NYRB Classics

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surfer
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Re: Currently Reading

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Image
Hard Rain Falling - Don Carpenter

Kind of pulpy, like Kerouac stripped of all sentiment and Romanticism, or maybe Henry Miller if he was hustling pool halls in Portland Oregon in the 60s.

kscotthandley
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Re: Currently Reading

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surfer wrote:Image
Hard Rain Falling - Don Carpenter

Kind of pulpy, like Kerouac stripped of all sentiment and Romanticism, or maybe Henry Miller if he was hustling pool halls in Portland Oregon in the 60s.
This sounds just great, and I guess anything kissed by Pelecanos has got me at hello. Plus my hit-to-miss with NYRB Classics is pretty solid, and I might be up to ~25 of them by now. Maybe it's just the graphic design and the whole "series" appeal? I'm a consumer! Read this one recently, and it was more or less nuts, but kept me riveted:

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Starting in 1970, Jean Genet—petty thief, prostitute, modernist master—spent two years in the Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan. Always an outcast himself, Genet was drawn to this displaced people, an attraction that was to prove as complicated for him as it was enduring. Prisoner of Love, written some ten years later, when many of the men Genet had known had been killed, and he himself was dying, is a beautifully observed description of that time and those men as well as a reaffirmation of the author's commitment not only to the Palestinian revolution but to rebellion itself. For Genet's most overtly political book is also his most personal—the last step in the unrepentantly sacrilegious pilgrimage first recorded in The Thief's Journal, and a searching meditation, packed with visions, ruses, and contradictions, on such life-and-death issues as the politics of the image and the seductive and treacherous character of identity. Genet's final masterpiece is a lyrical and philosophical voyage to the bloody intersection of oppression, terror, and desire at the heart of the contemporary world.
surfer wrote:Image
Charles Simic: Selected Poems 1963-1983
And this one I'm in the middle of right now! Love this guy.

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Re: Currently Reading

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kscotthandley wrote: Plus my hit-to-miss with NYRB Classics is pretty solid, and I might be up to ~25 of them by now. Maybe it's just the graphic design and the whole "series" appeal? I'm a consumer!
I'm with you, although I've probably read closer to ten, but I find them really reliable and they turn me onto writers/books I've never heard of before quite a bit.

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Re: Currently Reading

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kscotthandley wrote:
surfer wrote:Image
Hard Rain Falling - Don Carpenter

Kind of pulpy, like Kerouac stripped of all sentiment and Romanticism, or maybe Henry Miller if he was hustling pool halls in Portland Oregon in the 60s.
This sounds just great, and I guess anything kissed by Pelecanos has got me at hello. Plus my hit-to-miss with NYRB Classics is pretty solid, and I might be up to ~25 of them by now. Maybe it's just the graphic design and the whole "series" appeal? I'm a consumer!
The design reminds me of the old Peguin series. Just a photo taking up the whole sleeve and simple text:

Image

I have a half dozen of the NYRB and I agree they're all pretty good. I cant enthusiastically recommend the Carpenter (Pelecanos calls it the best debut novel he's ever read) because the last 1/3 needs a pretty big working over. From when he gets out of prison and lives in SF. Clunky plot machinations and pat epiphanies. But the first 1/3, and also to a lesser extent the middle third "prison" section are quite good. It might be worth checking out, I dont read much stuff like this, so its hard for me to judge it against other similar novels.

I can highly recommend the Italian novels from NYRB:

Moravia's essential Boredom (one of the first in the series, and has a different sort of illustration on the cover) and of course Contempt

Emillio Gadda's Awful Mess on the Via Merulana

Svevo's Senilite translated as "As a man grows older" (excellent)

and a believe they also have one by Bassani.

kscotthandley
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Re: Currently Reading

Post by kscotthandley »

Thx for the NYRB recs, none of which I've checked out. Moravia is one I've really been wanting to read for a while now. I wonder if anybody knows his body of work well enough to name a kind of "consensus best" or even just a personal favorite of all his books? I would probably need to read it in English.

And yes, the Penguins are pretty dangerously collectable/accumulable, for me, still. I preferred the last generation too, with the New Age Green and its mellow glow-in-dark kinda Pacific NW truth-will-set-u-free vibe. Good memories! Catastrophically, all mine are now gone, so it's to the second-hand shops for me.

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Re: Currently Reading

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I read a bunch of Moravia a while back, Boredom and Contempt are great places to start (and how can you beat those titles?).

