Sibylline's 2020 Root Thread!

Discussão2020 ROOT CHALLENGE

Aderi ao LibraryThing para poder publicar.

Sibylline's 2020 Root Thread!

Editado: Dez 26, 2020, 5:15 pm


Jan 8, 2020, 5:45 pm

Good plan. Go for it

Welcome to the ROOTers!

Jan 8, 2020, 7:38 pm

Great setup! Good luck with your ROOT goal :)

Jan 9, 2020, 9:40 am

Good luck, and happy reading!

Jan 9, 2020, 9:57 am

Welcome and happy ROOTing!

Jan 9, 2020, 12:34 pm

Hope your reading is all good!

Jan 20, 2020, 8:42 pm

Not getting anywhere with the Byatt -- no fault of the book, more a mood issue on my part. When I do start reading I become involved, but once put down I don't feel drawn to pick the book up again . . . so I'm adding the Tey. If I continue "not-reading" the Byatt, I won't chuck it, but will put it back on the shelf. I've loved other of her novels.

Jan 21, 2020, 4:25 am

I have the same thing with the Carlos Ruiz Zafón I'm reading right now. But I do want to finish it this month.

Jan 21, 2020, 9:13 am

>7 sibylline: I think it's a common affliction. I've picked up The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn again - I abandoned it at about 95 pages just over a year ago. I'm finding it much more bearable this time round (although confession: I started where I had left off rather than going back to the beginning again!).

Editado: Jan 21, 2020, 9:38 pm

>8 connie53: My local book group did a Zafon this fall The Shadow of the Wind and it was a slog for me.

>9 Jackie_K: It's a surprisingly dark story, isn't it? So much of Twain's writing is . . . clever and witty.

Editado: Jan 25, 2020, 11:09 am

1. First ROOT!

mys classic ***1/2
The Franchise Affair Josephine Tey

In sum: dated. At the same time, well-plotted and written. Two not well-off upper-middle class living in an ugly isolated house they inherited are accused, out of the blue, of having held a young girl captive in their attic. The girl is very sweet and pretty on the surface and sympathy goes to her, plus she describes the house's inside with damning accuracy. One of the women asks the local lawyer, Robert Blair, who works mainly in estate not criminal law, to help them. To his surprise he is not only fully on their side, but enjoys the task immensely. I've read other Tey at other times, but this was the first one that set my back as so permeated with class and random prejudicesd and beefs that seem nonsensical to me to to the ignorance of bleeding heart liberals (in my view most extremes at either end exhibit this lack), that most women can't think analytically, or that people with a certain kind of blue eyes set wide apart can't be trusted, and a host of other oddities that grated. It did make me ponder aspects of the origins and audience of the detective genre -- upper middle class, well-educated, enjoying the leisure to untangle a mental puzzle, but also to enjoy having their own class and values affirmed in the process. Of course too, I'm one to talk, as generally, I gain indecent enjoyment of british cosy
mysteries. Some writers quietly poke fun at bias and themselves and everyone but I didn't feel that here. This went a few paces too far into social smuggery for me. ***1/2

This has been on my mystery shelf for yonks! So glad to move it along!

Fev 6, 2020, 9:37 pm

2. sf dystopic ****
The Chrysalids John Wyndham

comments forthcoming

Fev 7, 2020, 9:25 pm

>12 sibylline: Whoa, trippy cover!

Fev 21, 2020, 9:54 pm

>13 rabbitprincess: sorry about slow response!

I think the cover is meant to represent the telepathy of these "new" people -- Wyndham describes the ability as making/sending "thought forms".

