Currently Reading: Chapter II

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Piano Mouth
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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

Post by Piano Mouth »

Half way through The Lost Scrapbook, just bought this one used:

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Lao Tsu Ben
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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

Post by Lao Tsu Ben »

I'm currently reading the Dortmunder novels and enjoying it very much. Westlake is like an up-to-date, American Wodehouse, also less priggish obviously. I googled their names a while ago and immediately came up with an article investigating the links between the two so I'm not too original in saying that.

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

Post by SqDanceCallingSteve »

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SPRING CHICKEN -- Bill Gifford (Entertaining and informative, historical material plus the latest findings in the emerging sciences concerned with anti-aging.)



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THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR -- William Shakespeare (from my notes to my reading group:)

I think the level of vitriolic academic disapproval of this play has to do with the compromsing of Falstaff. The play is charming, but I completely understand why Bloom calls this Falstaff the 'Faux Falstaff.' If this character were Prince Hal's buddy in the Henry IV plays, we'd feel none of the regret we have when Hal rejects him in Henry IV, 2. The Falstaff of MMW is a much duller fellow than the witty rogue from the Henry IV plays. The central action of MMW is Falstaff getting pranked three times, and he evokes little sympathy from us as the victim.

Mistress Quickly also appears in MMW and the Henry IV plays, but she is a different character, different employment, personality. I think we have to accept the same kind of disconnect between this Falstaff and the 'real' one in the histories.

The play has always been pretty good at the box office, had a Quarto version prior to the Folio (although a really bad Quarto!), and has had successful theatrical runs in every century since its original production.

The popular legend is that Queen Elizabeth liked Falstaff in 1 Henry IV so much that she commissioned Shakespeare to write a play in two weeks about Falstaff in love. It is a nice story, and obviously still has legs, but the 'legend' first appears in the introduction to playwight John Dennis' adaptation of Merry Wives, 'The Comical Gallant,' in 1702, and there is little reason to suspect that it predates that.

The more likely story is that the play was commisioned by The Lord Chamberlain for his induction into The Order of the Garter. The Quarto's title page sells the play as having been performed by the 'Lord Chamberlaine's servants both before her Majesty and elsewhere," so the connection to the Queen seems legitimate. Shakespeare's company at this time were known as The Lord Chamberlain's Men and were funded through the Lord Chamberlain by the Queen. There is a scene in every act set in the Garter Inn, and there are other Garter references in the play. The Order of the Garter – which of course still survives http://www.royal.gov.uk/monarchUK/honou ... arter.aspx -- is limited to a certain number of Knights. The first induction of new members in several years took place on St. George's Day, April 23, 1597, and among the new inductees was the recently installed new Lord Chamberlain, Shakespeare's company's boss. If so, the play would have been written during the writing of Henry IV, part 2; and in fact recent computer analysis "helps to reinforce this conclusion, since it has a few words and phrases in common with 2HIV and with no other play of Shakespeare's, and a significantly higher percentage of shared vocabulary with that play than with any of the others." (Oxford)

Most interesting reference to the Henry plays is Page's rejection of Fenton as his daughter's suitor because he was high-born and "He kept company with the wild Prince and Poins."


I think now this is not so much a bad play as slight play, comparable with some of the early comedies. I think it's better than Two Gentlemen of Verona (even putting the rape scene aside) and as entertaining as The Comedy of Errors or The Taming of The Shrew, although it lacks the poetry of both of those. And yet, by the time WS wrote MWW, he had already moved on to his mature comedic phase, having written The Dream and on the verge of creating Beatrice and Benedick. Could be a regression due to the pressure of a deadline.
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"Time is the school in which we learn,/ Time is the fire in which we burn."
Delmore Schwartz

Lao Tsu Ben
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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

Post by Lao Tsu Ben »

Finished all the Dortmunder books, short stories included, and before embarking on the Parker series, I read my first Patricia Highsmith book.

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I had already liked a few film adaptations of her novels, such as, of course, Strangers on a Train or the not very well-known but excellent The Cry of The Owl, and this book, her best according to Graham Greene, makes for a good introduction to her work I guess. It's supposed to be a little different from most of her novels, where the main characters are, from what I'm told, not very likable or well-intentioned, but at the same it's pervaded by a characteristic homoeroticism and themes dear to her (split identity, dissimulation, etc). The writing is very good, made me think of a drier Nicholas Mosley (the title is not very fortunate, though, but it's the title of the novel - which doesn't seem very exciting - that the hero is writing in the book) whose Impossible Object has also several scenes set in North Africa. Other references that come to mind are of course Paul Bowles, whose books I've almost never read, and Camus, but I prefer that to L'Etranger, even if it's sometimes a little too sophisticated in a New York way and psychological for my taste, she's at least very good at it, and economical in her assessements and depictions.

