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What are you reading at the moment?
  • So I just finished Radio Fragments, a book of poetry from this dude I follow on twitter. I liked it! Mostly, I was relieved to keep going back to it in between reading Mind And Cosmos, by Thomas Nagel.

    I’d picked up the latter because I pretty much only knew him as “the What Is It Like To Be a Bat guy”, and thought he might bear further exploration (largely, I admit, based on my love of trying to imagine what it is like to be a bat). As it turns out, NOPE, he did not; the whole book is facile and handwavy in the least interesting of all possibile ways, constantly edging toward this pseudo-creationist (yet atheist?) stance without even having the evangelical-religious upside of a Cool Furrowed-Brow Anthropomorphic Diety With A Sick Core. I was pretty excited going in, but I can’t remember the last time I finished a book with this much animosity toward it.

    At any rate, I might read davy’s recommendation of The Passage next, or maybe re-read Cloud Atlas prior to the movie release, or maybe re-read some Coetzee. I got super drunk the other night and started talking about the movie Ravenous, and thinkin’ about metaphors for the intersection of vegetarianism and postcolonialism has got me itching to revisit Coetzee’s Disgrace.

  • I started China Mieville’s Un Lun Dun which is more of a young adult novel, and I was enjoying it but then I switched laptop bags and never managed to get the book back into my bag. So I need to track that down and put it back in my bag to finish it.

    Rereading Cloud Atlas sounds aces but I’m still not 100% sold on the movie adaptation.

    I also have utter fuckloads of science fiction & hard boiled novels on my phone that I can read at will so if you think of something that exists in one of those genres that might be good, let me know about it.

  • Rereading Cloud Atlas sounds aces but I’m still not 100% sold on the movie adaptation.

    I pointed out the other day on twitter that like 80% of my excitement about it is that someone will undoubtedly make a fanvid of the Sonmi/Papa Song portion set to Electric Six’s Down at McDonnellzzz and I can’t wait to see that.

    I also have utter fuckloads of science fiction & hard boiled novels on my phone that I can read at will so if you think of something that exists in one of those genres that might be good, let me know about it.

    I liked Hyperion/Fall of Hyperion a lot! Also, I downloaded a Ted Chiang collection on a whim, and it’s a heck of a lot of fun (plus way shorter than like a thousand pages of Hyperion).

  • I liked Hyperion/Fall of Hyperion a lot!

    I’m pretty sure one of my first 5 posts on LPTJ was reccing these books

  • And yes, Nog: The Passage. That goes for the rest of you too.

    I’m gonna get around to Hyperion next year, probably.

  • I’m working my way through aSoIaF and loving it. Just met the Queen of Thorns for the first time.

  • The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered The World by Thomas M. Disch. Only 50 pages in but I’m digging it so far. I’ve got a complicated relationship with Disch - I’ve read him since high school & admire him as a sci-fi writer, poet, and smart critic of both genres, but he’s got some major chips on his shoulders re: fame & literature that I’ve learned to see past. Not sure everyone’s so charitable.

    His suicide a few years ago really bummed me out.

  • I’m racing through The Remains Of The Day. It’s so good.

  • I’m reading The Gates by John Connolly, in which Hell is sort of an alternate universe and demons harness the power of the Large Hadron Collider in order to open a portal to Earth so that Satan may destroy it.

    After this I will try to read A Respectable Trade by Philippa Gregory for a book club. And I’m trying to decide if I want to read Interview with a Vampire for another book club, since my regular one isn’t meeting in October. I got book clubs out the wazoo.

  • Downloaded the free sample of the passage, and am about 20 pages in; it’s pretty good, so far!

  • Jim, I love China Mieville. I just tore through all the New Crobuzon books in the past year. The Scar was one of the best things I’ve read lately.

    I just finished 1Q84 (which was exactly what you would expect a really long Haruki Murakami book to be like) and now I’m reading Swords Against Wizardry by Fritz Leiber. Reading these books now, I see where practically every Forgotten Realms novel I read in high school stole everything from. I love how Leiber and Robert E Howard portrayed their fantasy cities with a lot of grit.

  • Readin’ the Palliser novels in order (having only read Phineas Finn before). Everybody gets so hung up on the politics, that I forget how emotionally astute and sensitive Trollope is; he’s probably second only to Eliot in showing you why people do the things they do.

    edit: among 19th century British novelists, obviously

  • I am reading Cloud Atlas for the first time. I am mostly enjoying it and finding it weird how each section is turns into a pulp adventure tale second time through. At times I wish it was less cute and self referent but whatever.

    I might read the latest Ben Marcus novel next, unless I grab an actual paperback.

  • Whenever Cloud Atlas pops up I have this compulsion to butt in and ask if you’ve read ‘The Thousand Autumns Of Jacob De Zoet’, because I loved that book so much.

