What's everybody reading?

For discussions of subjects relating to literature and theater.
Franz Ferdinand
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Postby Franz Ferdinand » Tue Jun 23, 2009 11:32 pm

http://infinitesummer.org

A quest to read and finish the late David Foster Wallace's behemoth "Infinite Jest" over a three month period. I had no idea about this when I planned my year's reading list (reading that entire thing over May? Pure folly!), but it gave me an excuse (and a fairly firm time period) to get around the book in earnest and attempt to scale it.

Since his new book was recently published in Japan, with no date for a translation set for N. America, I have decided to tackle my final unread Murakami. So along with "Infinite Jest", I am also in the middle of "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle"; you can imagine the intellectual pounding my brain is getting right now!

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Postby Franz Ferdinand » Sun May 31, 2009 10:38 pm

I've been reading Rick Perlstein's "Nixonland" and have found it an idiosyncratic and densely-packed historical tome, but altogether enjoyable. My yearly reading list took a bit of a hit this past month as I have been unable to finish Dante's "Divine Comedy" and am due to start "Ulysses" tomorrow. We shall see! Also picked up "The Grapes of Wrath" and plan to read it sometime.

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Postby Penelope » Tue May 19, 2009 10:15 pm

Well, I finished Jane Eyre and loved it; easy to see how it was an influence on Daphne de Maurier's Rebecca. Also just finished Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd, which I enjoyed, though not as much as his The Mayor of Casterbridge. I've put both the 1944 version of Jane Eyre (dir Robert Stevenson, starring Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles) and the 1967 version of Madding Crowd (dir John Schlesinger, starring Julie Christie, Alan Bates, Peter Finch and Terence Stamp) at the top of my Netflix queue.

Just started reading Liberators: South America's Savage Wars of Freedom 1810-1830 (2000) by Robert Harvey--only 50 pages in and I already find it to be a marvelous, fascinating read.
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Postby FilmFan720 » Tue May 19, 2009 6:47 pm

I just finished Ron Rosenbaum's The Shakespeare Wars, which I believe I first heard of from someone here, but can't remember who (Okri, maybe?). It is a really wonderful read, although the last third start to get a little tedious, which follows many of the scholarly debates that have emerged through the years over Shakespeare's works...worth reading for sure.
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Postby OscarGuy » Tue May 19, 2009 2:57 pm

I would agree with that. It would be really difficult to adapt, but I think Cuaron could certainly do the best with it.
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Postby Mister Tee » Tue May 19, 2009 2:11 pm

OscarGuy wrote:a really great filmmaker could adapt it beautifully to the screen...

I see it as a great Alfonso Cuaron movie

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Postby OscarGuy » Tue May 19, 2009 2:08 pm

That opening part sounds like something that I found a bit of a chore to get through and I must say I liked the book, though I'm not sure how much as it's entirely bizarre, though, a really great filmmaker could adapt it beautifully to the screen...

House of Leaves is the book. It's definitely not for the easily distracted.
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Postby Mister Tee » Tue May 19, 2009 12:48 pm

In the earlier books thread, two people mentioned abandoning reading The Savage Detectives. I guess I can see how this happened. The early diary-entry section, while full of energy, had an "and then...and then..." quality that made you wonder if t was going anywhere. Then the long, oral-history middle section did sometimes feel, as Sonic said, like a batch of short stories thrown in with only tangential connection to the main narrative, with more characters to keep straight than your standard Russian novel. There was also Bolano's occasional indulgence, in 1-2 page lists of street names or writers of whom you've never heard...not to mention the lawyer who threw out all that untranslated Latin (and made me realize how much I'd forgotten since high school).

All that's true. But I found every time I picked up the book, I ended up reading more pages than planned. and by the time I got to the end, I felt elated. This was the most satisfying, buoyant and expansive reading experience I've had in years. The book managed to simultaneously capture the thrill of arrogant youth (with its certainty it sees a future its elders never imagine), the compromises of middle-age, and the disillusionment of later life. And its all told in a vivid, literary-but-not-stifling style that has some of the joie de vivre of On the Road, but a capacity for imagery and insight that Kerouac couldn't approach. What an achievement.

After this, I'm salivating for 2666 -- but I think I'll wait a bit. Why cram the finite number of truly thrilling literary experiences into too short a period?

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Postby Eric » Thu Apr 23, 2009 12:35 pm

Thanks to the chatter on another thread, I've finally picked up "Pictures at a Revolution" from the library and, as promised, it's a phenomenal page-turner. I admit I'm sort of a sucker for postmortems on big-budget bombs (well, yesterday's bombs I mean, not Pluto Nash, et al), so the Dolittle material is compelling, but Harris makes even the producer-agent-studio head drudgery of pre-production totally fascinating. Good recommend!

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Postby Franz Ferdinand » Thu Apr 23, 2009 11:54 am

I've been reading (since yesterday I guess) the most recent Pulitzer prize winner for fiction, Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge and have found it to be a good read if nothing spectacular. The Pulitzer winners in the last decade seem to mainly oscillate between the big, bold character-driven adventures written in a "post-post-modern" style (Chabon, Eugenides, Diaz), and the stately, elegant, familial character studies written with a poet's heart (Robinson, Brooks, now Strout). And then there's McCarthy's The Road, so that's that.

