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So this year, instead of reading a half-dozen short books on vacations, I am planning to read one long book instead, as I have also been avoiding some of the big books I own, such as Anniversaries, U.S.A., Infinite Jest, 2666, Daniel Deronda, Celestial Harmonies......
The books listed above are, not coincidentally, part of the 1001-Books-to-Read-Before-You-Die list, which I have been somewhat obsessively reading for the past decade. Other reads are dictated by my real-life book club (alternating contemporary literary fiction with non-fiction) and, now and again, a contemporary novel found on one of your threads.
Aside from reading, my weekdays are spent working for a large performing arts organization in NYC and my weekends are for eating brunch out, walking around my Brooklyn neighborhood/Prospect Park, visiting MoMA or the Met Museum, and cooking vegetarian meals for myself and/or baking the occasional treat for the office.
Vasily Kandinsky -- Panel for Edwin R. Campbell Nos. 1 & 4, 1914
Books read/listened: 61
total pages read: 19,992
ave. # pages: 327
audio: 0 (I have become addicted to podcasts)
1001-list-books: 46 (75%)
Female Authors: 24 (39%)
In Translation: 21 (34%)
Non-fiction: 6 (10%)
1800s: 5 (8%)
1900-1949: 12 (20%)
1950-1999: 30 (49%)
2000s: 14 (23%)
Libe books: 21 (34%)
Owned-pre-2018: 29 (48%)
Bought & read: 11 (18%)
Read more books from the owned-tbr than from other sources
At least 33% of books not written by white straight men
At least 33% of books translated into English
At least 50% of 1001 list books
Read at least 10 non-fiction books
& way too many other challenges/projects (I like lists!)
28-Jan Bk 1
25-Feb Bk 2
25-Mar Bk 3
13-May Bk 4
10-Jun Bk 5
22-Jul Bk 6
19-Aug Bk 7
9-Sep Bk 8
30-Sep Bk 9 Oberland
28-Oct Bk 10 Dawn's Left Hand
18-Nov Bk 11 Clear Horizon
9-Dec Bk 12 Dimple Hill
30-Dec Bk 13 March Moonlight
RT Fiction: The Orenda
LT 1001 Book: Ada, or Ardor
R1001-Div: Martín Fierro, Broad and Alien is the World, The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll
nyrb: Berlin Alexanderplatz
Real-life book club:
RT Fiction: Nobody'd Fool
LT 1001 Book: The Colour
LT1001-challenge: Sons and Lovers
R1001-BotM: A Dry White Season, Auto-da-fa
Real-life book club: Go, Went, Gone
RT Fiction: A Place of Greater Safety
LT 1001 Book: The Double
R1001-TBR Challenge: The Swimming-Pool Library
nyrb: Katalin Street
Second Quarter Reading Ideas::
Real-life book club:
RT Non-fiction: How to Cook a Wolf
LT 1001 Book: Vineland
R1001-Div: In the Heart of the Country
Real-life book club:
LT 1001 Book:
R1001-Div: The Tree of Man
R1001-TBR Challenge: Asphodel
Real-life book club: Say Nothing
RT Fiction: Flights
LT 1001 Book:
R1001-Div: The Tree of Man
book linked - A book I am thinking of reading for the relevant group/challenge/theme
book title - A book that I haven't read and currently don't plan to read
* - A book I own (paper copy)
Real-life book club: Unsheltered
LT 1001 Book: The First Circle
R1001-BotM: Slow Man, Wise Children
nyrb-GR: Great Granny Webster
Real-life book club: n/a
RT Non-fiction: Savage Harvest
LT 1001 Book:
nyrb-GR: Charles Bovary, Country Doctor
Real-life book club: The Wait
LT 1001 Book: Great Apes
nyrb-GR: That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana
nyrb-Litsy: Sleepless Nights
Real-life book club:
LT 1001 Book:
R1001-Quarterly: Memory of Fire, Volume 1: Genesis
Real-life book club: Just Mercy
RT Fiction: Can You Forgive Her
LT 1001 Book:
R1001-Div: The Diviners, In Search of Klingsor
R1001-TBR Challenge: Things: A Story of the Sixties
R1001-Quarterly: Memory of Fire, Volume 2: Faces and Masks
nyrb-Litsy: The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne
Real-life book club:
RT Fiction: Song of Solomon
LT 1001 Book:
R1001-Div: The Diviners, In Search of Klingsor
R1001-TBR Challenge: The Path to the Spiders' Nests
R1001-Quarterly: Memory of Fire, Volume 3: Century of the Wind
nyrb-Litsy: The Expendable Man
book linked - A book I am thinking of reading for the relevant group/challenge/theme
book title - A book that I haven't read and currently don't plan to read
* - A book I own (paper copy)
I gave up writing reviews a few years ago, and it was very liberating. Now I just try to make a few comments to give a sense of the book and what worked or didn't work for me.
