Currently Reading: Chapter II

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Steve Minkin
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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

Post by Steve Minkin »

walto wrote:Postscript: I did just slop together a wiki entry on Sharp. If anybody notices any typos (and as y'all know me, you know there will be typos), please correct them!
Looks pretty clean to me, Walter, although it could use a comma following the title of his thesis.

Love that he did a book on Shakespeare! This is from the Amazon review:
>>many hail Peter Brook's version of King Lear, whose unkindest cut blotted out the Servant's bold resistance to the gouging of Gloucester's eyes. (When asked "what role in all of Shakespeare would you most want to play?" C. S. Lewis answered immediately "the Servant's in King Lear" and Nietzsche praised that stronger brother of pity that actually intervenes.) Sharp too stands with that Servant<<

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walto
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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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Cool, SqD. Thanks!
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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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THE BOYS IN THE BOAT – Daniel James Brown (2013)

Eclipses 'The Boys of Summer' as the greatest sports book I've ever read! A great read! Tells the story of the University of Washington 8-oar crew that won the gold medal at the Berlin Olympics of 1936, blue collar boys who transformed themselves and the sport over a three-year period. The details of the racing and the boats of the book are inextricably connected to the details of the rest of the world -- the depression, the rise of the Nazis, the dustbowl, the Pacific Northwest, Leni Riefenstahl, Avery Brundage, prohibition, Joseph and Magda Goebbels, the Grand Coulee Dam . . .

On that last item, our featured oarsman gets a job one summer early in the construction of the Dam, hanging from a cliff by rope and working a jackhammer into the side of the cliff. It payed 75 cents an hour instead of the usual 50.

Some fascinating material on the strategies of crew; some moving writing on the team vs individual dynamic of the sport; some captivating stories about the construction of racing shells (the man that built the boats for almost all the top teams in the country lived and worked at Huskies' boathouse); and some thrilling writing about the races themselves.

A joy to read!

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Antoine
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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

Post by Antoine »

Steve, let me recommend you this one:
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And if you like this one focused on Emil Zatopek, in the same period, Echenoz also wrote one about Ravel and one about N.Tesla (I especially like this one). Short books, amazing stories, with great style (though I don't know how well they are translated in english).

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Steve Minkin
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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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Thanks, Antoine! Zatopek was one of my childhood idols, I'll check it out.

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walto
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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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This is a very engaging 1945 critique of Hayek's Road to Serfdom by political economist Barbara Wootton, who later became a baroness:

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Interesting story about Wootton (from wikipedia):

In 1917, she married John "Jack" Wootton. They has thirty-six hours together as husband and wife, before she saw him off to France. He was wounded during World War I and died weeks after their marriage.
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The book is available free online at the internet archive.
"Freedom of thought and speech without available means of gaining information and methods of sound analysis, are empty. Protection and security are meaningless until there is something positive worth protecting." E.W. Hall

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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Neil Gaiman -- Dream Country

I have not been into graphic novels at all, but Stephane Berland highly recommended Gaiman's Shakespeare-based stories to me when we met him recently in Rouen, so I had to follow up on this. Stephane is in the loop for my Shakespeare group and we expect him to read with us in the flesh next winter. One of the four stories in this collection is based on A Midsummer Night's Dream -- the "true" story of the play -- and was the only comic book to win a World Fantasy Award. In this telling, Shakespeare's inspiration comes from his secret partnership with Morpheus. And Morpheus will be paid by the author by Shakespeare agreeing to write two plays about dreams for an audience from another realm -- this early play, The Dream, and one at the end of his career, The Tempest, which Gaiman has also written and I will read next. Many nice touches, some inside Shakespeare knowledge, many lines from the play interspersed with lines from the audience and actors, the real Puck from the fairy realm is so incensed that the actor playing him wasn't getting the part right that . . . No, shouldn't spoil it. Quite nice! My first reading of Gaiman. The other three stories were also strong and imaginative.

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Steve Minkin
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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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I got this for The Tempest. But the first three tales + epilogue in this (last of the series) compilation have to do with the death (of some kind) and burial of the central character of the Sandman series, Morphues, King Of Dreams, and much of the text and characters were clearly allusions to previous episodes and themes and were lost on me. Some epic comic book art, though!

The next stand-alone story was also a bit of disappointment. I loved the conception -- an Asian tale with calligraphy and artwork evocative of China and Japan. Unfortunately, the story didn't grab me the way the tales in the earlier collection did.

