What are you reading today/book club

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Re: What are you reading today/book club

Postby hharrissonn » Thu Feb 22, 2018 11:55 pm

I'm reading Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty right now and am really enjoying it. Very cool insights into the mortuary industry/cultural landscape of death in the West taken from working in the industry. References a lot of ethnography/anthropological study that I read while in school so that's kind of an added bonus. This is sort of perfect moment for me to be reading this while I'm preparing myself for the first death of one of my grandparents. It has been a bit cathartic. The writing is very easy to digest and not at all pretentious or jargon-y; it's pop-sociology kind of stuff.

She has a pretty good YouTube series called "Ask a Mortician" that's definitely worth watching if you're bored.

I also finally read Breakfast at Tiffany's a couple of weeks ago, and I'm surprised it took me so long. Capote's In Cold Blood is one of my favorites. Definitely a neat read, especially if you like Burroughs/Vonnegut.
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Re: What are you reading today/book club

Postby dakaf_fal » Fri Feb 23, 2018 9:19 pm

I also took a little too long to read The Life and Death of the Great American City and just finished it a few days ago. I was surprised how modern the book felt considering that it’s over five and a half decades old. I enjoyed reading about housing density in cities and diversity of street life. The idea of implementing a sliding scale rent-to-own system for public housing was also very interesting, particularly since the author’s primary example for implementation was Baltimore rowhomes and I live in a Baltimore rowhouse. I’m also curious to know how much of this book’s dogma has been adopted into popular planning theory. Some bits seem easy enough to implement with proper incentives for new development and zoning laws, but other ideas presented by the author seem inherently difficult to implement unless city districts are given much more power to conduct their own affairs independent from city government.
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Re: What are you reading today/book club

Postby mittens » Sun Feb 25, 2018 12:27 pm

.
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Re: What are you reading today/book club

Postby can- » Sat Mar 17, 2018 12:08 pm

has anyone explored neal stephensons works outside diamond age and snowcrash ? what are the hits? I probably wont read cryptonomicon.
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Re: What are you reading today/book club

Postby rjbman » Sat Mar 17, 2018 12:29 pm

read most post-snowcrash but baroque cycle which was too stuffy for me to get into. havent gotten to the dodo one yet

- cryptonomicon is multiple parts, some ww2 stuff and some "modern" (90s) financial manuevering. was a decent read but it's been a while
- anathem is pretty cool, the premise is that there are monks but they study science and math instead of religion. then aliens are spotted.
- mongoliad is a long saga (4 books?) set in the mongolian era (wow shocker) cowritten with a bunch of other authors. very swordy. i liked them.
- reamde is a modern day thriller, very techno friendly (social networks, gold farming, etc). i didn't love it.
- seveneves - moon shatters and destroys earth, with some folks being saved by launching a spaceship. 3rd act is a millenia later.

usually the 3rd act is batshit crazy and not as connected to the rest. my biggest suggestions would be anathem and seveneves, in that order
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Re: What are you reading today/book club

Postby kickingthefly » Tue Mar 20, 2018 1:08 pm

need a sci fi nerd @rjbman, some leguin etc dealt with the idea of a garden right? (coming at this via donna haraway who refers in passing).
any other notable gardens ? whats that 70s sci fi film with hydroponics spaceship where things go wrong..
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Re: What are you reading today/book club

Postby julius » Tue Mar 20, 2018 3:18 pm

I've been having a mafia movie stint recently and so decided to pick up The Godfather by Puzo. It feels like I'm running through it, and I'm unsure if it's because of how much I like the book for itself, or if it's because I'm having the movie do a lot of the imaginative heavy-lifting. What do y'all think about the experience of reading a book after watching a movie or vice versa. I'm not so interested in the "better than" debate, but instead, how the experience of one affects the experience of the other.
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Re: What are you reading today/book club

Postby kickingthefly » Wed Mar 21, 2018 12:28 pm

@rjbman yeah thats the one thank you. still need to read some leguin.

julius, i read the godfather i think after seeing the film and found it pretty much a potboiler? dont recall any of hte physical poetry of hte film. i think bad books make good films is a decent rule of thumb (solaris, stalker etc)
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Re: What are you reading today/book club

Postby Ques » Wed Mar 21, 2018 11:22 pm

PSA to anyone who likes scifi: the three body problem series by liu cixin is virulently sexist, but it doesn't really crop up until the second book, at which point you've already invested 600+ pages of your time, which makes the realization all the more angst-inducing; AVOID
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Re: What are you reading today/book club

Postby soko » Mon Apr 23, 2018 6:42 pm

anyone know what I should read if I liked both of Ben Lerner’s novels but moreso the first one??
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Re: What are you reading today/book club

Postby surfdude69 » Fri Jul 27, 2018 1:36 pm

Currently got all these on the go. I will probably start Journey to the End of the Night again as I started it ages ago and forgot a lot of what's happened so far. Hunger is fantastic though

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Re: What are you reading today/book club