James Kelman does not write books that can be read quickly, even if the story is of a young boy coming of age in Glasgow. Because the previous sentence is the entirety of the plot. There is no actual story arc, no defining moment of his childhood, no satisfying conclusion. Instead, it is the interior thoughts presented as a young boy growing up in poverty might think them. There are no big words or impressive vocabulary, nothing immediately brilliant or impressive in the writing, just a steady flow of dialect. But, there is a gradual change in the expression of the thoughts as Kieron grows older. So, I suspect it is extremely well-done; in fact it may be a little too authentic. While I loved the passages about climbing walls, drainpipes, trees, and other activities there are a lot of very boring boy-child thoughts.
>15 thorold: Of the three books I have read, they sort of could be variants -- Kieron Smith, Boy could be Robert Hines, age 6-12 (but the style is different) and Sammy (How Late) could be Robert Hines on a downward spiral after suddenly going blind....
I rated KS, B and TBH the same, but found HLIW, HL to be excellent (both in treatment of the concept and style; it was also the first I read by Kelman).
A Bookclub book that I finished during the food/social component of the evening, before actual discussion began! The novel takes place in Newport, R.I. highlighting it's history through five different story lines:
1) Present Day: Sandy, a former pro tennis player now coaching at a wealthy resort, becomes entangled with several residents of the Windermere estate.
2) 1896: Franklin a "remittance man" on the last years of his youth schemes with a wealthy patroness to marry a rich widow. Unbeknownst to the wealthy society, Franklin has another life below 14th street and the marriage would be in name only.
3) 1861: young Harry James, training himself as a writer, meets a young women at a tourist hotel and must make a choice that will determine who he becomes.
4) 1776(?): A British spymaster tests his wits and his heart against a Jewish merchant and his beautiful daughter.
5) 1692: A young woman, recently orphaned and responsible for the care of a much younger sister struggles to create a life she can live with.
The novel begins with a chapter in the present tense and then cycles through each story line, moving back in time. Each section is written in a different style -- language, syntax -- but the stories are all similar. All the stories feature a protagonist navigating a burgeoning romance and all but one with deceit and all portray the differences of wealth and/or class between the lover and object of affection.
The structure of the story is incredibly well-done, the time periods well-researched and links between the stories cleverly inserted throughout. I particularly liked the "speeding up" of the stories in the final section, where each story line has fewer and fewer pages. For me, however, it was all so cleverly arranged that there was no sense of avoidable doom, just chess pieces following strict rules, moving on and off the board.
Despite your less than enthused response, I might give this one a try. I love novels with multiple timelines.
Pricksongs and Descants by Robert Coover, pub. 1969
Coover's writing seems like the literary equivalent of cubism -- attempting to portray all sides of the story, all of the different possibilities and outcomes -- but the stories are dark, absurd, gruesome, and occasionally horrific.
You encouraged me to read the Coover!
My advice is to not read the Coover stories all at once, maybe 2 or 3 a week and also to have something something happy on the go.
(Not a German town in the early 1900s, but my favorite street of "pointed roofs" in Brooklyn)
I was reading Pointed Roofs, the first volume of Pilgrimage by Dorothy Richardson, as my before-bed book. It's often mentioned as the first work to use stream-of-consciousness and while it seems rather straight-forward in comparison to later practitioners, it does take focus. the narrative is not chronological and it is easy to miss the slightly mentioned markers that contextualize the narrative. In the end, I had to read the book a second time, in much larger pieces.
So far, I am loving this story of the young Miriam, struggling to find her place in the world. As she nears the end of her school years and becomes aware of the dire financial difficulties her family faces, she, without consulting her family, arranges to work as a teacher in a German finishing school.
While the plot can be succinctly summed in the preceding sentence, the actual writing is much more difficult to describe. It is ephemeral. There is a gorgeous depiction of a thunderstorm but to quote it would require citing a third of the book, because the beauty is made effective by the gradual build up of moments and flashes of her world.
Miriam is a fascinating character. Despite seeming practical and full of the grit that got her to Germany, she is still very much in flux. On the one hand desiring to be proper and on the other resenting the role of an adult women that she is expected to grow into (although the word phony is never used, the sentiments seem very similar to Holden Caulfield). She is prickly and so very introverted and socially awkward and yet her passion for music and art and the desire to be herself, rather than shaped to fit into society is lovely and painful to witness. I am very much looking forward to the other 12 volumes of this very long novel.