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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Faulkner, Light in August. Damn good so far, very captivating.

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

Post by schiksalgemeinschaft »

Posted this review of Pale Fire (1962) by Nabokov on Worlds Without End yesterday:


To call this book fantasy is a bit of stretch, a bit of a very big stretch even. Nabokov's seminal book takes the form of a fictional publication of a 999-line poem by fictional author John Shade who died just before completing the poem, with a preface, very elaborate notes (the bulk of the book) and even an index by Charles Kinbote, a fictional scholar.

As such, it won't appeal to regular fantasy readers. Kinbote is crazy, and his notes often read like the ramblings of a madman. In it, he talkes about "the fantastical tale of an assassin from the land of Zembla in pursuit of a deposed king", as a synopsis online says. But, the word "fantastical" should not be taken as an indication this tale being of the "fantasy" kind, but simply as "made up by a nutter". Zembla is more or less a metaphor for Nabokov's native Russia, and the fleeing king echoes the Tsar's persecution by revolutionary forces.

I had a hard time getting through the book. It is hard work, since ramblings of a madman aren't a particularly easy read. The book is stuffed with crossreferences, hidden easter eggs, interplay between the poem, the notes and the index, etc. As such, it has pleased literature scholars across the globe, and has been analysed to death. I guess it should indeed be read twice or thrice to fully appreciate Nabokov's construction. Nabokov did a fine job there, since scholars can't seem to agree whether Nabokov intended the scholar to be real or invented by the poet himself, or the other way around, or that there is even a third person who made up both Shade and Kinbote. It could also be possible that Kinbote is actually the exiled Zemblan king himself. Add to all that the fact that the book's obviously meta (it's about notes to a poem!), and you get a regular feast for the literature professional...

I didn't really enjoy it, since Pale Fire's mystery didn't really interest me. The story felt empty, and a gimmick. Still, Nabokov's mastery of language is an amazing, stunning thing to behold. There are truly magnificent sentences on nearly every page. If you just approach the preface and the notes as a long prose poem (with lots of obscure words!) one just has to experience, immersed in a beautifully written stream of consciousness, without wanting to comprehend or unravel every little allusion or hidden trinket, the book is a masterpiece.

---

do you have Nabokov recommendations?

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Piano Mouth
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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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I'm reading Butcher's Crossing by John Williams and it is very very good so far. I liked Stoner a lot, this one is very different though, more adventurous, there's something magical about his writing, I can't really put my finger on it, it's not corny nor too self absorbed. Rules!

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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Jean Hegland – STILL TIME (2015)

New novel by the newest member of my Shakespeare reading group. Her first and best known novel, INTO THE FOREST, is being made into a movie this year.

This book is about a Shakespearean scholar with dementia, full of wonderful Shakespeareana and propelled by the compelling, moving and intertwined stories of a fine mind descending into confusion and the complex and difficult reconciliation of an estranged father and daughter. Jean writes beautifully and the book's revelations are unspooled artfully. A very satisfying read and highly recommended.
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"Time is the school in which we learn,/ Time is the fire in which we burn."
Delmore Schwartz

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

Post by SqDanceCallingSteve »

book review of 'Malevolent Muse: The Life of Alma Mahler'

Whatever little I knew of Alma beforehand was insufficient to prepared me for this! Sheeeet!

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v37/n21/bee-wilson ... partridges
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"Time is the school in which we learn,/ Time is the fire in which we burn."
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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

Post by SqDanceCallingSteve »

One of my regular club dancers and a member of my Shakespeare group is the daughter of philosopher Alan Watts. She and her brother are still going through his library, and found this, which she gave to me:
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A great edition of Shakespeare from 1836, including many illustrations, supplementary material from the First Folio, essays, all wonderful but for the fact that they're in 6 pt type. Still, given its provenance, a treasure!


For the book club:

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE -- Anthony Doerr (more once I read it)
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"Time is the school in which we learn,/ Time is the fire in which we burn."
Delmore Schwartz

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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SqDanceCallingSteve wrote: For the book club:

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE -- Anthony Doerr (more once I read it)

This was a very enjoyable and engaging read of the kind of novel I typically don't like enough to finish (a lengthy otherworld in which to immerse yourself). But the author writes very well and the stories' energies propel the book forward, hard to put down. Takes us from the beginnings of Nazism through its demise, seen through the eyes of a number of well-crafted and eloquent characters, the two central ones being a blind French girl and a young Nazi soldier, both sympathetically and artfully drawn.

