Literature: Rate and Discuss

Tagaziel

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The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. Amazing story and a gripping, yet horrifying setting. Kind of wish the story gave more closure, though.
 
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Yorick

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Dracula was good, but not great. 3/5. It was interesting and often tense, but also dull and dragging in parts, with some main characters who are largely forgettable. Dracula himself was, of course, excellent.

I managed to find another John Fowles book, A Maggot. Have I mentioned how I goddamn love John Fowles and you should all read him?
 

Mogi67

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Currently reading Whitman - Leaves of Grass. excellent
 

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I have started reading the Song of Ice and Fire series, almost done with book one. I am amazed (in a good way) at how literally the story is adapted for television. Some of the conversations have been copied verbatim. The changes in the story I did spot are very minor and only seem to have been made to make the story suit the TV format. Can't wait to start book two and get to the part of the story I don't know about yet. A couple of things I hope for (spoilered, just in case):

More Sirio Forel. With most of the Stark lieutenants killed off after the death of king Robert he looks like a suitable character to get a more major role. Besides, the Starks could use someone exotic.
More Tyrion Lannister. That story about his first (and only?) love offers great possibilities. Dude's got some big issues with his family. I hope he gets into the game more, I could see him sitting on the Iron Throne somehow. Or maybe that's just wishful thinking.
More Dani. She is by far the most intriguing character for me. I know how season one ended, so it'll be interesting to see if she can still mobilize the Dothraki. And I'd like to know where her relationship with Ser Jorah Mormont goes, especially since he hates the Starks so much.
 
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Yorick

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I abandoned John Fowles's "A Maggot", which is quite rare for me to do. After 50 pages I found myself unable to get into it. Truly a sad day, considering how much I loved his other books.

The remainder of December consisted of reading Kurt Vonnegut's TimeQuake and Cat's Cradle, both of which I rank 4/5. TimeQuake, though not being 5/5, is one of my favourite books of all time. Next I read a large collection of short stories by Hemingway which was, as a whole, only a 3/5. A lot of the "stories" were little more than vignettes that expressed setting or a particular character and had no story at all. Many others, though, were quite excellent.

Then I read a bunch of Spider-Man comic books.

Today I picked up:
The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Naked Lunch by William Burroughs
The Metamorphisis and other stories by Franz Kafka

All of which are authors that I haven't read before, so I'm excited. I started the Goethe book earlier today and am loving it already.
 

Mogi67

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heh hehehe more like John Fowles "A F*ggot"
 

dfc05

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^^^Ah, I really liked the Metamorphosis when I read it (been a long time though). I like to play stupid and read it literally instead of as a metaphor. :D


Neal Stephenson - The Diamond Age, or A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer

A book about a world enabled by nanotech, except it's not about what nanotech can really do, so much as using "nanotech" as some magical device that enables Stephenson to come up with whatever technology he wants without having to actually explain it. No matter. I really liked the whole concept of the Primer and Nell's story/character, and how it was told. But the ending was really abrupt, and it seemed to follow a trend in other novels of his where the bulk of the novel is reasonable, level-headed, and intelligent (and still very interesting).... and then the last few chapters start to spiral very quickly toward total batshit insanity.

First 90% of book:
Nell is a little girl in a poor/abusive home who comes into possession of a subversively educational video-audio-book, helping her escape to a better life and become an important person. Various subplots on the maker of the book and the actress who reads the book.

Last 10% of book (huge spoiler, this is the ending of the book):
Nell slice-and-dices attackers with a sword during a war which sprang up with very little lead-in; she becomes leader of an army of 12 year old girls; then everyone escapes into the ocean to an underwater colony; here, she rescues the woman who mothered her (via talking book) from spontaneous combustion via orgy, and they are carried away by her army of 12 year old girls who have formed a floating raft on the sea.
the end.
I mean, it's cool that he's enthused and goes on these wild flights of imagination, but sometimes I'm like, "Neal, wtf just happened dude."

Still, I suppose it was entertaining.

7.5/10?

Also just remembered, I need to read his newest book Reamde sometime. Have not heard much regarding whether it's good or not.
 