HAPPILY, however, Gaiman's homage to The Tempest was great, better than his little book for The Dream, highlighted by Will quizzing Morpheus on the nature of their bargain and the roads not taken, some nice badinage with Ben Jonson, and a solid knowledge of Shakespeare esoterica neatly woven into the story. Loved it, and will recommend it to my group!

I'm also studying Doctor Faustus now, so the obvious contrast between Prospero and Faustus seems glaring -- Faustus can never renounce the source of his magic, and is doomed; Prospero frees Ariel and drowns his staff and book, renouncing his magic as he returns from exile.

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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Paper Girls - Vol 1

There are now four. Entertaining, story based comics set around 4 newspaper delivery girl set in the '80s with time travel and plenty of sci fi creature freaks intertwined.

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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Finished this a few weeks ago, and it deserves a much wider audience than just the speculative fiction crowd, so hence the double posting:


YOU SHOULD COME WITH ME NOW --- M. John Harrison (2017)

(...)

Having said that, categories aren’t of much use in this collection: this truly is genre defying prose. There are elements of fantasy, science fiction, horror and the plain the weird. But ‘elements’ is indeed just that: mere elements – as the core of most of these stories are humans and human relations: for every ounce of speculativeness, there’s three ounces of something Raymond Carver would have been proud of too. So yes, what we have here is a 21st century Franz Kafka: fiction about the ordinary weirdness of being human, all too human, in a setting that’s at times a bit off, and at times perfectly normal.

Themes are not about a suffocating bureaucracy however, yet the atmosphere is at times just as claustrophobic and harrowing. It is contemporary life that suffocates Harrison’s characters – the disillusion of middle age, loneliness, broken relationships between broken people, falling out.

(...)

The full review is here

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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schiksalgemeinschaft wrote:YOU SHOULD COME WITH ME NOW --- M. John Harrison (2017) (...) Having said that, categories aren’t of much use in this collection: this truly is genre defying prose. There are elements of fantasy, science fiction, horror and the plain the weird. But ‘elements’ is indeed just that: mere elements – as the core of most of these stories are humans and human relations: for every ounce of speculativeness, there’s three ounces of something Raymond Carver would have been proud of ...
i'm reading this too, maybe a third in. sometimes like you i have to think of carver, and these are marvelous pieces, because at first you never know where the familiar ground they develop from actually lies. other times i vaguely remembered reading borges (long ago), and those stories make me less happy, like the absolutely cringeworthy thing about the guy in the cell scratching his way out through several walls over centuries until we learn that haha SPOILER AHEAD he's doing it by choice not by force, or the rather pointless lack of perspective in the imaginary reviews (something perec would be ashamed of)? so i think it's very uneven so far, everything from sublime to waste of time. i'd definitely be curious to read one of his novels, though, he's so good at setting up a scene ...

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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A SPOOL OF BLUE THREAD -- Anne Tyler (2016)

I've tried unsuccessfully to read this author before, and am not generally a fan of mutli-generational family novels. But I loved this one right from the opening pages, sped through it eagerly, and finished impressed enough with this achievement that I will try some of her earlier works again. A beautifully rendered story of four generations of a Baltimore family from the depression days to these times. wonderfully detailed eye and ear, spellbinding storytelling, subtly painted characters . . . Can't say enough for it.

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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Wombatz wrote:
schiksalgemeinschaft wrote:YOU SHOULD COME WITH ME NOW --- M. John Harrison (2017) (...) Having said that, categories aren’t of much use in this collection: this truly is genre defying prose. There are elements of fantasy, science fiction, horror and the plain the weird. But ‘elements’ is indeed just that: mere elements – as the core of most of these stories are humans and human relations: for every ounce of speculativeness, there’s three ounces of something Raymond Carver would have been proud of ...
i'm reading this too, maybe a third in. sometimes like you i have to think of carver, and these are marvelous pieces, because at first you never know where the familiar ground they develop from actually lies. other times i vaguely remembered reading borges (long ago), and those stories make me less happy, like the absolutely cringeworthy thing about the guy in the cell scratching his way out through several walls over centuries until we learn that haha SPOILER AHEAD he's doing it by choice not by force, or the rather pointless lack of perspective in the imaginary reviews (something perec would be ashamed of)? so i think it's very uneven so far, everything from sublime to waste of time. i'd definitely be curious to read one of his novels, though, he's so good at setting up a scene ...
I liked that guy in the cell, and the reviews too, maybe both make more sense as caricature of SF/Fantasy, I'm not sure if you read a lot of that. I agree that the collection is uneven, but I think the lesser ones are still good. the only thing that bothers me in retrospect is that the vibe is maybe too similar throughout.