Postby GeorgeT » Fri Aug 10, 2018 5:55 am

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
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Re: What are you reading today/book club

Postby Copeland » Thu Jun 27, 2019 6:58 pm

I'm writing a short story, can someone read it and be brutally honest with me?
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Re: What are you reading today/book club

Postby Copeland » Thu Oct 10, 2019 1:27 am

Posting what I have so far, please judge:

I woke up in the middle of the night from a commonplace nightmare. I was running through a tunnel that was either sinking or closing in. In order to keep my body afloat I stood up in my bed, still delirious, and started clapping in beats of two, hoping that the gesture would lift me to ground level. Some (an unknowable amount of) time had passed before I stopped and realized I was conscious. My bedroom was pitch black and unreliable. The tunnel went away shortly after. In the morning I was left with nothing but the memory of a bizarre instance of sleepwalking.

Two weeks went by and that remained my best moment. I treated it as a dance exercise, freeform, “Express yourself through a series of movements.” The truth is my everyday motions are quite controlled, often restrained, because of my awkward gait and bad posture. Clapping in panic was refreshing. If only I had held onto the details when they were readily available. It became another reminder of my receding memory - not from advanced age by any means but a natural regression from peak functions. Not unlike the 40,000 milestone on a travel vehicle. The capacity to recall oneiric motivations had nothing to do with short or long term memory. Different faculties of the brain, I imagine.

The day after my episode I told my assistant what happened. When I arrived at the office this morning he handed me a lavender folder,

“Anything new?”
“No”
“No dreams?”
“No”
He nodded and left.

My work revolves around the accumulation of capital. Information, financial, cultural. Not long ago It occurred to me that the nature of my assignments was corrosive. Information, when absorbed in large quantities, becomes devalued by its abundance. It possesses a special kind of causa sui, unable to exist without the very act of its own accumulation. After our crunch at the end of last year I began having trouble recalling the names of common plants. On our servers were thousands of clusters, pivot tables, latent variables, laid out like an electrical grid, completely flat; in hibernation, beckoning for a polyglot from the future who can decipher and disseminate the lexicon my colleagues have constructed. In a different time my profession could be described as cultural anthropology. We deal in systems of exchange and symbolic operations. Our primary clients are mega-conglomerates and statist institutions, entities that thrive off of the future.

The lavender folder contained photos of traffic patterns observed last week in Lagos. They were gathered by local traffic engineers for infrastructural maintenance. The data has no ostensible value as the city is not prone to conflict. I was to transcribe the patterns using our algorithm. Traffic jams tend to occur at cloverleaf interchanges. A shape found in industrial nature. Traffic jams on four lane highways tend to form an hourglass when observed from above. The aggregation of these aerial shots generate motifs. The cloverleaf is no longer a cloverleaf but a recurring element, alluding to meaning that has yet to be assigned. The lavender folders become text awaiting exegesis.

I brought the assignment to my boss. She is forty-five, a careerist, favors Jil Sanders suits and clear acetate frames. She was on the phone and motioned me to sit. It was a personal call. Five minutes went by. I stared out the ceiling height windows behind her and saw the first drops of a summer shower. The sky appears lower and thicker in polluted first-world cities. She hung up, smiled at me as if I shared her frustration, and asked about the folder.

“Where are we on this?”
“It’s almost finished, I just have a few questions.”
“Shoot”
“How do our clients want the charts presented?”
“Neatly”
“That’s it?”
“That’s it. They are first-timers. They do not have a preference.”

I looked down.

“What is this for, long term?
“To improve infrastructure …To create a narrative …To fortify the panopticon.”

She paused.

“I’m kidding about the last part.”

I didn’t react.

“Do you really believe that?”
“I have very few beliefs, most of them are aesthetic. I do think they are unsure about what they want it for, only that information is important to have.”
“Right”

I thought for a moment, got up, and left.

Our offices sit directly across from the Gaussman plaza. The exterior looks like a Brutalist Berghain. The interior is lined with black cinder blocks. The walls of the atrium are covered in oversized projections of news broadcasts. My office is on the upper floor. The lobby below houses a bricolage of vintage Roche Bobois furniture next to a row of enormous tapestries held together by metal trusses. The synthetic fibers of the tapestries, woven together, digitized, serve as a bulletin board. The directory is displayed on the center canvas. The tapestries on either side by the entrance are programmed to show a single word, the same word, enlarged and with a neutral typeface. Today’s word is “Parallax”. My boss designed the layout. The proposal mentioned wanting to evoke a sense of reverence.

After a weekend of rest I went to work the next morning and remembered the tunnel was endless. My assistant had already asked about the design. The substructure was standard - reinforced concrete, steel railings, pedestrian walkway, commissioned to free up traffic from the roadways above.