Editado: Fev 22, 2020, 9:01 am

3. hist fic ****
The Children's Book A.S. Byatt

There is no doubt that World War I tore the (fraying) fabric of western culture. By the time it ended the world was changing, changed. We all know what came after and that the story unleashed then is, in the Middle East particularly, far from being over. Anyone with a sense of history, I hazard, cannot help but be drawn to the period directly before during and after -- countless histories, novels, and movies tackle some aspect (or try to encompass the whole). The overwhelming mood of all of this literature is loss. Byatt chooses the "artisan" class in England at the time, as her focus. A class apart, some well-connected but just as often not -- this is a class consisting of those with the talent and the drive to move "upward". Artists of all kinds from writers to puppeteers, potters to jewelry-makers and their families people this story. The Wellwood family are at the center with their closest friend. Art was indeed flourishing, albeit, as Byatt implies, in part by refusing to look at the "real" world, instead immersed in fantasy (quintessentialized by Peter Pan. Olive Wellwood, a writer of children's tales, lives in a comfortable country house, Todefright (sounds awful but means Toadfield) the mother of seven children. The novel opens with the discovery of a boy hiding in a museum. He is taken up and brought to Todefright as he exhibits the kind of talent and drive they recognize. At Todefright the traditional midsummer party is about to take place. There is a feeling permanence and security and abundance. But (isn't there always a 'but'?) peel away a layer or two and there are darker layers and secrets. Olive herself comes from an impoverished background, her father died in a mine. Her husband is a kind and loving man but also a philanderer. You begin to understand Olive's determination to create this haven. They have friends with secrets, some quite horrible. Above all they are loyal to each other and their talent. Throughout Byatt steps back to offer a précis of what is going on in world beyond the Wellwood orbit, and gradually the two begin to draw closer, the political invading the security and safety Olive has created. The seven children and their many friends reach maturity as the war erupts. Byatt is not nostalgic, by the way, for not all the change was bad, not the least of which was the emancipation of women and the shift into a less class-driven society. One character, Gabriel Goldwasser, a cameo role, has stepped back from his psychoanalytic studies, concluding that all this digging about for dirt in the psyche is not such a good idea, that he will content himself with studying "surface" -- what is there before him. There are implications too, that the creative life demands sacrifice, sometimes of sanity, more often of safety and security. Trying too hard to hold onto anything in an every-changing world is folly. ****1/2

Mar 1, 2020, 9:22 am

4. ( Pearled at 110p.)
lit bio
The Brothers Powys Richard Perceval Graves

So why pearled?

I woke up this morning thinking: I don't want to know more about John Cowper P. the oldest brother whose novels I think are extraordinary in every way a novel can be. I may talk myself out of stopping, but I think not. I'm almost uncomfortable at the idea of knowing more about Powys as if it might damage my appreciation of his fiction.

What is odd is that last year at this time I read a (huge!) biography of Chekhov and while it was slow going I was fascinated from start to finish by the whole family. Throughout too, I felt the biography was contributing to my understanding of Chekhov and his stories and plays. The Powys scenario, including the time frame is similar, late 19th century: huge family (ten, six boys, four girls), lots of intelligence and gifts but bestowed unevenly on the children. There is TB, there is (clearly) mood disorder, but the biggest difference is that Powys family fortunes are steady and the scene, in general, kinder and calmer, although the mother is surely the sort of distant self-absorbed (religious, in this case) person the father is available albeit somewhat overpowering in personality. Chekhov's grandfather was a serf, his father managed to rise enough to run a shop.

Anyway, the question of why one biography worked and another is not working is moot, really. Could be me, could be the biographer. We'll never know.