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Yorick

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Someone pointed out to me recently that I seem to almost exclusively read books written by men.

The only exceptions I can come up with off the top of my head in the last two years are Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and Bonjour Tristesse, which Samon had recommended.

What good female authors am I missing out on?
 

dfc05

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I haven't read many female authors either. I think that's the case for most people.

Off the top of my head, I'd recommend the short story The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. You can read it here. I'd enjoyed it without knowing of its historical importance -- out of context, some of the imagery with the wallpaper as the protagonist goes insane, and the final scene, made a lasting impression. In context, it's an early feminist work, from back when male doctors thought the solution to depression was to lock the lady up in a room all day.

Also, I'm reminded that I never got around to reading Toni Morrison's Beloved (had the option of that or Cormac McCarthy in English class, and I went with McCarthy). Supposedly that's a great book.
 

Sheepo

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What do you mean read the Metamorphosis literally instead of as a metaphor? It's the tale of a man who turns into a giant cockroach (I don't recall whether this was actually the insect or not). Sure, there are tons of ways that can be understood and interpreted and that was (almost definitely) the intention, but that's what the story is actually about. Maybe I'm just misunderstanding your meaning of metaphor here (or maybe the actual definition of metaphor altogether), but I've always viewed it as a device in which the author says something is what it is not in order to give a better understanding of that thing without actually literally meaning it. Gregor actually turns into an insect, whether or not his character could properly be made out to be one metaphorically or not. Anyway, great book, two thumbs up, would forget the appropriate insect again.
 

dfc05

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By metaphor, I just mean that what is literally written is meant to represent something else. Many people read it such that the man never actually turns into a cockroach -- that the whole cockroach thing only represents him becoming disabled or mentally ill or otherwise incapable of working and providing income, something realistically possible. Hence the metaphor. I'm fuzzy on the details, but I believe for the most part, you can replace "cockroach" with "disabled" throughout the entire story. It just makes it much much sadder. So I prefer the delusion that he literally is a giant bug, because then I can pretend the first half is just amusing, lighthearted fun (haha! giant bug!) instead of entirely depressing... though either way it still ends up being sad :(.
 

Maestro

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Someone pointed out to me recently that I seem to almost exclusively read books written by men.

The only exceptions I can come up with off the top of my head in the last two years are Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and Bonjour Tristesse, which Samon had recommended.

What good female authors am I missing out on?
Stephanie Meyer.

But in all seriousness Connie Willis and Robin Hobb are pretty good. I've heard Anne McCaffrey (Dragonriders of Pern) is pretty good too.
 

ríomhaire

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Someone pointed out to me recently that I seem to almost exclusively read books written by men.

The only exceptions I can come up with off the top of my head in the last two years are Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and Bonjour Tristesse, which Samon had recommended.

What good female authors am I missing out on?
If you're into fantasy I've heard good things about Robin Hobb.

I've read Trudi Canavan who is also a fantasy writer and I'd call them good but not fantastic. The Black Magician trilogy is much better than the Age of the Five but I enjoyed both series.
 

KiplingsCat

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Female authors you should read: Charlotte and Emily Bronte, Nancy Mitford, Elizabeth Gaskell and Daphne Du Maurier. My favourite female author is of course Agatha Christie, but it's not exactly what you'd call high literature.
 
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Yorick

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Off the top of my head, I'd recommend the short story The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. You can read it here. I'd enjoyed it without knowing of its historical importance -- out of context, some of the imagery with the wallpaper as the protagonist goes insane, and the final scene, made a lasting impression. In context, it's an early feminist work, from back when male doctors thought the solution to depression was to lock the lady up in a room all day.
Oh that definitely sounds like something I'd like to read, thanks! I'll probably check that out today.

Also, I'm reminded that I never got around to reading Toni Morrison's Beloved (had the option of that or Cormac McCarthy in English class, and I went with McCarthy). Supposedly that's a great book.
Beloved definitely sounds like it could be interesting. I'm not usually up for American Historical Fiction, but this might be an exception.

Stephanie Meyer.

