics of the time.

TOO MUCH INTELLECT <head explodes>

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#2124 Re: Books...
June 01, 2024, 10:18:40 pm
Loool!
I particularly liked the 3rd level of Sparks of Bright Matter, echoing a 17th century alchemical text which FD happens to have a copy of...

(Not a dig FD, love your reviews and some of these do look great, I've just bought notes on complexity)

 

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