Editado: Mar 7, 2020, 1:11 pm

5. sf ****
The Will to Battle Ada Palmer

I couldn't face writing my review for a couple of days because I am so ambivalent about what to say. On the one hand -- explaining how "brilliant" the novels in this series truly are, complex world-building, deeply thought-provoking ideas, intriguing characters -- but at the same time such a pain to slog through! I want to whinge and say the book is too complex for its own good, that the prose is so mannered as to be obfusc often to the point of interfering with following what is happening, characters have too many names and nicknames so that I hardly know who is who. Not to mention the fact that all of these characters are the utterly exalted brilliant and perfect and beautiful leaders of this world, including a god or two and a hero of the Iliad brought back to life (one of the few accessible characters, in fact.) I don't require that I 'care' about characters, but . . . well, maybe that is as it should be, this is the future and these folks are different. Or are they? The long and short is that this is one of those weird books you have a hard time enjoying as you read it but love (or can't help) thinking about later. There are, however, writers who are just as challenging and intense who do not indulge quite so thoroughly in density. The questions around which the entire series revolves are many although they may compress down to one: Does anyone, even a god, have the right to absolute power? The novel, set many centuries into the future, posits a political structure that has been stable for hundreds of years. The "problem" is that knowledge has leaked out that this stability has been the result of judicious assassination in all that time. At the same time, it seems that divine intervention is also present: a boy is able to bring his toy figurines to life. Another person is, perhaps, an invited God from another realm, a guest invited by our own supreme deity, for reasons unguessable. There is an inexorable move toward instability and disintegration of the status quo as people shift from being determined to keep the peace, to compromise, to negotiate, to do whatever necessary slowly but surely into anger, into rage and into . . as Hobbes, the premier political theorist of the 18th century wrote. . . the state of mind of being ready and willing to go to war. I'm not the least bit sorry I've stuck with these novels, but I will admit that it is the ideas, gleaned here and there, which pull me, not the people or their antics. Now and then Palmer relaxes for a few pages and the writing becomes smooth and utterly engaging. Ah well, I am sure there are other readers who would differ and enjoy the challenge. I will read Book 4 when it arrives, but with a "I wish this was a bit more fun to read." feeling. ****1/2

Mar 13, 2020, 5:38 pm

6. Pearled memoir
Burmese Lessons Karen Connelly

Perhaps the less said the better. I expected to be enthralled by Burma, that the love affair was with the place, but instead I began to realize I am supposed to be enthralled by Karen Connelly and her love affair with a revolutionary leader, Maung. I read a hundred pages and then swam around the rest. Nothing at all wrong with the book, only that it did not speak to me. It might be fascinating to someone else, so decide for yourself if the book is on your shelf or wishlist.

Mar 18, 2020, 4:12 am

Luckily you have read a great but weird book too, Sibylline.

Editado: Mar 28, 2020, 8:31 am

7. contemp fic *****
Wild Dogs Helen Humphreys

A tough read, but Humphreys creates a balanced novella which is as it should be as she is writing about love and the contradictory (understatement) nature of the human heart. A motley group assemble nightly to call for their dogs who have gone wild, joining a pack. They have crossed over from tame to wild. Many have had a family member "dispose" of the dog by taking it and leaving it out in the wild. In other words, they are in difficulties to begin with and for most their dogs were a lifeline. A beautiful book. In the back Humphreys saysn (better than I can), in an interview, "I think that as humans we alternately crave order and chaos. We want the nice, paved-over street and tidy houses, but, after a time, we grow bored with that and want to destroy it all and start again. This is what love can do for us. It is perhaps the only thing that can satisfy these conflicting desires in us. . . "Humphreys understanding and reflections on dogs and our relationship with them are profound. *****

Abr 5, 2020, 8:45 am

8. mys ****
The Dead Mountaineer's Inn Boris and Arkady Strugatsky

A police inspector, Peter Glebsky. specialized in fraud and white collar crime, goes on a ski holiday for a needed rest, away from family and work in the mountains. Only. . . the Inn, recommended by a friend. Instead of finding rest he finds a peculiar assortment of guests, a financier with a beautiful wife, a magician with a gender opaque nephew/niece, a mountain climbing physicist, a giant Swede, etc. Someone is playing practical jokes, moving things around, making the floor damp here or there. Peter is enjoying observing them but then, inevitably, there is a dead body. He is not a murder detective, but he jumps into gear. There is also an avalanche that has made leaving impossible, phone lines down. Only . . . the clues just gets more and more impossible, more and more absurd. This is and isn't a murder mystery and is more absurd than serious, more humorous than not but it pivots on an aspect of human nature that is neither absurd nor humorous: the human need to make a story that 'works' which, in this case, involves overriding the more improbable (but true) explanation. It's fun, but not for everyone. ****

