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What are you reading at the moment?
  • Hey nick/alistair: I picked up The Wake and am really enjoying it. I had actually come up with my own idea to write a book in “shadow” Old English, so I was amazed to find out someone had already done so! I’m surprised I’d never heard of Kingsnorth before.

  • Glad to hear people are into it!

    I’m near the end of ‘J’ by Howard Jacobson now, set in a a mysterious dystopia that has resulted (probably) from some unspoken conflict that people are forbidden to remember. Characters snog each other as acts of violence, nobody seems to know who their natural parents are and everyone has a Jewish surname that isn’t their real name.

  • I’m reading Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott. It was either set up or was informed by all the medieval cliches—mysterious knights, tournaments, prodigal sons, Robin Hood, surly crusaders, etc. Plenty of Shakespeare in there, too. It has also piqued my curiosity about the Norman conquest of England. For a novel written in 1820 it’s surprisingly readable.

  • I got an enormous book out of the library about the Bayeux Tapestry - it has full-size sections of it reproduced on every page, plus transcriptions of the text and descriptions of the scenes, and it was a very nice way to read about the Norman conquest. If you’re into that sort of thing.

  • Totally. I’m not familiar with the tapestry, but it certainly looks interesting. It seems like anglo culture has collectively suppressed the history of England being conquered by a bunch of french people who were actually vikings. Or maybe I was never paying attention properly…

    It would be cool to check out the replica in Geraldine, NZ some day—assuming that I’ll get there before Normandy.

  • midnight_augury said: Totally. I’m not familiar with the tapestry, but it certainly looks interesting. It seems like anglo culture has collectively suppressed the history of England being conquered by a bunch of french people who were actually vikings. Or maybe I was never paying attention properly…

    It had a massive effect on our language too. For 200 years, nobody wrote anything down in English (as all the literate classes used French), and the language was on its knees by the 13th century. This, along with a few other factors (like later Dutch printers throwing extra letters into the press to get paid more and arbitrary Renaissance translations) radically changed English spelling, from what had previously been a phonetic language to the beautiful mess that we have now. 40% of our vocabulary comes from the French of that period, as well as stuff like the capitalised ‘I’ pronoun.

  • I just finished Howard Jacobson’s ‘J’. It’s one of those books where almost anything you say about the plot is a spoiler, so I won’t say anything. Suffice to say, it’s dystopian. Anyway, I enjoyed it and thought it was a surprising and absorbing story, a bit dense in places but one I disappeared into and was a bit sorry to finish.

  • I have a waxing and waning interest in history at large but I’m very into textile art history wherever I can get it. The best thing about the tapestry, to me, is that it has the earliest known depiction of Halley’s Comet!

    That bit about the language was something I’d heard of vaguely, that’s neat.

    I was thinking about it all recently because I just watched all the episodes of Foyle’s War available on Netflix, which mostly takes place in Hastings.

    PS, I’m reading the new Neal Stephenson, I’m not far into it, and so far it’s like a prequel to Wall-e with a different potential extinction event.

  • By the way, I live just up the road from Hastings. One of my best friends lives in the town next door, which is actually called Battle.

  • I’m reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant. I ordinarily love Ishiguro’s writing - The Unconsoled is my favourite book ever, bar none, and Never Let Me Go might be the only novel I ever cried reading, but I’m finding the Buried Giant’s faux-fantasy world pretty tiresome thus far. It’s likely because I’m only reading it in very short stints, a chapter at a time, when i t should probably be devoured in one sitting. Unfortunately that’s all I really have time for in the evenings.

  • Yes, I haven’t read it, but I’m afraid of it. I liked Never Let Me Go, and Remains Of The Day is in my top 10 books of all-time, but…

  • After watching Inherent Vice for a third time, I decided I should read the book. So far, I’m really enjoying it, though I wonder if there was maybe a better place to start with Pynchon, as I haven’t read him yet. Anyway I really like the rhythm of it, it’s a lot of fun.

    I’m also reading a nonfiction book called Sidewalk, which is an ethnographic study of black men in Greenwich Village in the 1990s making their living selling secondhand goods and panhandling. It’s a fascinating and really human look at these folks who are just trying to get by while being under attack by “quality of life” measures and broken windows policies. It’s my understanding that in the end “quality of life” won out, but I’m not there yet.

  • I recently gave “Vineland” a try, but gave up after a few chapters. Pynchon’s voice just bothers me, similar to the way that Vonnegut kind of bothers me (maybe it’s the “fun” thing that you mention), but worse.

    The Crying of Lot 49 is mercifully short (and has some cool ideas at work), I’d wager that’s a good place to start.