A House in the Uplands by Erskine Caldwell, pub. 1946
A book that can, and should, be judged by its cover.
I second RidgewayGirls's recommendation of Severance. I also really enjoyed it and thought it was an interesting way of making a social commentary on modern life via a dystopian. And she had a great way of writing about NYC while avoiding the usual cliches. There was only one reference to Schwarzenegger that was a bit iffy but otherwise, great writing.
Also can't wait till you someday get to Convenience Store Woman.
Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin, pub. 1929
It is an interesting collage of a particular time and place, loosely held together with the narrative downfall of a not-so-good protagonist.
I found Backwater charming, but a little less than Pointed Roofs. Perhaps because I was reading it during a stressful week. Or perhaps because I was so delighted and surprised by the style of Pointed Roofs, which is no longer the case for the second volume.
I enjoyed Miriam's spiky adventurousness in Pointed Roofs -- going off to Germany and the the uneasiness and delight she found being there. Backwater, as indicated by the title, feels more staid. The world is less interesting to Miriam and thus less interesting to the reader; I am left with few mental images from this section of her story.
In this short story, the third featuring the amateur detective C. Auguste Dupin, we see the beginnings of future detective novels and most especially the influence on Doyle.
For such a brief tale, it is rather convoluted and somewhat difficult to follow, perhaps because it is all told in monologues. The policeman consulting Dupin explains, in great detail, the very complicated and particular circumstances of how a compromising letter was stolen in plain sight and how, despite thorough searches of the thief and his living quarters, the police have been unable to locate it.
We are then treated to an even lengthier monologue from Dupin on how the methods of the policeman failed and how he, as someone much cleverer than the police, was able to retrieve the stolen letter.
A mildly diverting tale, but not as wonderfully suspenseful as Poe's better known horror stories.
>33 ELiz_M:. Loved your comment on the book that "can and should be" judged by it's cover. I ran across just the opposite problem recently: a well-reviewed
true account of four Holocaust survivors making their way home after the war. The cover showed a woman with a torn dress in the foreground. Really, it looked like a 50s melodrama.
This book was an unfortunate experience -- not because of the writing or my enjoyment of it. I was listening to the audiobook while doing a lot of chores (literally re-arranging the furniture and other less pleasant tasks) and it took far too long to realize that my ipod was misbehaving.
See, the story is told from multiple points of view, each chapter/section beginning with a different narrator, and being a modern novel it is not necessarily told chronologically. It wasn't until I was about 3 hours in that a track started with "Chapter 2..." and I discovered my ipod was stuck in shuffle mode and I had been listening to the story even more out-of-order than the author intended. After resetting the ipod, I started over and listened to the book again. I think I would have enjoyed this book so much more if I had heard it correctly.
The novel is set in rural Mississippi, the same town as one of her previous novels. As mentioned above, there are multiple narrators, but for me the strongest voice was that of Jojo, the 13-yer-old son of Leonie and primary caretaker of his bay sister Kayla. The children (and supposedly Leonie) live with Leonie's parents in a rural, seemingly isolated area. Pop takes care of the farm, repairing fences, feeding and butchering livestock, teaching Jojo a way of being a man. Mam, in addition to housework and cooking, is a healer, but she hadn't been able to heal herself and is dying of cancer. Leonie fell madly, obsessively, in love with Michael and got pregnant as a teenager, deciding to keep the baby. The young couple struggling against poverty, lack of education, and racism and working low paid jobs are quickly captured by drugs and Michal is finishing a three year sentence. As much of a struggle as the present is, it is even harder to escape the past and these narrators are all haunted by one thing or another.
Again, due to circumstances, I was mostly confused by this book. But it was clear that the writing is excellent, some scenes were so extremely vivid that they would have remained with me for a long time, even if I hadn't listened to them twice.
Eventually I will go back and read Salvage the Bones, but I think I will stick to print.
(Actual experience was 3 stars, but I think it would have been 4 stars)
February was a bit of a mess, so when for the second time in a few months my library hold on this series came through (I forgot to pause it), I decided to set aside my more difficult 1001-book and read this.
At this point, with the wild popularity of this series, I assume no introduction or summary is necessary. I was wary of reading these books because of all the hype (good and critical) they have received in the last few years.