Editado: Abr 14, 2020, 9:20 am

9. **1/2
Signposts in a Strange Land Walker Percy

I loved The Moviegoer and Love in the Ruins and have been planning to reread them. I picked up this tome as a freebie on the library give-away shelf and it sat on my shelves a long while. I don't know why I persisted in reading these essays, for pretty much every one was on the same few themes. C.S. Lewis another convert to Catholicism wrote about his need and experience vividly, Percy dabbles around the edges. He is wearisomely and relentlessly a man of his literary generation, so entirely male-centric, and so oblivious to anything about women, women's lives, and women's literature -- the only woman writer he ever even mentions is Joan Didion! Are you kidding me? Oh and did I mention that he is a southern writer? He contradicts himself often, as in, there is no southern culture anymore, only a memory of one, but then writes essay after essay that seems to explore at least the remnants of southerness in writers. As a southern Christian he acknowledges that white southern Christians have a spotty record vis a vis racism, at the same time he scorning the northern liberals, but then admits it wass the Sarah Lawrence sociology majors who came south to sign up black voters. I can't go near his anti-abortion reasoning, I found his argument so emotional and so bizarre and so insensitive to women's issues (which he mentions with scorn) (and I don't have a black and white, all or nothing view on the subject, recognize that there are profound issues that require those now scorned words: compromise, compassion, and good common sense). He scorns the novel as entertainment and sees that its primary virtue is explaining and illuminating the condition of man. I don't totally disagree with that only I don't feel a need to belittle the R&R aspect of many novels, healing not searing. The most interesting pieces are about the ideas of Charles Peirce the 19th century philosopher who I've encountered several timess--he is essentially the founder of semiotics and this is the one place where Percy and I are in agreement. The scorning, by the way, is all done so politely but firmly; he's a curmudgeon and a southern gentleman, maddening and full of charm. I'll stick with his novels. **1/2

Maio 9, 2020, 10:14 am

10. contemp fic ***
La Tour Dreams of the Wolf Girl David Huddle

What I love about Huddle's work is that he is always up to something, experimenting. That said, not every experiment is going to work -- or work for everyone. In this novel the story goes back and forth from George de La Tour, a French Baroque painter from the 17th century, to present-day Burlington, Vermont with little stops in Manhattan and Virginia up in the mountains where the two main characters come from, one from the city (Jack) and the other from a rural backwoods town (Suzanne). Suzanne is the first of her family to go to college and she is, by her own words, "a phenomenon". Jack is an ordinary likeable fellow of the middle upper crust. Well, so they marry and Jack goes into advertising, a salesman is what he is, and Suzanne becomes a tenured art prof at the University of Vermont. We go between their story and Suzanne's imagined story of de la Tour's last painting, of a girl with a blemish, a small pelt of fur on her back. They develop a relationship that goes bad. In fact, most relationships seem to falter whenever people try to open up to each other. I could, if I spent the time on it, get what he was up to, but other things didn't work for me, to do with the sorts of details Huddle chooses to highlight about people which felt, simply, like the bit of fur on the girl's back, superficial. But Huddle is always worth a try! His poetry is wonderful, by the way. ***

Maio 9, 2020, 10:21 am

No question but that the books in the ROOT category are books I have avoided because of not being at all sure of how I will take them.

Hoping everyone here is well and coping with staying home so much. We are all so fortunate here that we like to read!

Maio 12, 2020, 2:44 am

Hi Sibylline. I hope you are well too. I'm fine and staying home isn't that difficult for me. I get a lot of reading done.

Maio 12, 2020, 10:07 am

>25 connie53: I am well and ditto about staying home. I haven't read any more than usual though and, except for the ROOT books, haven't challenged myself much.