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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This might be of interest to people that don't like SF, as it's one of Frank Herbert's very few non-genre novels.

SOUL CATCHER --- Frank Herbert (1972)

A few years ago, I decided to read the most important other Herbert novels before starting a reread of the Dune series. A review of Children Of Dune on the always thoughtful Gaping Blackbird, made me eager to start that reread. That review focuses on the Nietzschean inspiration of CoD, and it led to an interesting discussion in the comments. So, I was eager to dive into Dune again, but as I still had Soul Catcher on my TBR, I started that.

Yesterday, after finishing Soul Catcher, I decided to kick the reread of Dune even a bit further back, and I ordered Destination: Void, on account of Joachim Boaz, who praised Herbert’s handling of its characters’ psyches in the comments of my Whipping Star review – as Soul Catcher is first and foremost a character driven novel, and one that even succeeds at that. I have to admit I had given up on Herbert as non-Dune writer, as Whipping Star, The Dosadi Experiment and The Santaroga Barrier all disappointed. So I’m all the more pleased to report Soul Catcher was a good read, and one that invigorated me to give Destination: Void an honest chance.

Genre classifications being what they are, potential readers should be aware that Soul Catcher is not speculative fiction. Rob Weber reported in his review on Val’s Random Comments that the publisher, Putnam, even put the following on the back flap: “This is Frank Herbert’s first major novel. He has written numerous science fiction books, of which Dune…”. Novels were not the same as science fiction books in 1972. Interestingly enough, there is no trace of that attitude on my 1979 edition, on the contrary. As you can see on the 1979 cover I included here, both the illustration and the text try to tap on to a speculative vibe: this is a “terrifying novel of the Spirit World”. Apparently Soul Catcher didn’t really catch on as regular literary fiction, and 7 years later, marketing decided to firmly latch it to Herbert’s other output – it’s pretty clear if you compare the vibe of the covers of first two editions to the later one. The 2012 cover reverts the approach again. As always, ISFDB has a good overview of all the different cover art.

As Rob also wrote, the fact that this isn’t a SF book should not deter Herbert fans: “the ecological and mythological themes in the book especially, ties it to a lot of Herbert’s other works.”

Soul Catcher deals with a Native American kidnapping a 13-year old boy with the intent to kill him, as symbolical revenge for the rape of his own sister by a gang of white men, and her ensuing suicide – and by extension all the other crimes against the indigenous humans of the continent. As such it is a book that simply would not be published in these times of hired sensitivity readers. It would not get published just because of sensitivity issues: on top of that a white man writing a story like this without a doubt would get accused of cultural appropriation too. The fact that Herbert researched the subject extensively and clearly does not sympathize with white, Western genocidary imperialism would not excuse him. I’m sure today no publisher would dare to take a chance in our era of hair trigger culture wars.

After the jump you’ll find a rather lengthy discussion of a few different things: Soul Catcher as a psychological novel that also teaches us about today’s ‘terrorist’ violence; Soul Catcher as a critique on Western society and its interesting, realistic use of the ‘noble savage’ trope; a discussion on the use of ‘soul’ vs. ‘spirit’; a nugget for Dune fans; and my thoughts on the powerful ending and that ending’s relation to a movie adaptition that might or might not be made.

Certain sections are quote heavy, but obviously you can skim those if the particular topic doesn’t interest you that much.

(...)

The full review is here

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walto
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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

Post by walto »

I agree with Jon's take on Handmaid's Tale. Not good.

Now reading Coetzee's Disgrace, which I'm enjoying.
"Freedom of thought and speech without available means of gaining information and methods of sound analysis, are empty. Protection and security are meaningless until there is something positive worth protecting." E.W. Hall

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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walto wrote:
Now reading Coetzee
Greatest living English language writer, imo.

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walto
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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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Just finished "Disgrace". Beautiful. But....are all his books so sad?
"Freedom of thought and speech without available means of gaining information and methods of sound analysis, are empty. Protection and security are meaningless until there is something positive worth protecting." E.W. Hall

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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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Depends on what one considers sad, I suppose.

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walto
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Re: Currently Reading: Chapter II

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Well. If it helps, I consider the last page of 'Disgrace' as about as despairing as literature gets.
"Freedom of thought and speech without available means of gaining information and methods of sound analysis, are empty. Protection and security are meaningless until there is something positive worth protecting." E.W. Hall