Unfortunately, I am in the "meh" camp. It is an interesting depiction of a particular place and mind-set (how true, I have no idea), but for me the writing fell flat. I don't get on with well with such a relentless a single point of view and was hoping for more depth and complexity -- the author never uses description of even the narrator's observations to reinforce (or contradict) Lenu. There is not the faintest hint (by describing Lila's expression or shift in posture, for example) of the inner life or even outer life of other characters. And quite frankly, Lenu's (Lena?) recounting of school and lack of interactions with the boys and glorification of the perfection of Lila was not at all interesting.
So, on the whole I found the novel flat and one-dimensional. Since the final volume is included on "The List", I will eventually read the rest of the volumes.
You’ve put Sing, Unburied, Sing on my wishlist. You seem to have enjoyed it despite the iPod snafu.
>50 ELiz_M: I’m afraid that I was in the meh camp on this book. I finished it, but had no desire to finish the series.
In Feb. 2018 needing cheaper rent, I moved deeper into Brooklyn into a rent-stabilized apartment in a working class neighborhood. At first I enjoyed living there -- the apartment was well laid out and situated on the top floor at the end of the hall with only one neighbor. In the fall of 2018, a water leak inside the kitchen wall manifested. After 3 months, more than a dozen phone calls, and two visits by the management company the leak was worse and water was actively dripping through the lintel above the window when it rained. Fed up, I filed a complaint with the state housing board. Three days after I (and the management company) received notification that the complaint had been received, I got a phone call from the roofer, the "window guy", and the painters, to schedule appointments to review & fix the damage. So, for a week in mid-Feb. all of my belonging were shoved into the middle of the main room/entryway and covered in plastic, making it impossible to find anything and difficult to live in. But it at least the wall was finally being repaired!
Once that mess was over and while moving the furniture back into place, I discovered bed bugs. So for the end of Feb and most of March all of my belongings that normally lived in closets or on shelves was sent into storage (after being vacuumed - all 900 books - or dry cleaned -- 20 wool sweaters) and any clothing I needed was washed/dry cleaned and then stored in plastic bags in plastic bins in the bathroom. For a month. In addition, the roof repair didn't fix the leak and the paint started bubbling again two weeks after the drywall had been replaced & the wall painted.
Coincidentally, during this time period I also won the housing lottery. Three times. I was desperate to get out of my apartment and agonizing over the application process and the uncertainty about which apartment, if any, I would be offered. Should I take the first one that came through or wait to see if one of the others was better (and risk loosing the only apartment I was offered)?!??! I viewed three apartments at the end of March, was offered two, and signed the lease on the too-small unit in a new luxury building in a location I loved -- a block from where I had been living in 2015-17.
I moved mid-May. There was some drama with getting a new mattress (another too-long story, but the jist is don't ever buy from Mattress Firm if you need it delivered on a specific date) and convincing the management company from the sh*thole apartment to return my security deposit. However, I have been in the new apartment for two moths now. I still have minor adjustments to make the apartment exactly right, but I have finally settled in enough that I am not spending weekends running to the hardware store/finding shelving units/installing curtains, etc.
So, I hope to get (mostly) caught up here -- I am only 25-30 reviews behind!
What a mess of a long book. Clocking in at over 500 pages, it still wasn't long enough to coherently tell the stories it encapsulated. This novel, the first in a series, still has way too many ideas to be a single book. After much political maneuvering and compromising between nations, a mission to settle Mars is undertaken. 100 prominent scientists, evenly balanced between men and women, Americans and Russians and a proportionate number of other nationalities are sent to colonize Mars. The book covers their year-long journey to Mars and the time of colonization until the planet becomes overrun by corporate employees and settlers from all over Earth.
Fascinating idea, combining the "hard-science" of robots, technology, and so on with the ideals of post-apocalyptic fiction of starting a new society from scratch. Already there is a lot to work with, but in order to maintain the characters over vast swaths of time, other problematic scientific advances are casually used as plot devices. The structure is, at best, confusing. The novel begins with a scene on Mars that chronologically would take place half-way through the book. It would be a good device to draw readers in, to figure out how the characters got to this dramatic event. But then there are hundreds more pages of creating civilization after it....?
The book is also structured so that chapters are narrated by different characters. When well done, this technique is an excellent way to flesh out multiple main characters -- you can see there thought process and also how they interact with others form different perspectives. In this novel it was frustrating and confusing. The narration was not well situated in time and the "perspectives" were both flat and so contradictory as to not make sense -- there are no common personality traits between Maya's inner monologue and how she is presented by Frank, John, or Nadia. And then there is a ridiculous love triangle that takes up entirely WAY too much space.
The timeline is unclear and confusing, especially in the middle of the book where monumental changes on Mars a told through the lens of John or Frank driving around Mars talking to people. Which, of course, skips months/years and makes the whole narrative very choppy and scattered.