I suspect that the dreams come from a collective unconscious conceived out of lavender folders. I know this because I’ve examined many tunnels and culverts, passages above and below. The motifs can be found in every assignment. The Mayans and the Manchu both shared the same symbols for fertility. Our datasets have their own collective archetypes. Aside from the physical design of the bridge ramp, why does rush hour traffic tend to form a cloverleaf?
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Re: What are you reading today/book club

Postby JewTurk » Sun Nov 17, 2019 12:31 am

Anyone read Stoner by John Williams? I can't see what the fuss is about. The sexism is a bit much/I'm not seeing the point in it.
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Re: What are you reading today/book club

Postby kickingthefly » Sun Nov 17, 2019 5:57 am

copeland, i read this quickly but i like it! a few thoughts tho
-reads a bit grad student-y, even 'cerebral' writers (say, tom mccarthy, elvia wilk) do a lot more 'show not tell', yknow? like tom was once saying he thought about making the protagonist of remainder an artist- but then the whole thing would just be a normal day's work. if you make the surface more blank, it might force you to 'see' more interesting stuff too.
-feel dialogue sounds stilted, which is perhaps intentional, but i still dont feel it. perhaps to do with the above, like people saying 'clever' things?
-lagos traffic patterns, man i have seen that stuff a lot.
-its sander not sanders dude
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Re: What are you reading today/book club

Postby kickingthefly » Sun Nov 17, 2019 5:58 am

copeland, i read this quickly but i like it! a few thoughts tho
-reads a bit grad student-y, even 'cerebral' writers (say, tom mccarthy, elvia wilk) do a lot more 'show not tell', yknow? like tom was once saying he thought about making the protagonist of remainder an artist- but then the whole thing would just be a normal day's work. if you make the surface more blank, it might force you to 'see' more interesting stuff too.
-feel dialogue sounds stilted, which is perhaps intentional, but i still dont feel it. perhaps to do with the above, like people saying 'clever' things?
-lagos traffic patterns, man i have seen that stuff a lot.
-its sander not sanders dude
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Re: What are you reading today/book club

Postby popcorn » Mon Nov 18, 2019 3:47 pm

JewTurk wrote:Anyone read Stoner by John Williams? I can't see what the fuss is about. The sexism is a bit much/I'm not seeing the point in it.


There are a ton of spoilers in the next sentence, I guess. The plot events and drama of the book are not very important. I read it 3 years ago when I was just getting into general fiction and remember only a few key images:
Spoiler:
descriptions of Stoner's parents; him looking out the window at a courtyard defined by lights after dusk and modernist architecture with broad columns; the interior of the tiny room where he stays with the student he has an affair with; the outburst in argument with another professor; and the description of him basically projecting through his life on his deathbed?
I think of Stoner as one of those novels which puts on the guise of being drearily modern so that it can have a painfully beautiful psychedelic effect in a few choice scenes. The plot and the themes of the book are pretty regular: struggle, existentialism, fulfillment, death, family, the arbitration of success. I'm not sure how true any of this is but it's how I remember the book.

Someone recently wrote a biography of John Williams which constantly returns to the book's recent assumption of the "perfect novel" title. I read the first chapter of that book and it's very funny, it stresses how particular and crotchety Williams was, how his aspirations were very neatly about writing and literature, how dissatisfied he was with the politics of his university. That chapter at least lends a lot of life to Stoner. I've never studied literature though and don't know in what aesthetic theory Stoner is the perfect novel, but I can say that Stoner is very brotherly to a modernist novel like Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise, and seemed to me like a novel written with hindsight by a very tired person.
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Re: What are you reading today/book club

Postby INNIT » Sun Nov 24, 2019 6:10 pm

kickingthefly wrote:-reads a bit grad student-y, even 'cerebral' writers (say, tom mccarthy, elvia wilk) do a lot more 'show not tell', yknow? like tom was once saying he thought about making the protagonist of remainder an artist- but then the whole thing would just be a normal day's work. if you make the surface more blank, it might force you to 'see' more interesting stuff too.



this reminds me of pynchon's introduction to his short story collection "slow learner," where he says that he dislikes his story "entropy" because he began the story with lofty themes rather than interesting characters or something along those lines (the story's plot mirrors the process of entropy in thermodynamics and cybernetics and the characters only exist to push this theme along). that said, i still think it's a good story (there's nothing inherently wrong with having a grand theme in mind from the outset), but it's definitely less fun to read than the zany adventures of his later works. you also don't come away from it with much more than "yup, entropy is real, heat-death is a thing"
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Re: What are you reading today/book club

Postby bels » Sun Dec 01, 2019 4:20 am

I like the Copeland's story overall. Nice bit about the 40k mileage thing. That's how I feel every day.

I think I would be disappointed if there ended up being "a plot" about "what the data is for". Better to leave it opaque
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Re: What are you reading today/book club

Postby kickingthefly » Sun Dec 01, 2019 4:53 pm

nobody is saying a plot is needed, u netflix teen
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Re: What are you reading today/book club

Postby Copeland » Tue Dec 03, 2019 11:01 am

Thank you all for the feedback. I've got a couple more pages I'll post soon.
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