  • nickinko said: Whenever Cloud Atlas pops up I have this compulsion to butt in and ask if you’ve read ‘The Thousand Autumns Of Jacob De Zoet’, because I loved that book so much.

    I just started The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet a little bit ago. I’m enjoying it tremendously so far. I’m going back and forth between that and Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarian. It’s like a gluttony of fantastic prose over here.

  • nick ink! i would like to talk more about ishiguro! after remains of the day, please read the unconsoled!

  • I’m reading Coriolanus. It’s awesome!

    You common cry of curs! whose breath I hate
    As reek o’ the rotten fens, whose loves I prize
    As the dead carcasses of unburied men
    That do corrupt my air, I banish you;
    And here remain with your uncertainty!
    Let every feeble rumour shake your hearts!
    Your enemies, with nodding of their plumes,
    Fan you into despair! Have the power still
    To banish your defenders; till at length
    Your ignorance, which finds not till it feels,
    Making not reservation of yourselves,
    Still your own foes, deliver you as most
    Abated captives to some nation
    That won you without blows! Despising,
    For you, the city, thus I turn my back:
    There is a world elsewhere.

  • Also trying to decide if next I read A Visit From the Goon Squad (which I fear will be like a slightly higher-brow Jonathan Lethem), Inherent Vice, or something else. I’d really like to read another Vollmann but absolutely nothing is available for my Kindle and I cannot lug a 1000pp brick around with me all day.

  • love this line

    Your ignorance, which finds not till it feels,

  • adam said: nick ink! i would like to talk more about ishiguro! after remains of the day, please read the unconsoled!

    Oh yes, me too :-) Thanks for the recommendation. I will seek it out.

    As for The Remains Of The Day, I really love it. The writing is great and, well, there’s just something about fading, repressed early twentieth century Englishness that really chimes with me!

    I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to read it, as for one thing the price sticker on the back suggests I bought it (at inflated import prices) in Korea, so at least 6 years ago, and secondly because I’ve seen the film about 725 times. Usually, I would be apologetic about seeing a film adaptation before reading the book, but that film is in my top 5 of all-time so it’s all good.

  • Captain said:I’m going back and forth between that and Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarian.

    Oh! I should go back to that one, too.

    The Passage continues to be great! And Davy’s right on the Stephen King comparison: it does have the kind of easygoing, immensely-palatable weariness that a lot of King’s writing has, while being much better-written than I think King’s books are.

  • pollo said: Also trying to decide if next I read A Visit From the Goon Squad

    my writing is forever being compared to this book. the comparison is supposed to be favourable, i think, but i can’t bring myself to read it.

  • Nog, take note! Cronin was profiled in the Times today: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/07/magazine/the-passage-of-justin-cronin.html?ref=magazine

    …I don’t recall any spoilers, but I skipped the paragraph about what happens in The Twelve. Some really nice background info on how and why the book was written. Apparently, I’m not the only one who sees fit to namecheck both Stephen King and The Road as comparisons.

  • a visit from the goon squad is easily the worst book i’ve read in the past two years but hey

  • adam said:

    pollo said: Also trying to decide if next I read A Visit From the Goon Squad

    my writing is forever being compared to this book. the comparison is supposed to be favourable, i think, but i can’t bring myself to read it.

    adam, without knowing your work, I’m guessing music figures into it, and Goon Squad is just the first novel that comes to mind for a lot of folks when they think “music” and “fiction”. But just hanging out on LPTJ for awhile puts you light years ahead of the goon squad author.

    I’m with BAoH - it’s a pretty dumb book. But my wife thought it was great, and our marriage has survived.

  • other egan stuff ranges from good to great but that book is like 14 lazily written short stories and the speculative elements are dumb as hell

  • also one million cringeworthy descriptions of music in that book and at least one extremely footnoted section that falls way short of any dfw pathos because the character at the center is a boring angry baby who sexually assaults someone

  • one million cringeworthy descriptions of music in that book

    QFT

  • Clayton_Peacock said: adam, without knowing your work, I’m guessing music figures into it, and Goon Squad is just the first novel that comes to mind for a lot of folks when they think “music” and “fiction”. But just hanging out on LPTJ for awhile puts you light years ahead of the goon squad author.

    thanks! it doesn’t, actually, but i tend to write several intersecting stories within one universe, which i’m told the book does.

  • nickinko said:
    Oh yes, me too :-) Thanks for the recommendation. I will seek it out.

    As for The Remains Of The Day, I really love it. The writing is great and, well, there’s just something about fading, repressed early twentieth century Englishness that really chimes with me!

    it’s so painfully repressed at times, though. i remember a moment when Stevens entered the room to console Miss Kenton about the passing of some relative or other, and instead found himself telling her that her cleaning duties have simply not been up to scratch lately. i somehow laughed out loud and groaned in frustration at the same time.