Then there are the big ideas -- should the colony live on Mars with minimal impact, fitting within the environment fould or should the environment be destroyed in order to transform it into a more Earth-like world? Should the Mars settlement exist to provide resources to Earth or should it become self-sustaining? Should the society be tied to and based on the culture and history from Earth or should something entirely new be formed? Is Mars owned by the governments and corporations that funded the expeditions or by the people that live there? What does one do with scientific breakthroughs that if shared with everyone would drastically exacerbate current existential threats, but it is immoral to reserve them for a select (ie wealthy) few?
I found this book occasionally compelling, often boring and mostly frustrating. While I am glad I read this, I didn't enjoy it enough to read the sequels -- I'm interested in the ideas, but not the characterization or plot execution and to find out "what happens" I can read wiki summaries.
In Honeycomb, the third volume Pilgrimage, the narrator, Miriam, takes a position as a governess in the country house of a wealthy but uncultured family.
This section again felt more experimental, as Miriam has more time alone with her thoughts the reader see more of the inner monologue. There is also more fluidity in time with (presumably uneventful gaps) between episodes such as a walk in the woods, hat shopping in London and so on. We see Miriam's reaction to and judgement of the family's society friends, her reignited love of reading, and in the final section, after Miriam leaves her position to return home for the double wedding of two sisters and then to care for her mother. I still find the writing lovely, but for this volume needed a guide with some plot summary as a major life event is mostly glided over.
The Swimming-Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst, pub 1988
An engaging debut novel set in fully male (mostly homosexual) privileged worlds of the narrators from two different time periods.
I had been intrigued by this book after hearing about on book-media and recommended it for my bookclub's March meeting. As it turns out, this is a book that if I had read on my own I wouldn't have appreciated it as much as I do, now, after discussion with friends.
The novel opens quietly and slowly, with the unadorned description of the narraotr's mundane daily routine. Richard, a widower and newly retired Classics professor, is dedicated to his orderly, routine life. But he is aware that without work to help fill the void, there is a lack. So it is not too surprising when Richard, perturbed at how he missed a demonstration of African immigrants wielding signs stating "we become visible", beings a new "project" researching Africa and immigration. When the protesters are rehoused by the government and one of the facilities is a short walk from Richard, he expands his research into "interviews". As his interactions with the refugees develops, there is also a gradual shift in Richard's life.
I found the novel quiet and understated. it was difficult to connect with the narrator, and through him to the stories of the refugees, so much emotion is at a remove. But there are undercurrents and the big ideas of the nature of identity, nationality, and language as both a wall and a bridge are deftly handled. There is one scene perfectly rendered that hit my funny bone exactly right, and I actually laughed out loud. But a late, big reveal by Richard left me cold. All in all, it was an excellent book for bookclub discussion.
Technically this was a re-read, but it had been so long that I had no memory of most of the events and none of the details. I am too lazy to include any kind of summary (too many complex, interwoven story lines that are well documented on the internet) and will proceed as if anyone reading this is familiar with the plot.
I found this completely engrossing and a surprisingly quick read given the density of the story and the occasional monotonous scientific and/or political explanations. Generally, the storytelling and the structure worked for me -- in contrast to the relentless single point of view at a time in Red Mars, I loved seeing multiple points of view as simultaneous as is possible in written work. Herbert often changed the point of view mid-paragraph, for example showing both Paul's and Jessica's view of an event as it is occuring. I am also a sucker for most kinds of well-executed foreshadowing, especially when it is done as an ancient prophecy being fulfilled. And it is an added layer of delight to find that some of those ancient prophecies were actually stories planted by the extremely long-range planning of the Bene Gesserit, just in case they needed to manipulate the population of a planet a few centuries down the line....
However, as with a lot of genre works, it is a product of the time in which it is written and the depiction of some characters, such as the over-the-top stereotypical evil Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Russian-esque name, obese, and
An entertaining read, but still not compelling enough for me to pick up the next in the series over the many other books I want to read.
I've had that Erpenbeck for ages... I'd like to get to it this year.
I couldn't get into the Erpenbeck and set it aside; your comments about finding it difficult to connect to the narrator ring true, but I think I should give it another chance.
>63 katiekrug: Thanks, as you now know, housing in the tri-state area can be needlessly stressful! I hope your slow move goes well and you weather whatever the hiccups are with a minimum of discomfort. If you ever happen to be in Brooklyn for the museum, botanic garden, prospect park or Sunday Smorgasburg that roof deck is within walking distance :)
This fantastical novel set in a supposedly deserted island is short and a quick read. The narrator, fleeing legal troubles, lands on an island with an abandoned resort that has a reputation of either disappearing residents or sending them mad. Surprised to find a group of wealthy holiday makers in the hotel, he hides himself at the other end of the island and stealthily observes their activities. Even as the narrator falls deeply in love with Faustine and is bewildered by her actions, the readers are made aware that not all is as it seems....