  • I just finished Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale For The Time Being. At the beginning, I thought it might be a bit slight, even affected, but by the end I found it utterly engrossing and unforgettable. I’m suffering withdrawal symptoms now it’s finished. It’s a touching and thought-provoking book about Japan, Zen Buddhism, time, quantum physics, the dotcom bubble, tsunamis, the reader/writer relationship, kamikaze pilots and teenagers. I loved it!!


    Next up, The Dog, by Joseph O’Neill.

  • Sounds kinda Murakami-esque, to make a perhaps obvious comparison. I’ll have to keep it on my radar.

    I found a good batch of vintage paperbacks at the op shop yesterday. Flaubert, F. Scott Fitzgerald, C.S. Lewis in sci fi mode, Scott Donaldson (who sounds like the Van Der Graaf Generator of 70s Fantasy), and Orwell’s Road to Wigan Pier.

    I’m also sinking into Lev Grossman’s The Magicians which seems to be highly regarded but is only so-so thus far. It’s a bit like a more self consciously badass/cynical/reality-based version of Harry Potter.

  • I’ve decided to read my way up to the new Toni Morrison novel by reading and/or re-reading my way through her collected work—truth is, there’s a lot I haven’t read, and I’m working with a somewhat struggling grad student who’s writing on black women’s lit and so I’m hoping this’ll make me more useful there too. Did Song of Solomon last month, which I hadn’t read before and which is pretty great, and have been waiting on Tar Baby because M’s going to read it with me but has been distracted. This one I read as an undergrad and didn’t love, but curious how it’ll play now.

    Meanwhile, 2/3 through Charles Willeford’s Cockfighter, and wow, these are some unflinching descriptions of the sport.

  • muk

    I couldn’t get into this when I was tired and working a lot and snatching 10 or 15 sleepy pages in the evening, but once I had a bit of time for it, I liked it a lot. It’s a big family saga covering three generations in Calcutta, interwoven with letters from the prodigal son who has run away to be a Naxalite revolutionary in 1967.

    Then I quickly read another Joseph O’Neill book, ‘Netherland’, a narrative built around cricket and immigration in post-911 New York. I think I preferred the other one I read by him, ‘The Dog’, but again I worry that I was too tired to really engage with it properly a lot of the time I read it.

    Oh well, onwards and sideways. I’m on holiday for a week or two now, so no excuses with Ruth Ozeki’s ‘All Over Creation’. I loved loved loved ‘A Tale For The Time Being’, so I’m bracing myself for a lesser pleasure, but her stories have a warmth and sensibility that I really like.

  • Currently re-reading (the incredibly timely) Love in the Ruins by Walker Percy, alongside a Percy biography. Pretty infatuated with this dude lately. It started when I re-read The Moviegoer earlier this year — first time since my first or second year of college. I liked it then, but this time I went absolutely bonkers for it: all-time favorite status.

    So I resolved to tackle Percy’s entire oeuvre chronologically, and moved on to The Last Gentleman, which is almost as good. As I finished it, and got ready to start Love in the Ruins again (I read it for the first time a few years ago, but knew I’d need another crack at it), I realized I hadn’t been this gaga for a writer since Nabokov, and Vonnegut before him. So I figured I ought to read a biography of the man, especially considering he spent part of his childhood in Athens — the home where he lived is a sorority house now :(.

    Anywho, that’s my big reading project. It’ll probably take me most of 2016 to finish.

    Also looking forward to starting the brand new Volume 2 of James Kaplan’s Sinatra biography. The first one was fantastic.

  • I’ve been reading a lot of comics, and books about comics, and stuff for school (Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, lots of James Baldwin, June Jordan), and Of Dice and Men, a history of Dungeons and Dragons.

  • alistair said: Finally read The Road after numerous friends saying I would like it, and I did!

    That’s been sitting unread on my bookshelf for a few years now. I’m a bit afraid I won’t be able to handle it.

    alistair said: and also running through The Very Hungry Caterpillar once or twice a day :-)

    I remember it well. Capitalist propoganda brainwashing!

    I’ve neglected this thread actually. I’ve read a few since I last came here last year!:

    A friend gave me Sandor Marai’s Embers, an atmospheric Hungarian novel about two old friends with a dark secret. Then I whistled through Slade House, a sort-of-horror novella by David Mitchell, which was a lot of fun.

    I didn’t really love Ian McEwan’s The Children Act. He’s such a talented writer and I have about 10 books of his, but his stories seem to be getting more and more contrived and increasingly set in a privileged world that I don’t really recognise. Much more engaging was The Mark and the Void by Paul Murray, a comic novel set in Dublin around the financial crisis. I also picked up Screwtop Thompson, a set of short stories by the brilliant Magnus Mills.