Maio 30, 2020, 11:49 am

11. contemp fic ****
Kavalier and Clay Michael Chabon

Ultimately, not my "favorite" Chabon. I have put off reading it for years, I suppose, intuiting that I wouldn't find it as riveting as some of the others. At the same time, K&C has depths and heights and texture and, if you like Chabon, have any interest in the history of performing magicians and/or comic books, you owe it to yourself to take up the book. As with all Chabon's work, there is a lot of heart here too -- fearlessness around strong emotions, in this book especially around love, how it hurts, how it heals. Josef Kavalieri of Prague escapes (with the help of a golem) to America (NYC) where he lives with his cousins, one of them, Sammy who is his age. The two become close friends and end up going into business drawing and writing comic books. My attention flagged during some bits, who knows why, but there is a scene with Salvador Dali in a deep-sea diving suit that is priceless. Also a section set in Antarctica during the war, that I sat up past bedtime to read through. ****

Editado: Maio 30, 2020, 11:54 am

I managed to finish something! Since last stopping here I broke my ankle. (Two weeks ago.) So lots of reading time, now things are simply about being quiet and waiting for the bones to mend.

A "good" break, a fracture in the fibula, and the bones in leg and foot are lined up nicely, so no surgery. Phew. I should be starting mild PT in two weeks and more serious PT in a month. Out of a splint and into a boot now.

I seem to be doing best in the straight fiction category . . .

For now I will work on the Twain bio, barely begun.

Maio 30, 2020, 2:28 pm

>28 sibylline: Ouch! Hope you have a speedy recovery and that you have lots of good books to read while the bones mend.

Maio 31, 2020, 6:44 am

>28 sibylline: oh my goodness, you don't do things in halves! I hope the PT helps a very quick recovery!

Maio 31, 2020, 9:25 am

Wishing you a speedy recovery and good books to read!

Jun 27, 2020, 5:33 pm

Just stopping in to say that I'm fine -- ankle is healing. Monday I hope to get the go ahead to move on to real PT and weight-bearing and sleeping without that boot on.

ROOT reading has slowed -- I'm bogged down in the Twain bio but not because it is a bad book or because Twain is boring, heaven forbid, I've been reading more escape stuff, none of which is on my ROOT list.

Hope everyone here is healthy and able to focus and read. Things sure are weird and disturbing and getting more so every day.

Editado: Jul 4, 2020, 9:31 am

12. lit bio ***
Mark Twain: Man in White Michael Shelden bio

I love Mark Twain and have since I started reading to myself long ago. I still love Mark Twain and I learned a few things about him that I'm glad to know, but mostly, in this biography which covers the last few years of his life, I learned things I would rather not have known or didn't need to know. Nothing bad about him, he comes through as the marvelous being he was--enlightened through and through, funny, kind, brilliant, observant and full of a special kind of exuberance, a talent for living, you could say. In summary, after Twain's wife, Livy, died, he bought a house he didn't really like in New York, lived there with his daughter Clara, acquired a secretary/house manager and got on with things. His boldest move was to begin wearing white. He worked hard on his Autobiography, knowing large parts of it were unprintable until after his death. His closest friend was Henry Rogers of Standard Oil, he enjoyed the company of young girls -- but let me stop your eyebrows from rising right now -- there isn't a whiff of anything sordid in it. He wasn't a lascivious person, was faithful and loved his wife, loved having daughters, wished he had granddaughters, and generally, liked the female spirit (thought they should have the vote, btw.) Twain is a reminder that our own culture has become almost hysterical with fear of close friendships occurring between people of different ages and genders. The big story here is that Twain decided to have a house built in Redding, Ct, but he was too busy to supervise it and he set Isabel Lyons, the woman who ran everything on the project. Somewhere in there he acquired a secretary, Ashcroft, and with one thing and another Lyons and Ashcroft left to their own devices too much and with no supervision and full access to funds began cheating and scheming to get legal control of all of Twain's property. It's a sordid story indeed and a lesson to never trust anyone but yourself, really. Lyons didn't start out with any plans to cheat and steal, but bit by bit, she fell down a rabbit hole of a little here and a little there and then Ashcroft came up with a big plan and she went with it. The house, Stormfields, was beautiful, but only stood for about 14 years, most of the time empty, before burning to the ground. The death of his youngest daughter, Jean, was the turning point for him and after that, he began to fail. Probably the one thing I am most intrigued and happy to know is that Twain was born as Halley's comet passed over and died the same day it passed by 75 years later. So appropriate! I probably should have Pearled this bio, it took an age to get through! And it felt, yes, a bit gossipy rather than literary. And kind of sad. ***

Jul 16, 2020, 12:15 pm

Sorry to hear about your ankle! I hope the PT does its work.