I found reading about this novel now more interesting than reading the novel itself a few months back. I am fairly certain that I read it at the wrong time (I love most magical realism) and look forward to re-reading someday under better circumstances.
Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau, published 1947
A concept novel that takes one mundane anecdote and re-writes it in dozens of different styles, which is both entertaining and irritating in turns. Best enjoyed in small doses.
But you and I are due for a catch-up!
This was a re-read. Oryx and Crake is set in a world where most of humanity has died from a plague. The book begins after the apocalypse, with Jimmy, a lone human survivor, whose piecemeal recollections show how this world came to be. Jimmy was, and probably still isn't, a pleasant character. As someone who was adjacent to genius, he was isolated in the community in which he was raised -- a word person in a environment where only scientific genius is valued. He was an unknowing witness to the many incidents and world events that led to his current predicament and is an imperfect narrator, unable to articulate a coherent story.
The slow reveal of the the current world ad how is came to be is compelling reading, but Atwood leaves too much unsaid, expects too much to be filled in by the reader. There are so many fascinating ideas and concepts integrated into the work, but so much of the reader's energy is focused on attempting to fill plot holes, that it is harder to think about the questions raised about the nature of humanity. I don't think this book works as a stand-alone novel and the other two parts of the trilogy are necessary for a complete story.
In Africa sometime in the late 14th century an ancient deity, collecting humans with unusual talents, discovers an apparently immortal woman with the most unusual abilities. He convinces her to travel with him to (ultimately) New England where she becomes a cornerstone in his millennia-long project to breed a super race. The novel focuses on their difference of opinions on this project over hundreds of years.
Well-written and probably touching on many important issues, but I never connected with the characters and have little to no recollection of the story.
A post-apocalyptic book set in the desert South-Western US. The book has three sections, each about six centuries apart, beginning in the late 2600s and centers on an order of monks dedicated to preserving scientific texts after a nuclear war and subsequent populist uprising against technology essentially has destroyed the written word and systematic dissemination of knowledge.
The first section, taking place in the 27th century, is brilliantly written. Told by Francis, a young man of faith working to become an ordained member of the priesthood, the author deftly shows how this world came to be through Frances' thoughts and religion. The nuclear war of the 20th century is "the flame deluge" and through the mythology and new religion, the reader is given enough, distorted, hints to sort of understand how this current world came to be.
The second section, takes place six centuries later. Humanity has begun to coalesce into fiefdoms and learning is possible for a select few. A great scholar has heard of memorabilia safeguarded by an order of monks in the desert and seeks it out. There are all sorts of political machinations that were not made clear and I can't even remember what the stakes are in this section or it's ending.
The final section, another six centuries in the future, is set in a time that is technologically advanced. The world is divided into hostile nations with nuclear powers and colonies on other planets. The monks are now preserving all knowledge in case of a future apocalypse. What looked like the defining religious versus secular clash in the 1960s is heavily preset in this section and while still a moral dilemma, just didn't work for me.
I understand why this book is a classic; the writing is excellent in places. There are interesting themes of the cyclical nature history and the creation (and purpose) of mythology, I found most of the book too confusing. While I loved the first section, I was unaware of the structure of the book and couldn't get over the loss of my beloved narrator for the following sections.
The Tunnel is what made me finally fall in love with this very long novel. Partly because it is the most compelling, story-wise, so far and partly because it aligned so well with life evens. I started reading this just when several applications for rent stabilized housing were approved and I was able to view three different units in a week's time and the volume opens with Miriam ascending the stairs to her new, first lodging in London.
The delight Miriam finds in ever aspect of living on her own in London suffuse the pages and made his volume thoroughly enjoyable -- even the lengthy narration of a days work in a dental office is engaging.
Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe, pub. 1929
A lyrical and dense story of family dysfunction told with ornate writing and vivid descriptions, but read at the wrong time -- frequently my mind would glaze over and I would realize I hadn't actually read the words for several pages.
