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Author Topic: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)  (Read 511319 times)

Offline BigEd

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Re: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)
« Reply #90 on: February 23, 2006, 08:40:53 AM »
Oh God Ed...this takes me back to college - I was trying to talk my friend Brian into starting a little cow and calf operation, as I recall.

And since we're talking classics, one of my all time favorites is 'Candide' by Voltaire.  Somehow I don't think Ennis read it, but he might have found himself wondering if this was, indeed, the best of all possible worlds....

Yes Michael! I read Candide along with Narziss and Goldmund, and The Agony and the Ecstasy just after undergrad while travelling in Europe with a hostel card, eurail pass and a backpack trying to figure out who the hell I was supposed to be. What a cliche - but it was the 70's :D
I agree with you, I dont think our beloved Ennis would have read it. But then I dont think he would have even found it since its unlikely the books were in the ketchup aisle  ;D

I like the idea of forming a book club with the people on this forum - lets do it!
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Offline Zudos

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Re: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)
« Reply #91 on: February 23, 2006, 09:29:02 AM »
Anyone read On Beauty by Zadie Smith...?
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Offline leopoldo

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Re: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)
« Reply #92 on: February 23, 2006, 09:33:47 AM »
Yep, but I wasn't a fan.

Never Let Me Go by Ishiguro though - fantastically sad stuff.

Currently reading 'How Mumbo Jumbo Conquered the World' by Francis Wheen - a hilarious (and sometimes disagreeable) analysis of the rise of the Right, New Age therapy, fundamentalisms and postmodernist theory, and how all these interlink. It's fun, it makes me cross once in a while, but generally a well formulated polemic.

Offline Zudos

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Re: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)
« Reply #93 on: February 23, 2006, 09:35:22 AM »
Yep, but I wasn't a fan.

Never Let Me Go by Ishiguro though - fantastically sad stuff.

Currently reading 'How Mumbo Jumbo Conquered the World' by Francis Wheen - a hilarious (and sometimes disagreeable) analysis of the rise of the Right, New Age therapy, fundamentalisms and postmodernist theory, and how all these interlink. It's fun, it makes me cross once in a while, but generally a well formulated polemic.

I thought it was excellent, and defined the failure of the main character (sorry, can not remember his name), amazingly... whilst retaining her conversational style of writing...

What didn't you like about it...? 
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Offline ChrisFewa

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Re: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)
« Reply #94 on: February 23, 2006, 09:58:34 AM »
What about “the reluctant messiah”  A very interesting way of looking at life.
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Offline andy/Claude

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Re: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)
« Reply #95 on: February 23, 2006, 10:03:28 AM »
My latest read was Capt Corelli's Mandolin. After the first 20 pages I got right into it. Was advised not to go see the movie after having read the book. So I didn't!
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Offline Dave Cullen

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Re: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)
« Reply #96 on: February 23, 2006, 10:11:58 AM »
If you liked "The Stone Raft", you should read "The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis". It's about Ricardo Reis, one of Pessoa's heteronyms returning from Brazil to Lisbon upon hearing of the death of Pessoa. It's quite beautiful and strange, a portrait of mid-century Lisbon. If you don't know Pessoa, you should check him out- the greatest modernist literary figure in Portuguese was also gay. He is considered to be the 4 or 5 greatest modern Portugese poets because he took on different identities and wrote in completely different styles (his heteronyms).

http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/pessoa.htm

Thanks. I currently have two friends making their way through his saramago's work, one far ahead of the other, and the further one recommended that as his favorite. i couldn't remember the name of the person who died. so maybe i'll try that.

no, i've never heard of pessoa, or a heteronym, to be honest. what is that? a pseudonym for a hetero alter ego of a homo?

my friend also told me nothing about this book. are you saying that the guy uses several pseudonyms, and when he dies, one of them manages to live on, hears of the death of his others and comes back to lisbon in grief? pretty interesting.

the newer reader also liked All The Names.