Editado: Jul 29, 2020, 6:38 pm

Oh my goodness! I finished something. Such slow work here, but I slog onward.

>34 connie53: Ankle is improving slowly but surely, thankyou!

13. ROOT ****
Looking For Spinoza Antonio Damasio

Anything I write probably won't do justice to Damasio's book. In part because not being a neurobiologist when there is specific stuff about his or that part of the brain, my brain checks out. Same thing would happen with any technical discussion, really, of stuff I don't know anything about. But I got the gist of the argument about how and why feelings, as opposed to emotions (which are more basic) evolved and what they do for us. Also that Spinoza, in Damasio's view was the first to tackle the issue of what feelings are and if they arise out of the body or . . . what? In short, yes, feelings which are in some ways a refinement or further development of emotional response (say, terror, panic vs. guilt and shame, or ecstasy vs joy evoked by listening to Bach) and that all of what is in our minds, what we are aware of, arises out of the body. The evolutionary purpose of all is in the attempt to keep the organism in homeostasis, in balance with itself -- alive and thriving. Damasio does a good job in weaving technical information in and explaining the mechanics of the brain for the layman. I didn't get it all, but got enough, I think. Bringing Spinoza in, in the personal way he does, visiting his abodes, trying to get a sense of who he was adds a dimension to the book that was very welcome. The last section meant the most to me -- Spinoza made the point that humans don't have a lot of choice, but one of the gifts our complex system of emotions into feelings and self-awareness gives us choice. You can choose not to perseverate, in other words, choose to decide not to linger on the negative side -- you don't pretend it isn't there the way a Stoic would, but you don't wallow because why? Sounds simplistic, almost ridiculous? Try it next time you start excoriating yourself. Ask yourself: how will punishing myself help me or anyone? Of course, not everyone does have the ability to make this kind of choice, but most of us do. Anyway, this rational but compassionate approach did not even begin to gain any traction until the late 19th century. Spinoza offered it in the 1500's but was banned so successfully and totally that his work still hasn't surfaced or received the merit it deserves. He was not an atheist but he did not envision God as a reflection of humanity or even interested in humanity, but that a being or intelligence was evident in everything around us. I remember responding strongly to Spinoza in college philosophy class. An early humanist, really. ****

Dez 26, 2020, 3:42 pm

I'm here to wind up for the year. Considering everything I feel OK about how well I did. Many of the books I "hope" to read on this read are challenging, emotionally or intellectually (to greater or lesser degrees) or have just hung about for so long on my shelves I look at them the way you might look at an expired date on tomato sauce. Not fair to the book.

No question but that I intended to read more, at the very least to tackle one more biography, but although I have carried one about for months, (six, in fact) I never opened the book. (Nora by Brenda Maddox and I'm not sure what to do about that. One rule is to chuck a book in this case as a hopeless case, but I really do think I want to read this. I mean, she is sort of Molly Bloom, and Gabriel's wife in "The Dead" and I have seen the house she grew up in in Galway City and have walked much of the parts of town in Dublin where Joyce walked and so on and so forth. I have a feeling that if I just OPEN the darned Nora bio I will like it.

Anyway, I wish you all well, and I have to think about how to approach this area of my reading life anew, always trying to make it work better.

Happy New Year to all and let us hope for health and sanity and some generosity.

Dez 26, 2020, 4:06 pm

Happy New Year to you too!

Dez 27, 2020, 12:24 pm

I hope you find a way to make it work better. Maybe it was just not the time for this book. Next year might be better for it.