The end of April and first two weeks of May were mostly spent packing and worrying about getting rid of too-large furniture for my mid-May move and I needed some easy-to-follow ebooks/audiobooks to fill the time.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Frances Hodgson Burnett and read by Wanda McCaddon, pub 1911
A silly and it's incredibly inventive work! I still loved the remembered punchlines and idea from previous reading and now in popular culture ("mostly harmless", 42, the paranoid android, and babel fish). This time I was also impressed with the alien life-form that is a super-intelligent shade of blue. I love how Adams is almost able to create an alien that is really alien (instead of just populating the book with humanoid figures with extra limbs and make-up, although he has those as well). It is not exactly my sense of humor and didn't made me laugh out loud, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and read by Wanda McCaddon, pub 1911
I hadn't reread this since I was a child. As an adult it was still charming, but even as a child I preferred The Little Princess.
So do you get a slightly nicer type of apartment if you win the housing lottery versus what is available through the public housing authority? I was fascinated that the ceiling salary to qualify for a single person is more than $120k. Wow - the cost of living in NYC must be seriously high, as that equivalent would be a very high salary here in NI.
Bed bugs must be an absolute nightmare to deal with. I have a faint paranoia about ending up in a hotel that has them. I don't think they're much of a thing here - is it the heat that attracts them? City environments?
All this is to say I liked Go, Went, Gone quite a lot.
There are different levels of income requirements for the different Housing Lottery projects, but they are usually based on the neighborhood's median income (a number of units set aside for 40% of the median income, 60%, 120% and so on). There are not many lottery units available in the $96,000-120,000 salary range -- that range would be for developments in expensive neighborhoods (Brooklyn Heights, Williamsburg) and few developers want to limit their long-term potential rental income for the tax breaks when building in the neighborhoods with a median income upwards of $90,000.
Public Housing is for the very poor -- from reading novels, I gather it is the equivalent of the UK's council estates? The Housing Lotteries, in NYC, are for a wider range of incomes since working class and middle class incomes cannot keep pace with the skyrocketing rents. Last year the cheapest average rent was about $1,500/month for a one-bedroom in a not-good neighborhood deep in Brooklyn and the citywide average for a one-bedroom was about $2,900/month.
And, even though I still don't consider myself a New Yorker, I apparently can hold my own in conversations about real estate. (Don't get me started on subways and transportation!)
In the UK we're moving away from the council estates now (although for sure there is still a lot of council housing in them, and many of the old ones still exist), and many developers now have to put aside so many units for social housing. It's a sign of the times that the old council houses were actually quite spacious with decent gardens (although fairly ugly), whereas many new houses in developments tend to be squeezed in much tighter now with very small gardens and smaller rooms. A lot of the ex-council estate houses are now privately owned.
Embassytown is a city located in the furthermost reaches of known, colonized space. The narrator, Avice, was raised there and but has spent most of her adult life working on spacecrafts, traveling through deep space, returning to Embassytown as sort of a gift to her new husband, a linguist. The planet is known throughout the universe as the home of Ariekei, a species with a unique language and mode of expression that can only be spoken by paired, genetically altered ambassadors. Then a new ambassador arrives to Embassytown and the results are world-shattering.
I fully expected to enjoy this novel because I loved The City & the City, but man did Embassytown annoy the bejeezus out of me. I was so frustrated that everything was completely, purposefully opaque. It is too much to both confuse the reader by using made-up terms without enough context to define them (I still have no idea what "immersing" and "floaking" are) and to deliberately make the plot confusing because either the narrator didn't understand it or, more irritatingly, because the narrator "coyly" tells us that she's not going to explain it to us so we are astonished at a future event.
Plus the pacing was not good --- build up build up build up -- first crises (not understood by narrator nor shown to the reader) -- long boring bit of calm with heavy foreshadowing -- politics, build up, philosophy, politics, more build up and climax that wasn't very interesting followed by overly long, condescending explanations. There were moments of compelling, good writing, but overall not a fun experience.
In the not-to-distant future, those with means can choose to have children genetically modified for physical appearances and tendencies for specified traits. One extremely rich man, self-made and having created his wealth through sustained, rigorous work, is eager to provide his daughter with something he wished he had -- more time. He insists she receive a still experimental modification that eliminates the need for sleep.
The sleepless as they grow up all become extraordinary people -- using their extra time to advance themselves in knowledge, skills, and wealth exponentially faster than their sleeper cohort. Which of course leads to social conflict.
The concept is interesting, but the execution is not. The story is told very simply (and in audio, it become apparent, with MUCH repetition). The "plot" is driven by different sleepless characters expounding on their philosophy in excruciating detail of how they should (or shouldn't) fit into society.
I wish I had read the original novella instead of the expanded 400-page novel.