Another few books on my shelf are some of the nominees for this year's International IMPAC Dublin prize, the richest literary prize in the world, and the one open to any writer. Travis Holland's "The Archivist's Story", Jean Echenoz's "Ravel", and Michael Thomas' "Man Gone Down" (currently reading the latter) are on tap, and I have already read Junot Diaz's "Oscar Wao", Moshin Hamid's "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" and Indra Sinha's "Animal's People". All in all, a good slate of nominees I would recommend to anyone.

I am still keeping to my year's reading list with the classics; I am in the middle of Robert and Jean Hollander's translation of Dante's Purgatorio, with Inferno behind me, and Paradiso still to come. This time, I am reading them without the ample footnotes and enjoying the great prose translation.

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Postby kaytodd » Wed Apr 22, 2009 11:29 pm

I am about 65 pages into what appears to be a fascinating non-fiction story, The Lost by Daniel Mendelsohn. It is the story of this writer's attempt to find out what happened to six members of his family during the Holocaust. He was born in the late 1950's in New York. Most of his family had emigrated to the U.S. from what is now Poland and the Ukraine in the early years of the 20th century but some were Holocaust survivors. When he would visit older relatives, some would start crying and say "He looks so much like Shmiel." Shmiel was his mother's uncle. When he was a young child, he would get no answer when he asked about Shmiel, but eventually he was told "Shmiel, his wife and four beautiful daughters were killed by the Nazis." When Mendelsohn became a professional writer and journalist, he decided to go on a mission to find out exactly what happened to his relatives. As you can imagine, finding out what happened during the Holocaust to six Jews from a small town that no longer really exists is a daunting task. The book is off to a great start. Mendelsohn is an entertaining and informative writer. I am looking forward to getting further into the story.

I recently finished Collette's 1922 novel Cheri, which is the source material of Stephen Frears' upcoming film starring Michelle Pfieffer and Rupert Friend. I enjoyed it very much. Collete tells good stories about the idle rich of France in the years just before and after WWI and creates a lot of interesting characters in this novel. I have a hard time picturing Pfieffer as Lea, who strikes me as a formidable powerful woman, albeit capable of deep feelings. But Rupert Friend seems an outstanding choice for the title character Cheri. And I hope Rupert has good acting chops, for his character has the opportunity to chew up some serious scenery.

If you decide to read Cheri (which I highly recommend), get the 2001 paperback edition from Farrar, Strous and Giroux. I do not speak or read French, but it seemed the translator, Roger Senhouse, made a lot of good decisions on choosing particular words and phrases to communicate what Collette wanted. It also starts with a lengthy and fascinating biography of Collette that taught me a lot I did not know. I was unaware just what an important literary figure and treasure she was, both as a writer/journalist and as a person. And having that knowledge made me enjoy the novel even more. Many passages in the novel brought a smile to my face as I thought back to Collette's actual experiences. The novel also makes me look forward to the film.




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Postby Mister Tee » Wed Apr 22, 2009 10:05 pm

Now that things have quieted on the home front, I'm able to read a bit again, after a months-long lull. Also, I got some Amazon/Barnes & Noble gift certificates, to help fill my shelves.

I read Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn, which starts out like a house afire, and has alot of terrific chunks. But the more-or-less mystery plot isn't that interesting, and the book is not at the level of Fortress of Solitude.

I really liked The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which a number of you mentioned in the old thread. The only disappointment was I didn't think the various strains of the novel quite came together in a big enough way -- I never had the "this is fully realized art" sensation that I desperately wanted. A hell of a shot at it, though.

Now I'm into The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which is very easy to read (the first 100 pages, anyway), but I haven't yet decided how much I care about all of it.

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Postby dws1982 » Wed Apr 22, 2009 9:07 pm

--Penelope wrote:1. Lonesome Dove (1985), Larry McMurtry -- ****

Love that book. It's just a great classic western. I know Larry McMurtry didn't like the miniseries adaptation (one of the main reasons being that he felt Anjelica Huston was miscast as Clara, saying that he had Diane Keaton in mind when he was writing the novel.), but I think it's one of the few adaptations of a great novel that mostly lives up to the source material and stands as an excellent work on its own.

I haven't been doing much reading this year unfortunately, being back in school and all. I did read Angel of Grozny (about the troubles in Chechnya over the past several years), which was problematic but still beneficial to me as an introduction to a situation that I didn't know much about before. And now (and for the past two months) I've been reading Colleen McCullough's The First Man in Rome. I have a bad habit of starting books and not finishing them, and so I don't read many books as long as this one. I thought that a novel about ancient Rome would be a quick read for me, even at 1000+ pages, but it's not turning out to be the case. The sections dealing with the politics and soap opera in Rome are fascinating, but the sections dealing with battles in Numidia or Germany--which are too many--are tedious, to put it mildly. Two months in and I'm about halfway through.




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Postby Greg » Wed Apr 22, 2009 4:38 pm

Right now, I'm reading The Age Of Spiritual Machines by Ray Kurzweil.



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Postby The Original BJ » Wed Apr 22, 2009 4:03 pm

So far this year I've read...

"Brave New World," Aldous Huxley
"Their Eyes Were Watching God," Zora Neale Hurston
"The Maltese Falcon," Dashiell Hammett
"Comeback Season: How I Learned to Play the Game of Love," Cathy Day
"The Age of Innocence," Edith Wharton
"The Sun Also Rises," Ernest Hemingway

I am currently reading William Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying."


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