Offline jpq716

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« Reply #97 on: February 23, 2006, 10:20:17 AM »
Hi, BigEd! Back in the spring of 1969, when I was pretending to be a college student while making sure that my country never again would invade, unprovoked, another small country (<SIGH>) and while I was sampling various altered states of consciousness that were available to me, I went through Hermann Hesse like a Mac truck. It was de rigeur training for the Revolution, you know (like reading D. L. Lawrence, whom I had devoured the previous fall), and I went to it with a will. I shall never forget reading Demian, which had appeared exactly fifty years earlier in Weimar Germany and which had created just as much a sensation there among young people in 1919 as it was to create here in America in 1965 when a decent translation finally appeared in paperback. (Of course, now I realize that there was an excellent reason why 1919 and 1965 were so similar in emotional tone to young people, but that line of thought does not belong here in this thread…) Then I joyously plowed through the rest: Siddharta, Steppenwolf, Journey to the East and The Glass-Bead Game.

But the novel that characterizes that deeply sad, totally lost, but utterly magical, time for me and which formally introduced me to German Romanticism (one of the biggest intellectual and emotional influences on my life) was Narcissus and Goldmund. I went over the moon with that novel, and to this day, I cannot think of myself as a 20-year-old kid in the Summer of Protest without thinking of that book. It is one of the great masterpieces of late German Romanticism; I made all of my friends read it (they were in training for the Revolution, too, you know, and Hesse was universally revered as one of the prophets); and I longed --- even then --- for it to become a great film. (This was right at the time when Franco Zefferelli was making Romeo and Juliet and when Ken Russell was making Women in Love, so anything seemed possible for the classics.) I always presumed that David Lean, then of Doctor Zhivago fame, would be just the guy to do justice to this work, but he, alas, never got around to doing it. But just three weeks ago I suddenly found another director, who is famous for his intensive preparation, who has already filmed a masterpiece of literature (by Jane Austen, no less), who has a hypnotic love-affair with the beauty of nature, and who would be perfect, just perfect, for the job. Guess who, folks? And no question about it --- there’s another Oscar out there waiting for him if he decides to take the job!

For Narcissus and Goldmund, which is a truly wild novel (and not just sexually either), is every bit as much a celebration of the power of passion as Brokeback Mountain is. But if the latter demonstrates that love is a force of nature, then the former demonstrates that art is too. Art reflects nature, arises out of the agonies and ecstasies of nature, and completes an otherwise uncompletable nature. As Goldmund passes from city to city and from bed to bed amid medieval sieges, savage witch-hunts, the ritual burning of heretics, and the total social breakdown caused by the plague, his inevitable sorrows and disappointments involuntarily and inevitably pile up memories and emotions in his heart, demons that can be exorcized only by his art. There are no wrist watches in this world, just the silent passage of time as measured by the majestic change of the seasons (which Hesse was a genius of the first order at depicting). And there is no peace, not a drop of it, to be found, except by sailing beyond the crumbling beauties of this world through the power to art to “the artifice of eternity.” And even then, no safety for the artist from the horrors of this world…”Unless soul clap its hands and sing, / And louder sing for every tatter in its mortal dress.”

What images come back to me from that novel! The leaves of the chestnut tree, symbol of Goldmund’s soul (in both senses of that term), fluttering in the spring wind in the courtyard of the Mariabronn cloister. The panting and the grunting of lovers in the wildflower meadows and the barn hay lofts. The antlike busyness of a medieval witch-hunt roaming the countryside among the piles of unburied plague victims left rotting in their houses. The resolute sound of Goldmund’s chisel as he attempts to create the perfect Madonna, the one that embodies the best of every woman he has ever enjoyed, while the creative image within his mind eternally mocks his efforts to do so with her Mona Lisa smile. The rattle of autumn leaves through the deserted streets of a medieval city. The smell of incense wafting through the arcades of a medieval cloister at dusk. The sound of Gregorian chant bouncing off the great pillars of a Gothic cathedral at midnight. And above all else, the quiet conversation by flickering candlelight of two small figures, the one a shiftless and dirty vagabond and the other a elegantly dressed priest, both lost within an terminally insane and terribly violent world, and certain only of their unconditional love for another. Oh God, Ang, you gotta do this film! Only you could do this film right! A film that nobody else has ever thought of making!