  • Yes. He also calmly carries on attending to spoiled guests and table settings minutes after his father has dies in the bedroom upstairs. I totally recognise this behaviour, and the absence of emotion in the prose makes the writing itself infinitely more emotionally powerful to me as a reader.

    It’s the only example I can think of where my enjoyment of a book is enhanced by having a clear visual image of a film adaptation in my mind’s eye. Specifically, Hopkins’ portrayal of Stevens.

    I think the end of this clip is the part you were thinking of adam. Watching that again, it looks so cruel, but I think that’s literally the only way he has of communicating anything to her, and almost unbelievably it serves as an act of kindness, some sort of expression of sympathy.

  • i can’t watch the clip on my phone, but i will when i get home! or maybe i should wait and watch the whole film? I’ve not yet seen it, and in fact find it difficult to picture Hopkins in the role.

  • Oh, I would say definitely wait and watch the whole film then.

  • to the lighthouse by v. woolf. brilliant as usual duh.

    I started reading a short story by Poul Anderson called Lady of the Winds but I got bored because it was just about some guy who was diddling around with this goddess creature who was “owned” by a warrior guy who got pissed that she was sleeping around on him. BORING. The beginning of the story made her this all powerful mystical being and just a page later she’s a girl who “wants to be more to [the protagonist[ than just a female body.” blergh.

  • WOOOOOOOLF YESSSSSSS

  • Just finished J.A. Baker’s ‘The Peregrine’, which was stunning. Currently hitting up Ian McEwan’s ‘Amsterdam’.

  • I love Ian McEwan, but the descriptions I’ve read of Amsterdam have never quite convinced me to read that one. I should, though; it’s been on my radar for ages. Anybody read his last one, Solar? Everybody was talking about it for a while…seems most people thought it was quite good.

    My favorite of his is The Child in Time, which is also one of the three or four saddest books I’ve ever read.

  • I read Solar and Amsterdam back to back earlier this year, actually. I preferred Solar but I don’t really remember why. It’s got a lot of funny parts in it, although I don’t think McEwan was very keen on it being labelled a comic novel. I liked Amsterdam too, but the worlds the central characters inhabit were a bit high and mighty for me. But it’s always beautiful writing with McEwan, so I’d basically recommend everything he’s written personally.

  • Late to the party, but never mind, I saw @Nog’s post and thought to respond.

    Nog said: the whole book is facile and handwavy in the least interesting of all possibile ways, constantly edging toward this pseudo-creationist (yet atheist?) stance without even having the evangelical-religious upside of a Cool Furrowed-Brow Anthropomorphic Diety With A Sick Core. I was pretty excited going in, but I can’t remember the last time I finished a book with this much animosity toward it.

    I haven’t read Nagel’s new book, nor am I likely to, given the scathing reviews it has received from all over, mostly on the same lines Nog gives above. But I can tell you unequivocally that he’s not a creationist nor does he take any steps in that direction. He believes that part of how you morally evaluate things (individuals, parts of individuals, institutions, and, with a bit work, actions) is by considering the type of thing that it is, and seeing how the thing holds up to other things of its type. Creationists believe that as well, but they think the relevant way to do so is to compare that thing to its purpose as put there by God. The creationist takes an extra step, one you can do without. There are other ways to flesh out how something compares to other things of its type, and you certainly don’t need to refer to the intentions of a creator. You can simply take things as they are. It turns out different things of the same type are structurally similar in interesting ways, one which suggests standards of evaluation. That’s all you need to get going.

    There are at least two current trends in philosophy in trying to flesh out where these type-specific standards comes from (Nagel isn’t really a part of either trend—he has done more arguing against reductive views than building up non-reductive alternatives). There’s the neo-Aristotelian line, that takes the typical life of an individual of that type of thing as the basis for evaluation, and the teleosemantic line, which tries to read kind-specific standards in how the process of evolution changes species over time. The second line is a favourite of militant atheists, and the domain of people unafraid to undertake widespread revision of our common-sense understanding of biology and society. In a way these include people Nagel is riling against, who want to replace our everyday views on the world (to the extent that we have them) with notions drawn from contemporary evolutionary biology (there are also other ways to pursue that reductive project).

    The neo-Aristotelian line is one I know much better (Auckland is a bit of a centre of activity for that trend), so I can tell you a lot about it. The classical statement of the view is Phillipa Foot’s Natural Goodness. It’s exactly like it says on the tin: Foot believes that some states of affairs are by nature better for an individual of a specified type. If you wanted to see all of this worked out into a full system of ethics, your best bet would be Rosalind Hursthouse’s On Virtue Ethics.

    If you want the teleosemantic line, Ruth Millikan is the person who has done the most to promote it, though her work is really technical and gets involved in very sticky issues in the philosophies of language and mind. I don’t really know of a good introduction to the view, but Kim Sterelny and Paul Griffith’s textbook on the philosophy of biology, Sex and Death, touches on it, and is a storming read in any case.

