What are you reading today/book club

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Re: What are you reading today/book club

Postby khayandhi » Thu Jan 12, 2017 7:38 am

Brief notes on what I've read this week in no particular order:

Unai Elorriaga, Plants Don't Drink Coffee Child narrators often irritate me but this was well-drawn and charming enough that I forgive it. I don't think it will powerfully move anyone but it's a very graceful and thoughtful little creature of a book, the sort of long meander through interrelated family stories that I have a great deal of patience for. Its gentleness and kindness seem a bit unfashionable and thus rather loveable.

Nell Zink, The Wallcreeper I did not like this. A few moments of genuinely inspired and sparkling prose smeared over yet another glib dull story about tedious sex between apathetic affectless people. Everything this book had to say about men and women and geography and sex and feminism was exactly positioned to irritate me. (I did read the New Yorker profile of Zink earlier and suspected that I'd probably loathe her books but found her life story rather resonant.) Maybe I'm the wrong reader.

It was however a pretty interesting exercise in the line between 'well-calculated reference-dropping' and 'absolutely unbearable' – for the most part I thought that line was walked tolerably well, but a few were splendidly awful:
“I was raised on art and literature, the opiates of the intellectually underprivileged” (here I used the term for the poor in spirit from the Sermon on the Mount), “but I refuse to go on fiddling while Rome burns!”

“A life laid waste before it began,” I said, quoting Stephen’s frequent references to the profoundly discouraging climax of the classic Icelandic novel Independent People by Halldór Laxness.

(I do like Laxness but that was really a bit much.)

Elena Ferrante, The Days of Abandonment This is an Elena Ferrante book like other Elena Ferrante books, so you may already know whether or not you're going to like it. I did! I found it both more beautiful and more brutal than the Neapolitan novels. I don't want to pick on Wallcreeper any more but it's interesting to compare a typical Ferrante protagonist to the protagonist of that. I think they'd be allergic to each other.

Orhan Pamuk, Other Colors This is a collection of various Orhan Pamuk odds and ends. There are quite a few things to like here but I think you need to be quite sympathetic to Orhan P. to begin with (which I am) and forgive him for being quite possibly the most self-indulgently melancholy man alive. Read it for the translation of a foreword he wrote to a Turkish edition of Tristram Shandy, which is a confluence of some quite good things.

Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin I am he.
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Re: What are you reading today/book club

Postby pirxthepilot » Thu Jan 12, 2017 8:03 am

i think pnin is maybe the best of nabokov. havent read for 10+ years but theres whole passages i will never forget. those paragraphs with his new teeth and feeding the washing machine out of sheer scientific curiosity. the memories of his childhood girlfriend when he gets lost in the snow and the meditation on the unbearable past. the pencil sharpener that says 'ticonderoga ticonderoga', feeds on the delicious cedar wood, and ends in a soundlessly spinning void as we all must.
the shape of the narrative is so beautifully constructed, with all those circular motifs running through it: a football (+ the ideal one he sketches in the air), his head, victor's bowl.
whenever i feel like i ought to give some cyberpunk a try i manage 2 paragraphs of 'his parents were TwenCen relics who never had him optimized' and think nah fuck this, i'm going to read something good instead.
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Re: What are you reading today/book club

Postby bels » Thu Jan 12, 2017 10:18 am

Generally agree on the cyberpunk fiction front. It's no longer necessary and the dirty future fetishisation is fun but most fetishes aren't really as fun once they're in a Disney film.

That said I bought some issues of http://www.aft3r.us/ and I've been enjoying having it around, though it's more like good old science fiction than cyberpunk.
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Re: What are you reading today/book club

Postby INNIT » Thu Jan 12, 2017 11:27 am

nope wrote:
INNIT wrote:my senior level seminar class is on cyberpunk...
peter watts - blindsight

Blindsight is a fun read (and is available for free on the dude's website) but is mostly about Consciousness, first contact with aliens, and space vampires. None of which seem particularly cyberpunk to me? I'd be interested to know what the angle is. Never read the others (other than Gibson, duh), will check a couple out when I'm in a fiction mood.

apparently it's "post-cyberpunk" (i dont know what that means)

the seminar is meant to show us that cyberpunk isnt just 80s genre fiction, and that it contains interesting pomo/marxist/feminist/queer currents. i doubt that the genre can be reduced to future fetishism, but i'll have a better opinion on that later when ive read more than just neuromancer and GITS
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Re: What are you reading today/book club

Postby rjbman » Tue Jan 17, 2017 11:36 am

Mad thanks to @thephfactor! Thank you so much for sending a copy!

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