But all of this was almost four decades ago in my life, BigEd, and as Goldmund comes to realize in the end, all things must pass. The happier time in which I first read Narcissus and Goldmund has long since passed away in its turn, and I myself am close to becoming an old man now, just like Narcissus was at the end of the novel. Oh my, it must be at least twenty-five years since I last read this book! I am almost scared to open it again. Too many heart-memories there, you know… A couple of years ago, I did re-read The Glass Bead-Game, which, frankly, confused me a little in 1969, and now it is one of my favorite novels. I can see now what I could not see then --- why Hesse won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946 for that novel and not for any of his others --- but still it’s a damn shame that I had to purchase my insight into this work with the naiveté and passion of my youth! But that’s just the way it is, BigEd. Hesse stressed this point all the time in all of his works. Which is why, in the end, he is not a novelist for kids. Oh no, not at all…

Thanks for the memories that awakened within me today when I read your post. It’s so nice to see that truly great works of art are never really forgotten, although they sometimes appear to be. And it really made me smile to know that somebody else out there is rediscovering one of the most powerful novels that I have ever read, all those years ago. Happy reading, BigEd… :D :D :D
« Last Edit: February 23, 2006, 10:34:24 AM by jpq716 »
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Offline Dave Cullen

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Re: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)
« Reply #98 on: February 23, 2006, 10:29:37 AM »
Not read recently, but now that I think of it, I want to reread.

Lamb: the Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore.

One of my favorite books ever.

I can't begin to summarize it, so I'll give you the blurb from Carl Hiassen -

"a very sick man, in the very best sense of the word" - tells the greatest story never told!

This sounds great!  And the perfect antidote to Anne Rice going insane.  :(

And Carl Hiassen thinks it's sick!!!  Now that's saying something.

Speaking of sick but enjoyable books are there any Chuck Palahniuk fans out there?  I really liked 'Choke' - I remember reading it in the DMV - it seemed entirely appropriate.  And a question - has anyone out there read any of Palahniuk's other books?  Any recommendations?

Oh!  And another truly sick book that makes for interesting reading (especially if you're a commuter like myself) is J.G. Ballard's book 'Crash' - when I read this I was commuting in a bus to work every day.  Truly an odd experience.

i have not read Palahniuk. been meaning to. have a feeling i might hate him, but need to find out. had extremely mixed feelings about the film fight club, but loved the idea.

is crash the book that the david cronenberg film was based on? his worst i've ever seen, but i was wondering about the book. seems like it would work much better as a book. god, what a boring film.

but speaking of crashes, i was just thinking about "Car Crash While Hitchhking," my second-favorite story from one of my all-time fave books, Denis Johnson's Jesus' Son. (It's not about Jesus. Title from a Lou Reed song. Most of the book is about a mostly-former heroin addict. But it's not bleak. Or redemptive. Just incredibly observant.)

Hennyway, I could have sworn I typed my favorite passage into my blog once, but can't find it.

Found my second-fave, from my favorite story in the book, "Beverley Home." Here's the passage--at this point he's working at a halfway house, as part of his own recovery, this time from alocholism:

Quote
There was a guy with something like multiple sclerosis. A perpetual spasm forced him to perch sideways on his wheelchair and peer down along his nose at his knotted fingers. This condition had descended on him suddenly. He got no visitors. His wife was divorcing him. He was only thirty-three, I believe he said, but it was hard to guess what he told about himself, because he really couldn't talk anymore, beyond clamping his lips repeatedly around his protruding tongue while groaning.

No more pretending for him! He was completely and totally a mess. Meanwhile the rest of us go on trying to fool each other.

A bit more on it here:

http://blogs.salon.com/0001137/categories/books/2003/07/25.html

Offline Dave Cullen

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Re: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)
« Reply #99 on: February 23, 2006, 10:37:51 AM »
While searching my blog archives for "Car Crash . . ." I did stumble upon the opening of "The Things They Carried," which I meant to bring up.

(More about how the hell that happened, as well as my take on the passage I'm about to quote here: http://blogs.salon.com/0001137/categories/bestPosts/2004/04/22.html )

I am still in awe of the title story of the collection, and yet to this day (about ten years later), I have been unable to plunge into the rest of it, or even try. Even seriously consider it, really. Not sure why. Can't bear to plunge all the way into Vietnam?

Or perhaps one of my most horrible traits: Once I adore something--I mean find a work of pure perfection--I'm terrified to read anything else by the author, for fear it won't live up. I'll sully them or something. (A related trick is fearing reading anything by a friend, or anyone I like, for fear I won't like it--or won't love it as much as I love them--and will find it hard to respect them as much.)