Cassandra at the Wedding by Dorothy Baker, pub 1962
Cassandra is one half of a pair of identical twins. The novel opens with Cassandra contemplating her trip back to the family ranch for her sister's wedding -- getting home slowly, by degrees, fortified with drink -- while she stares at the Golden Gate Bridge, flirting with the idea of jumping. All this in the first two pages -- we know that there will be family conflict, the mother is dead, and Cassandra is having suicidal thoughts; we are shown both her black humor and her vulnerability immediately.
Cassandra is a mess of a person, struggling with how to be an individual, an adult, after a lifetime as a twin in a socially isolated, smugly intellectual and superior family. Cassandra is sharp and witty and utterly outrageous. An excellent character, but one I would not want to be around for real.
Well, I'll look forward to following along with your thread henceforth. Cheers!
I read this too long ago to summarize the story. But then again, in the tradition of epic poetry and greek plays, there are so many twists and turns that I would have been unable to summarize it the day I finished.
The story centers on two young lovers: Chariclea, unbeknownst to her an Ethiopian princess but after being passes through three "fathers" has become a priestess of Artemis in Delphi, and Theagenes, a Greek noble who wins athletic contests and Chariclea's heart. It is a story containing almost all the things, "Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants,
Like many epic poem, the story starts in the middle -- at the end of a skirmish in which almost everyone, except our protagonists, are dead. The rest of the story moves forward in time, but the background is conveyed as the protagonists meet strangers and tell each other their histories (and conveniently, all the strangers they meet happen to be tied to Chariclea's past). It can be rather confusing, with different narrator's nesting stories within stories (a la The Arabian Nights). I am sure there is much symbolism and the themes of great literature, but I read it for the surface adventure story and it was quite fun.
Asphodel by Hilda Doolittle (H.D.), pub. 1992
This should not have been my end-of-day-with-a-glass-of-wine book -- the writing is beautiful but I never had a grasp on the events alluded to or felt any emotion.
The Midnight Examiner by William Kotzwinkle, pub. 1989
A caper plot set in New York City's tabloid industry, I loved the way the characters were constantly framing the absurd events they narrate with potential tabloid headlines.
Max Havelaar by Multatuli, pub. 1860
A Dutch "muck-raking" novel, with an entertaining frame story and layers of narration that while some were enjoyable (meta-commentary!), ultimately I found the structure I found both distancing and confusing.
OK, I did a little research! Turns out I was right!
"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a comedy science fiction series created by Douglas Adams. Starting out as a radio comedy broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1978, it was later adapted to other formats, including stage shows, 5 novels, comic books, a 1981 TV series, a 1984 video game, and 2005 feature film."
And not only that, here is a link to free downloads of the original:
Set in a remote, war-torn area of the Congo, Ruined offers a glimpse at Mama Nadi's resolve to carve out a place stability. In her bar, she is in control. All men are welcome, whether rebel fighters, government soldiers, traders, or diamond merchants, as long as they leave their bullets at the door. She provides food and shelter and a modicum of safety for her girls -- women that have been given, sold, or traded to her after being raped by soldiers and subsequently disowned by their communities.
The stories of the various characters, related mostly by or to Mama Nadi, are truly horrible, but subtly told. As in most play scripts detail and nuance are missing, to be supplied by the movement, expressions and tone of voice of the performers, so it is only ever half a reading experience. For example, it is clear that "ruined" is different than rape, but the text by itself does not convey what that is. In addition to the story of Mama Nadi's bar and the approaching skirmishes, there is a secondary storyline for one of the prostitutes that just didn't ring true there is not enough depth of character for the actions of a bit player to make sense to me. All that said, the dialogue is very good and I can see how with the right director and cast this would be an exceptional performance.
Well, that was quite the experience. After Claude was written, and set in early 1970s New York, starring one of the most dislikable characters I've encountered. Harriet, an opinionated, narcissistic woman has just been thrown out of her French boyfriend's Greenwich apartment. The boyfriend made the mistake of being nice to her after she was thrown out of her best friend's apartment 6 moths previously. The best friend had offered Harriet a place to stay after she returned from Paris (where the implication is that she was thrown out of the country).
Fitting for her character, the novel is completely first-person -- there are no hints of what ther characters might be thinking, because the narrator is oblivious of her impact on others. She has an unapologetic acerbic wit and complete belief in her opinions and point of view. Other reviewers loved the book and the narrator's humor, but I had trouble finding her abrasiveness funny.
Like many readers, I found the second part of the book, the section that takes place after Claude has finally removed her from the apartment to be confounding. Harriet winds up in the Chelsea hotel and falls in with an intriguing neighbor, a second-in-command of some sort of cult. It is clearly he author's point of the book, but I have trouble reconciling the fiercely opinionated, radically non-conforming character of the first section with the woman at the end of the novel docilely waiting for acceptance.