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Re: Currently Reading

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The only difference between the aqua Penguins and the NYRB is that the former wasnt of great quality in terms of paper (esp the cover). They are everywhere though, I've got tons of them. The NYRB are much higher quality paperbacks.
kscotthandley wrote: I wonder if anybody knows his body of work well enough to name a kind of "consensus best" or even just a personal favorite of all his books?
I've read 4 of Moravia's books: Contempt, Boredom, Conformist, Woman of Rome (the later two from the excellent Steerforth Italia series - great design and paper quality too) with the first two maybe slightly above the later two, but not by much. Contempt you probably know, Boredom (1960) is about a young bourgeois painter who has an affair with one of his models and gradually becomes obsessed with her, while suffering through ennui-caused painter's block. Its very "Antonioni". Very little plot, characters ruminating on the fundamental pointlessness of any endeavor. Conformist (1951) from is about a Fascist bureaucrat who is ordered to kill a former professor. and Women of Rome (1947) is about a poor young peasant woman who stumbles into prostitution and theft, and has a series of men (representing different political ideologies and backgrounds) come into and out of her life. He seems to be a writer of uniformly high quality. I also have a stunning short story which may be one of Moravia's most personal works, a novella from 1944 called "Agostino" which was included in William Weaver's outstanding collection of post WWII Italian writers, Open City (also from Steerforth Italia). It is well worth seeking out, not just for the Moravia story, but also includes excerpts from Bassani's Finzi-Continis, Silone's Bread and Wine, Elsa Morante (Moravia's wife and an excellent writer herself), Emillio Gadda's Awful Mess on the Via Merulana*, and a few others. "Agostino" concerns a young boy coming of age, and his complex relationship with his single mother. Its a wonderful work, different in its way from his later works, more aligned with classic Italian neo-realism. The collection also includes an extended and very moving and insightful introduction / memoir by Weaver, who drove ambulances in Naples during WWII, and then moved to Rome after the war and became close friends with all these writers.

General rule of thumb is that you cant go wrong with anything translated by William Weaver, who is one of the great translators of his generation.

*i wanted to single this work out, because it made a significant impression on me when I read it a few years ago. The NYRB edition is translated by Weaver with an intro by Italo Calvino. It concerns a burglary and a murder (two separate crimes) in a apartment building in Rome, and its conspiratorial "everything is connected" vibe, and non-resolution, and well as a very allusive and baroque writing style with many many colorful characetrs reminds me (and others) a lot of Pynchon, Flann O'Brien, and others. A post-modern masterpiece, though not easy to get through, that some here might be very interested in.

Edit: I forgot I also have Moravia's Il Paradiso (from 1970, a collection of stories) translated as "Bought and Sold" which I havent read yet. I should read that next.

double edit: this is my original copy of Boredom, they since reissued it to look more like the others in the series, but I like the earlier version:

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Last edited by surfer on Tue Apr 06, 2010 11:05 am, edited 1 time in total.

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surfer
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Re: Currently Reading

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Also some here might be interested in Moravia's Io e lui (1971, The Two of Us), a story of a film writer who tries to understand his independently behaving large penis.

kscotthandley
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Re: Currently Reading

Post by kscotthandley »

surfer, that post was awesome, very helpful. Your mention of the Gadda reminded me of a namecheck I ran across by chance on Jonathan Rosenbaum's blog not long ago:
One of my favorite Italian novels, long out of print in English, is Carlo Emilio Gadda’s That Awful Mess on Via Merulana, a sort of Roman police procedural from 1946 in which the central crime never gets solved. The book is so beloved in Italy that it’s known simply as Il pasticciaccio (”the awful mess”), and when Gadda died in 1973 at the age of 79, it had gone through several editions.

William Weaver, who did the 1965 English translation, wrote in the preface that “Il pasticciaccio occupies in contemporary Italian literature the position that Ulysses, Remembrance of Things Past, and The Man Without Qualities occupy in the literature of their respective countries.” He also noted that many of Gadda’s other fictional works are “unfinished, but not incomplete. Even the briefest of Gadda’s fragments has its own curious wholeness; and if the ‘murder story’ aspect of Il pasticciaccio remains unresolved, one feels — at the end of this long, apparently ambling work — that it is better not to know who is responsible for the death of Signora Liliana. The reader feels that he has probed deeply enough already into the evil and horror of the world and that yet another, worse revelation of it would be more than the reader, the author, and the protagonist [Detective] Ingravallo could bear. Though students of Gadda’s work might not agree, one also suspects that his novels were born to be fragments, like certain imaginary ruins in Venetian painting, perfect parts of impossible wholes.”
http://www.jonathanrosenbaum.com/?p=6389
(actually an old review of a Bruno Dumont film)

I'm on it! Cheers.