    Another gift was In Order To Live, a non-fiction memoir by the North Korean defector and human rights activist, Yeonmi Park. I suppose there are a few of these kinds of books available, but it was an affecting story and competently written.

    Finally, I had a couple of weeks off recently and read Kazuo Ishiguro’s fantasy novel, The Buried Giant. I wasn’t really sure to start with but found it really absorbing and nuanced as it went on. Then I read Harvest, by Jim Crace and loved it. I have to read more by him as the style of writing really appealed to me.

    Right now, I’m a third of the way through Preparation For The Next Life by Atticus Lish (!), about a relationship between a Chinese illegal immigrant and an Iraq war veteran, both stumbling around on the margins of New York. It’s quite dense and descriptive, with lost of trailing clauses and repetition, but I think I like it.

  • I prefer your interpretation!

    I think I’d once read and dimly remembered something along the lines of this - http://howacaterpillarcanshapetheworld.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/marxist-interpretation-of-very-hungry.html

  • Bob Mehr’s new biography of the Replacements, “Trouble Boys”, which I plowed through in a couple days. Much like the band’s music, it is alternately hilarious, heartbreaking, and infuriating. I am clearly the smack dab in the target audience of ‘Mats lifers so I ate this stuff up, but I think their story is interesting enough that is might even appeal to non-fans. But then again, what do I know?

  • Ooh. I’ll have to look for Replacements bio for the Bloke. He’s a big fan… Also, in terms of caterpillars, I’d always thought like Alistair, that it was healthy-eating propaganda. I’ll have to check out the essay!

  • So I finished Preparation For The Next Life, and the second half was really moving and powerful. Desperately sad though. It was such a vivid book of place too, following the two principal characters as they walked and ran through various immigrant communities of New York. Bits of it recalled a kind of modern day Ralph Ellison vibe.

    I’m now reading a Newfoundland writer called Michael Crummey that my Canadian best friend from Korea recommended.

  • I’m following up Madame Bovary with Conan the Swordsman. L. Sprague De Camp is no Robert E Howard, but I’ll take what I can get (or find easily in the thrift shop). The best part is the 1979 vintage drawings of Conan’s equipment and various buildings.

    I would read the Replacements book. They had a big display of them at the Electric Fetus in Minneapolis when I was there. Too expensive for my budget at the time, though.

  • I stayed up too late last night cos I’m most of the way through this book called Pride Against Prejudice: Transforming Attitudes to Disability by this disabled feminist Jenny Morris, cos I realised I’m woefully underversed in disability politics. The book is pretty fantastic and quite readable, and I’d recommend it to anyone wanting to know more about that stuff. Read some really horrific stuff about institutional care in it last night—I mean I knew in a general sense that a lot of institutional care is awful, but it was rather visceral and brought it home a bit. It really seems like the criminalisation of the disabled body under the guise of protection, which I feel has parallels to forced rescues/detainment of sex workers and, more obviously, to retirement homes and arguably schools. I’m sure Foucault wrote something about that in the little I read of Discipline and Punish.

    I felt sick reading it though, so picked up the novel I’m reading by Sarah Waters called The Paying Guests set in London in 1922, where a spinster (at the ripe old age of 26, my age hah) becomes the lover of her married woman lodger. I like it more than any of her books I’ve read since Tipping the Velvet, which is one of my favourite books. However I’d just got to the part with the murder scene, so it wasn’t exactly a comforting read.

  • mc Michael Crummey - Galore

    I just finished this sprawling, multi-generational epic set in 18th/19th scentury Newfoundland, and loved it. It’s sort of a Newfy 100 Years Of Solitude I suppose, and by the end it really got inside my imagination. My best friend from the Korea days is from St.Johns and he sometimes gives me/recommends Canadian books. He recently sent me a book called The Orenda by Joseph Boyden, does anyone know of that?

    Next up, Magnus Mills’ The Field Of The Cloth Of Gold.

  • I read a lot on holiday over the last two weeks. I didn’t really enjoy Tom McCarthy’s Satin Island, a story of 21st century ethnography that was smart but never really settled down into any kind of character or plot. Then I read Paul Auster’s Moon Palace. It’s only the second of his I’ve read and I get the impression it’s a little more straightforward than most of his novels. I got into it though, and it made me want to read some more of his.

    I loved Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda, an epic and sometimes brutal depiction of Jesuits and Native Americans in 17th century Canada. But most of all, I was blown away bu Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ In Evil Hour, which I actually read twice in three days. I’m trying to work my way through everything of his and, the two big guns apart, this was definitely my favourite so far.

    In between the novels I read a few short stories (from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ Collected Stories, Borges’ Labarynths ( I think I need help with these though :( , and Michael Crummey’s Flesh and Blood)