    If you were to read a Nagel book, I’d recommend his acknowledged masterpiece, The View from Nowhere. He was one of the spearheads in the backlash against reductive views in ethics and elsewhere in social philosophy, and this book is his most telling contribution. Perhaps his most recent one has him going too far, or too recklessly.

  • In light of today’s Kafka-esque news, I am pleased to report that I tweeted the following earlier this afternoon:

    The Trial: Cool story, Brod.

  • I finally got my mitts on 85 Ways To Tie a Tie after ages of interest if not seeking. The authors first recast tying a necktie into mathematical terms, understanding it as a random walk on a three-way lattice (left, right, center). Then they enumerate all the ways it’s feasible to tie a tie, and classify them according to a mathematical constraint for aesthetic appeal. So they cover all the ‘established’ knots and describe a couple new ones, that hadn’t arisen from tradition but satisfy all the demands for aesthetics. Topology and menswear! It tickles me no end.

    I have probably pasted this before in more clothing-related threads but a list of all the knots is available on the web already.

  • in a similar, much less serious vein, one of my favourite tumblr/blogs, Fuck Yeah Menswear, has a book coming out soon, and I’m excited. the blog, and presumably the book, is hilarious beat poetry about menswear. I’d give a link but I’m on my phone. in any case, check it out if that sounds like your bag.

  • I finished that Philippa Gregory book, and it was a steaming pile of trash, as anticipated. SPOILER ALERT everyone is an asshole and I was so happy when the sniveling protagonist died.

    I just read about thirty pages of Interview With a Vampire, but a) so far, all the characters are annoying, and b) the version I acquired is a hard to read landscape PDF with a lot of mistakes, so I might abandon it. Plus the book club meeting about it is on Tuesday. Feh.

  • Anne Rice, feh. So many better vampiricists out there.

  • I was in need of some comfort the other day, so I started rereading (again) The Telling by Ursula le Guin. It’s still good. I love it when I can pick up a book I’ve always liked, and reread it without getting bored.

  • Clare said: I was in need of some comfort the other day, so I started rereading (again) The Telling by Ursula le Guin. It’s still good. I love it when I can pick up a book I’ve always liked, and reread it without getting bored.

    Oh I missed that! I am reading The Left Hand of Darkness here and there (pack, read, run errand, read, clean, read, screw around on the internet, read—I’m a very slow reader).

    Edit: I mean you know how you do, when you’ve already read it and you’re just playing.

  • I have been on a reading streak lately. One benefit of being unemployed I guess. A few weeks ago I bought all (well almost all) the Anne of Green Gables books for like $3.00 for my Kindle, so I tore through those (and ended up making cake and plum preserves, because all anyone does in those books is eat cakes and plum preserves). Yesterday I read Allison Bechdel’s new book “Are You My Mother” which was hard to get into, but I keep thinking about it today, so maybe it was better than I thought at first? It was pretty much a slog through the first 2/3 thirds but I got into it by the end. I also read “Asterios Polyp”, so it was meta graphic novel day I guess. I also didn’t enjoy that one as much as I was hoping to. Now I am going to finish “The Tin Drum” and “the Sea, the Sea”.

    I have also made a long list of books I remember enjoying and want to reread. So I will be hunting those down at the library. This is pretty fun, I haven’t enjoyed reading this much in years.

  • bethany_m said: I have been on a reading streak lately. One benefit of being unemployed I guess. A few weeks ago I bought all (well almost all) the Anne of Green Gables books for like $3.00 for my Kindle, so I tore through those (and ended up making cake and plum preserves, because all anyone does in those books is eat cakes and plum preserves).

    Had you read them before? My favorite L.M. Montgomery is the Emily of New Moon series, which I highly recommend.

    Right now I have absolutely no attention span and am alternating through the following pile at my bedside:

    Building Stories (Chris Ware); Wherever I Wind Up (R.A. Dickey); Storm of Swords (George R.R. Martin); Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt (Chris Hedges/Joe Sacco); Early Mormonism and the Magic World View (D. Michael Quinn); The Jungle (Upton Sinclair); The Book of Mormon (uh, Joseph Smith)

    Definitely eclectic…

  • That was me who just posted! I have decided to go back to my old username to avoid confusion! Hello!

  • Oh yeah! I was obsessed with them when I was a kid. My brother went to see a specialist on Prince Edward Island when we were in elementary school. For three summers in a row we would spend a week on PEI. So I got to go to the Anne of Green Gables House, which was great. And I definitely read Emily of New Moon, but I don’t remember much of it, so I’ll add that to the reread list.

    Though I don’t remember much about the Anne of Green Gables House, I vividly remember going to the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum, so that was probably kind of a end of an era for me right there.