Hennyway, here's the opening passage (the paragraphs are a bit daunting in length, but SO worth it):

Quote
First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried letters from a girl named Martha, a junior at Mount Sebastian College in New Jersey. They were not love letters, but Lieutenant Cross was hoping, so he kept them folded in plastic at the bottom of his rucksack. In the late afternoon, after a day's march, he would dig his foxhole, wash his hands under a canteen, unwrap the letters, hold them with the tips of his fingers, and spend the last hour of light pretending. He would imagine romantic camping trips into the White Mountains in New Hampshire. He would sometimes taste the envelope flaps, knowing her tongue had been there. More than anything he wanted Martha to love him as he loved her, but the letters were mostly chatty, elusive on the matter of love. She was a virgin, he was almost sure. She was an English major at Mount Sebastian, and she wrote beautifully about her professors and roommates and midterm exams, about her respect for Chaucer and her great affection for Virginia Woolf. She often quoted lines of poetry; she never mentioned the war, except to say, Jimmy, take care of yourself. The letters weight 10 ounces. They were signed Love, Martha, but Lieutenant Crosss understood that Love was only a way of signing and did not mean what he sometimes pretended it meant. At dusk, he would carefully return the letters to his rucksack. Slowly, a bit distracted, he would get up and move among his men, checking the perimeter, then at full dark he would return to his hole and watch the night and wonder if Martha was a virgin.

The things they carried were largely determined by necessity. Among the necessities or near-necessities were P-38 can openers, pokcet knives, heat tabs, wristwatches, dog tags, mosquito repellent, chewing gum, candy, cigarettes, salt tablets, packets of Kool-Aid, lighters, matches, sweing kits, canteens of water. Together, these items weighted between 15 and 20 pounds, depending upon a man's habits or rate of metabolism. Henry Dobbins, who was a big man, carried extra rations; he was especially fond of canned peaches in heavy syrup over pound cake. Dave Jensen, who practiced filed hygiene, carried a toothbrush, dental floss, and several hotel-sized bars of soap he'd stoen on R&R in Sydney, Australia. Ted Lavender, who was scared, carried tranquilizers until he was shot in the head outside the village of Than Khe in mid-April. By necessity, and because it was SOP, they all carried steel helmets that weighed 5 pounds including the liner and camouflage cover. They carried the standard fatigue jackets and trousers. Very few carried underwear. On their feet they carried jungle boots -- 2.3 pounds -- and Dave Jensen carried three pairs of socks and a can of Dr. Scholl's foot powder as a precaution against trench foot. Until he was shot, Ted Lavender carried six or seven ounces of premium dope, which for him was a necessity. Mitchell Sanders, the RTO, carried condoms. Norman Bowker carried a diary. Rat Kiley carried comic books. Kiowa, a devout Baptist, carried an illustrated New Testament that had been presented to him by his father, who taught Sunday school in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. As a hedge against bad times, however, Kiowa also carried his grandmother's distrust of the white man, his grandfather's old hunting hatchet. Necessity dictated. Because the land was mined and booby-trapped, it was SOP for each man to carry a steel-centered, nylon-covered flak jacket, which weighed 6.7 pounds, but which on hot days seemed much heavier. Because you could die so quickly, each man carried at least one large compress bandage, usually in the helmet band for easy access. Because the nights were cold, and because the monsoons were wet, each carried a green plastic poncho that could be used as a raincoat or groundsheet or makeshift tent. With its quilted liner, the poncho wieghed almost two pounds, but it was worth every ounce. In April, for instance, when Ted Lavender was shot, they used his poncho to wrap him up, then to carry him across the paddy, then to lift him into the chopper that took him away.

Offline hybrid

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Re: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)
« Reply #100 on: February 23, 2006, 10:51:24 AM »
Pessoa felt that he had to write in different voices in different personalities. He didn't hide that he was doing this, so they are not pseudonyms. To him these voices were  real people and he made up biographies of them, and had them comment on each other's work. They have very different poetic senisbilities. Ricardo Reis is one of them, one that lives in Brazil. So the premise of the Saramago novel is that Reis hears of the death of Pessoa and returns to Lisbon to go to Pessoa's grave.