Unfortunately, the book's Macguffin (a large diamond with a legendary past and a weighty myth) seems contrived, and its complicated disposition is muddy, draining energy from the book's main characters and their tales.

The book also skips around in time too much. A bit of that can highlight certain things and entertain; but this was overdone and distracting.

So I recommend the book as a breezy, enlightening, very well written, WWII human drama. Much to like and admire!

And yet . . . this book won a Pulitzer, is THE book club book of the new year, is selling like lattes . . .

And yet is not nearly as good a book as STILL TIME, which I reviewed above and is not generating anything like the buzz (or sales) this one's getting.
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"Time is the school in which we learn,/ Time is the fire in which we burn."
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Dan Warburton
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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

Post by Dan Warburton »

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I can't remember being so thrilled by a writer since I got into Pynchon back in the late 80s. But don't take my word for it
http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-tur ... w-g-sebald
http://www.paristransatlantic.com
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Hayao Yamaneko
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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

Post by Hayao Yamaneko »

Dan Warburton wrote:Image

I can't remember being so thrilled by a writer since I got into Pynchon back in the late 80s. But don't take my word for it
http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-tur ... w-g-sebald
He's great. I was just blown away by Austerlitz when I first read it and Rings of Saturn isn't far behind. Really changed the way I presented and thought about doing things for quite a long time.
Lao Tsu Ben wrote:Finished all the Dortmunder books, short stories included, and before embarking on the Parker series, I read my first Patricia Highsmith book.

Image

I had already liked a few film adaptations of her novels, such as, of course, Strangers on a Train or the not very well-known but excellent The Cry of The Owl, and this book, her best according to Graham Greene, makes for a good introduction to her work I guess. It's supposed to be a little different from most of her novels, where the main characters are, from what I'm told, not very likable or well-intentioned, but at the same it's pervaded by a characteristic homoeroticism and themes dear to her (split identity, dissimulation, etc). The writing is very good, made me think of a drier Nicholas Mosley (the title is not very fortunate, though, but it's the title of the novel - which doesn't seem very exciting - that the hero is writing in the book) whose Impossible Object has also several scenes set in North Africa. Other references that come to mind are of course Paul Bowles, whose books I've almost never read, and Camus, but I prefer that to L'Etranger, even if it's sometimes a little too sophisticated in a New York way and psychological for my taste, she's at least very good at it, and economical in her assessements and depictions.
I missed this - I love Highsmith, and I agree with Greene that this might be her best. This and The Price Of Salt/Carol are maybe the two *relatively* generous, or warm books in her canon. Still quite misanthropic and cynical by most peoples' standards!
I started reading her biog last year and bailed out pretty soon. It seems she was a pretty awful person to be around - found it hard going to read about. My advice is, if you like the books, don't read the biog. The misanthropy loses its charm when you see her put theory to practice.

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

Post by Dan Warburton »

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“I think that fiction writing which does not acknowledge the uncertainty of the narrator himself, is a form of imposture and which I find very, very difficult to take. Any form of authorial writing, where the narrator sets himself up as stagehand and director and judge and executor in a text, I find somehow unacceptable. I cannot bear to read books of this kind” - WGS

http://www1.cmc.edu/pages/faculty/Ldela ... sebald.pdf (but only if you've read the book first)

I was especially intrigued by the character of Max Ferber in part four of the book, as one of my late father's friends in the Bury Art Society in the 60s was a painter named Walter Hirsch, who, as I recall, fled to England at about the same time as Ferber, and for the same reasons. Doing a quick google, I nearly fell off my chair when I saw this

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- a picture I remember very well from my childhood, as it used to hang in my father's attic where he painted. Did we own the original? I recall it was in a heavy, white frame (which leads me to suspect it wasn't a reproduction). It's now in the Bury Art Gallery, anyway. Did my father donate it to them? He's no longer around to ask. Did Sebald base his Ferber on Hirsch - did he run into him during his stay in Manchester in the late 60s, or hear about him througha mutual friend? Fascinating questions, and a truly fascinating - and deeply moving - book. Now, on to Austerlitz!
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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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WGS wrote:“I think that fiction writing which does not acknowledge the uncertainty of the narrator himself, is a form of imposture and which I find very, very difficult to take. Any form of authorial writing, where the narrator sets himself up as stagehand and director and judge and executor in a text, I find somehow unacceptable. I cannot bear to read books of this kind”
i would turn this around and say that fiction writing which does not acknowledge the narrator as stagehand, director, etc. is the supreme form of imposture. or maybe just a pose. i have to admit i'm not a fan. there are some nice moods, but i have no fetish for vague memories of distantly related things to whatever. all i'm left with is a flabby sense of the writer's self thrown back from stuff :mrgreen: (great story about the painter! ... as long as we're playing two degrees of sebald, i once worked with his translator, a poet himself, on a text full of artspeak. it was difficult.)