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NYRB Classics

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jon abbey wrote:
kscotthandley wrote: Plus my hit-to-miss with NYRB Classics is pretty solid, and I might be up to ~25 of them by now. Maybe it's just the graphic design and the whole "series" appeal? I'm a consumer!
I'm with you, although I've probably read closer to ten, but I find them really reliable and they turn me onto writers/books I've never heard of before quite a bit.
I too am a fan of the series, may I recommend the following?

The Book of Ebenezer Le Page - G.B. Edwards
The Waste Books - Lichtenberg
Selected Stories - Robert Walser
Miserable Miracle - Henri Michaux
Classic Crimes - William Roughhead
The Lord Chandos Letter - Hofmannstahl
A High Wind in Jamaica - Richard Hughes
J.G. Farrell - Troubles

This is heavy on the "classics" I know, but I also read one of the Simenon novels and thought it was great, can't remember which one, "Red Lights" or something like that?

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Re: NYRB Classics

Post by jon abbey »

I split out the NYRB Classics posts I found to a new thread. if I missed any, let me know and I'll add them here...

started Nightmare Alley by William Lindsay Gresham last night, very good so far.

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Re: NYRB Classics

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Image

Image

both quite moving, and also quite different from each other.

m

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Re: NYRB Classics

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Just started

Image

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Re: Currently Reading

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surfer wrote:Image
Hard Rain Falling - Don Carpenter

Kind of pulpy, like Kerouac stripped of all sentiment and Romanticism, or maybe Henry Miller if he was hustling pool halls in Portland Oregon in the 60s.
just read this, really loved it. I'm a total sucker for this kind of mid-century, noir-ish, straightforward writing, especially when it occasionally touches on deeper themes. this one is more than a genre novel, though, really well structured (the initial chapter describing the main character's parents is like the kind of obligatory opening chapter of every bio, except this one is actually interesting).

not sure if I got this on your rec, Darren, but if I did, thanks!!!

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Re: NYRB Classics

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Glad you liked it. I thought the first 1/3 was the strongest, the second third (prison section) was also quite strong, and I liked the way he handled the relationship between Jack and Billy, that could have been disasterous. After he gets out of prison, everything from the SF cafe scene on, I had pretty big problems with. I spoke earlier of pat epiphanies and clunky plot machinations; I dont think he overreaches, I just think it needed to be rewritten and reworked. Its been a while since I read it, but I remember all the stuff with his son, his wife's boyfriend, leading up to that imo odd ending didnt work. The last 1/3 seemed very "first draft" to me. Pardon my namedropping, but back at Colby, I was in a workshop taught by Richard Russo, and he used to stress, the way a carpenter (ha!) drives nails, that writing is rewriting is rewriting. Its craft, you have to plane it down til its smooth. Sometimes a rough unfinished weathered surface can work, but other times you need to rework it. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of my former professor's work, but he has a knack (Empire Falls, in particular) for making the dialogue and action seem sharp clean AND effortless. And its much harder to do than it seems.

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Re: NYRB Classics

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yeah, I can see that, but it worked for me. you might very well be right about a rewrite of the last section making it even stronger, though. I think like that all the time when listening to music, but am probably not nearly as tough on books.

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Re: NYRB Classics

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Just to follow up, it was pretty clear to me he was very confident in his writing in the first part, and even the second part, I'm sure it just flowed right out based on his experiences, but I think the third part he struggled with, because I'm not sure he knew where to go with it (the first two parts have very clear and unavoidable plot destinations), even though he was apparently a fixture on the SF literary scene. I dont remember enough about the details with Sally and her first husband and his son to give a armchair prescription.

Anyway Rick Russo imo is just the person (or editor) from the right working class background who could have given the last section the hard fought pyrrhic victory that Carpenter was aiming for, implying and hinting things more than saying, more nuance, and without Jack's stoicism and acceptance to his fate seeming (not unearned but) half-baked.

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Re: NYRB Classics

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BTW, Handke's A Sorrow Beyond Dreams is devastating. I knew it was about his mother's suicide, but I wasnt prepared for how unflinchingly unsentimental his "portrait" of her is. I really liked his sense of how difficult it is to "know" someone, even if that person raised you, what motivates them to certain actions, and he's not just talking about the act of suicide. In some ways, that's actually the least painful and depressing part of the book. At least you come prepared for that fact. Harrowing.

Readers who like Thomas Bernhard should seek this out, Handke even name checks Berhard once iirc.

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Re: NYRB Classics

Post by Jesse »

You've seen the Handke/Wenders films, Darren?
http://crowwithnomouth.wordpress.com/

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Re: NYRB Classics

Post by Herb Levy »

Thought y'all might be interested in these two recent blog posts on NYRB classics:

http://conversationalreading.com/damion ... b-classics

http://theliterarystew.blogspot.com/201 ... views.html