Offline michaelflanagansf

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Re: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)
« Reply #101 on: February 23, 2006, 12:03:50 PM »
Quote
Speaking of sick but enjoyable books are there any Chuck Palahniuk fans out there?  I really liked 'Choke'  and another truly sick book that makes for interesting reading is J.G. Ballard's book 'Crash'.
Quote

Quote
i have not read Palahniuk. been meaning to. have a feeling i might hate him, but need to find out. had extremely mixed feelings about the film fight club, but loved the idea.

is crash the book that the david cronenberg film was based on? his worst i've ever seen, but i was wondering about the book. seems like it would work much better as a book. god, what a boring film.
Quote

Yes, it is the book that the Cronenberg film was based on - and yes, it is a truly awful movie.  However, the book is quite good - in a sort of W.S. Burroughs way - a sort of wry, depressing analysis on modern culture and detachment.  For those who don't know it the major plot surrounds people who are only able to reach sexual satisfaction in automobile accidents.

I think 'Choke' is better than 'Fight Club', but again, a very cynical book - the title refers to the main character, who supports himself (and keeps his mother in an an adult care facility) by faking choking incidents in restaurants.  The main character also gets a number of his sexual partners from sexual addiction 12 step meetings - so a big warning to those who would find that disturbing or offensive.

Since I'm off in this vein, I should mention a few of my favorite W.S. Burroughs books here - if you've never read him, I'd start with 'Interzone' or 'Exterminator' (collections of short stories).  In his longer works, I particularly like the fever dreamlike 'Cities of the Red Night'.
I do my thing, & you do your thing. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you and I am I, and if by chance we find each other - it is beautiful. If not it can't be helped.

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Offline trinket

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Re: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)
« Reply #102 on: February 23, 2006, 01:33:54 PM »
Since becoming a foster parent over 12 years ago I have not been able to READ anything from cover to cover...until lately.
Last month I read NIGHT by Elie Wiesel ~ 'a terrifying acoount of the Nazi death camp horror that turns a young Jewish boy into an agonized witness to the death of hir family, the death of his innocence...and the death of his God'

This month I have started Life On The Color Line by Gregory Howard Williams ~ 'As a child in 1950's segregated Virginia, the author grew up believing he was white.  When the family business fails and his parents' divorce he discovers that his dark-skinned father, who had been passing as Italian-American, was half black.  After the family splits up Greg, his younger brother, and their father move to Indiana, where the young boys learn the truth about their heritage.  Overnight, they became black.

I can't remember the last time anybody cared WHAT I was reading, THANKS FOR ASKING, that was nice!

Di
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JAKE on his roll as 'Dastan' in 'The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time' ~ "The appeal of playing this part for me was feeling that eight-year-old side of myself. . . . . .This was really an opportunity to go to that side of myself which I felt was a little tired of taking myself so seriously."

Offline Dave Cullen

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Re: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)
« Reply #103 on: February 23, 2006, 06:02:21 PM »
Since I'm off in this vein, I should mention a few of my favorite W.S. Burroughs books here - if you've never read him, I'd start with 'Interzone' or 'Exterminator' (collections of short stories).  In his longer works, I particularly like the fever dreamlike 'Cities of the Red Night'.

I loved Naked Lunch a whole lot.

Took me a couple tries though. First time, I was just appalled. Years later, someone mentioned in passing how funny it was. I almost choked. Funny? Are you kidding me?

But I tried it again--taking it all a lot less seriously--and lo and behold . . .

Definitely not for everyone, though.

Not even for Bart Simpson.

In the episode where they got the fake IDs, one of the first things they did was go to an R rated movie. They cut straight to the boys coming out, looking a bit lobotomized, and Naked Lunch on the marquee. And (I think the nerdy kid with the glasses) goes, "I can think of at least two things wrong with that title."

Offline Dave Cullen

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Re: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)
« Reply #104 on: February 23, 2006, 06:10:01 PM »
Pessoa felt that he had to write in different voices in different personalities. He didn't hide that he was doing this, so they are not pseudonyms. To him these voices were  real people and he made up biographies of them, and had them comment on each other's work. They have very different poetic senisbilities. Ricardo Reis is one of them, one that lives in Brazil. So the premise of the Saramago novel is that Reis hears of the death of Pessoa and returns to Lisbon to go to Pessoa's grave.

pseudonyms necessarily implied hidden ID? i had not heard that. (what does someone like ann rice call the pseudonyms she openly writes under for her porn and such? doesn't she go by three or four different names, depending on the style/voice? not that she or Pessoa were the first.)

i'm still not quite clear on one point: in the book, is Ricardo Reis an alter ego of Pessoa--who presumably knows he should have died along with Pessoa, and/or the reader does, yet who magically lives on after Pessoa dies? or is he treated as if he had been a separate human being, who should have lived on?