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Piano Mouth
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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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Hmm yeah, I really enjoyed Austerlitz, but couldn't really finish any of Sebald's other books. I thought I would, so I bought a whole bunch of them, including some books of his poetry on a cheap used book site. But I never really got around to reading them, though they are I think, at my parents place, and are somewhat unretrievable at the moment, but that's also another story...

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

Post by Dan Warburton »

Wombatz wrote:
WGS wrote:“I think that fiction writing which does not acknowledge the uncertainty of the narrator himself, is a form of imposture and which I find very, very difficult to take. Any form of authorial writing, where the narrator sets himself up as stagehand and director and judge and executor in a text, I find somehow unacceptable. I cannot bear to read books of this kind”
i would turn this around and say that fiction writing which does not acknowledge the narrator as stagehand, director, etc. is the supreme form of imposture. or maybe just a pose. i have to admit i'm not a fan. there are some nice moods, but i have no fetish for vague memories of distantly related things to whatever. all i'm left with is a flabby sense of the writer's self thrown back from stuff :mrgreen: (great story about the painter! ... as long as we're playing two degrees of sebald, i once worked with his translator, a poet himself, on a text full of artspeak. it was difficult.)
Yes, Lutz, I can see why people - yourself included - might not like his work, in the same way I can understand why Pynchon and Beckett (two other favourites of mine) might rub people up the wrong way. But I guess that's true of any art form, isn't it? All I can say is from where I stand in rainy old Europe - and a Europe which is quietly unravelling at an alarming rate of knots - having spent the best part of the past three years shuttling back and forth to England to take care of late parents' belongings and being forced to revisit old haunts (the word is telling), Sebald strikes a chord. And compared to the book I read just prior to discovering The Rings of Saturn, which was Maurice Blanchot's Thomas l'Obscur (never was a book better titled: if anyone can tell me what on earth it's about, please do - it drove me absolutely fucking mental but I stuck with it to the bitter end, and feel no wiser as a result), Sebald is alarmingly readable. Which might account for his evident popularity. Whatever. Enjoy your blog very much, btw.
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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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indeed nobody cares if i don't like sebald or whomever (except for my wife, who's a huge fan, which is why i've tried him once too often) ... and i wouldn't have posted except for that strange quote, which seems to say here's a writer suspending his own disbelief so that his readers won't have to do it ...

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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Now reading: strangers on a train

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

Post by schiksalgemeinschaft »

Just reviewed the latest Chomsky book on Weighing A Pig...


WHAT KIND OF CREATURES ARE WE? --- Noam Chomsky (2016)

I’m always puzzled when I read statements like Howard Gardner’s “Noam Chomsky is arguably the most influential thinker of our time”, or the Observer’s “[Chomsky is t]he world’s greatest public intellectual”. He may indeed be te “most prominent critic of imperialism”, as the Guardian put it. But if you look at the real world effect Chomsky has, his influence seems meager and pathetic: the Western world is still heavily involved in warfare in the Middle East, and the inequality gap has been widening since the 1980s, and still very much is – both within the Western world, as globally.

(...)

What Kind of Creatures Are We? is marketed by Columbia University Press as a kind of summary of Chomsky’s work, spanning over half a century. (...) This book is divided in 4 parts: What is language?, What can we understand?, What is the common good? and The mysteries of nature: How deeply hidden? It has 127 pages of actual text, and – indicative of Chomsky’s wide-ranging research – 15 pages of reference notes, plus an index of 20 pages. Although the third part deals with politics – there is little new to be found for the reader familiar with the political Chomsky here, with a slight emphasis on John Dewey – this book is mainly an epistemological work, tracing its origins to the advent of modern science. Newton, Hume and Locke are featured a lot. Really, a lot. There are 39 references to Newton in the index. That’s roughly one mention on every third page.

I found the first 3 parts (...)


Please read the full review here

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