But in all seriousness Connie Willis and Robin Hobb are pretty good. I've heard Anne McCaffrey (Dragonriders of Pern) is pretty good too.
I lol'd. I read a Pern book when I was much younger and wasn't super into it. A lot of Robin Hobb's works seem to be trilogies, which I definitely don't have time for, but I may pick up one of her short story collections. Connie Willis's "To Say Nothing of the Dog" sounds like something I might like to read, but I definitely think I'll be picking up Passage within a few weeks, that one sounds excellent.

If you're into fantasy I've heard good things about Robin Hobb.

I've read Trudi Canavan who is also a fantasy writer and I'd call them good but not fantastic. The Black Magician trilogy is much better than the Age of the Five but I enjoyed both series.
I'm not against fantasy as a genre, but I have read almost nothing of it. I really dislike Tolkien, though at the same time, the His Dark Materials trilogy is one of my favourite works ever. I've heard good things about authors such as Pratchett or Gaiman, but I've never really been super interested in fantasy.

But again, and I should have specified earlier, I'm not really looking for long series of stories right now. Before deciding that I need to read more women, my current list of "books to read immediately" was already in the 20's or 30's. As sure as I am that some of these trilogies and such are great, I'm pretty spread out across the map at the moment. For instance I wrapped up Goethe's "Young Werther" this morning, and while I loved it, and love Goethe, I'm not sure when the next time will be that I can even get back to him.

Female authors you should read: Charlotte and Emily Bronte, Nancy Mitford, Elizabeth Gaskell and Daphne Du Maurier. My favourite female author is of course Agatha Christie, but it's not exactly what you'd call high literature.
Did Emily write anything other than Wuthering Heights? I read that in high school (which granted was a long time ago) but I didn't love it. Charlotte's "Jane Eyre" is totally on my list of things to pick up though. I haven't read Agatha Christie. "Sylvia's Letters" by Gaskell sounds very interesting / depressing, so that's going on the list. And that reminds me, Sylvia Plath is on my list of things to pick up as well.

Thanks everybody!

Current list of what to read in 2012:
Goethe - Young Werther, William S Burroughs - Naked Lunch, Kafka - Metamorphosis, William Faulkner - As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner - The Sound and the Fury, Milan Kundera - Immortality, Dostoevsky - The Idiot, Charlotte Bronte - Jane Eyre, Dostoevsky - The Brothers Karazamov, Stephen King - The Gunslinger, Connie Willis - Passage, Ernest Hemingway - A Farewell to Arms, John Milton - Paradise Lost, Goethe - Faust, Sylvia Plath - The Bell Jar, Elizabeth Gaskell - Sylvia's Letters, Connie Willis - To Say Nothing of the Dog, Toni Morrison - Beloved.

Phew.
 

Maestro

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To Say Nothing of the Dog is a riotously funny book, my dad and I loved it. Willis has written other things in that universe like Blackout/All Clear, which is a lot of fun, and The Doomsday Book. The Doomsday Book is very sad, however, I will warn you.
 

KiplingsCat

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"Sylvia's Letters" by Gaskell sounds very interesting / depressing, so that's going on the list.
If you like interesting/depressing, you should definitely include Du Maurier on your list too. All her stories are quite creepy and melancholy. I tried to read a book of her short stories during a mountain-top observing run at an isolated telescope but found myself beginning to imagine things and getting creeped out by my own shadow..definitely read them when you have other people and distractions around you to keep you sane!

I think Wuthering Heights was Bronte's only novel. I read it in school too but not as part of a class so I think that automatically would have made it more enjoyable for me.

Edit: first replaced with only in the above sentence.
 

Sheepo

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By metaphor, I just mean that what is literally written is meant to represent something else. Many people read it such that the man never actually turns into a cockroach -- that the whole cockroach thing only represents him becoming disabled or mentally ill or otherwise incapable of working and providing income, something realistically possible. Hence the metaphor. I'm fuzzy on the details, but I believe for the most part, you can replace "cockroach" with "disabled" throughout the entire story. It just makes it much much sadder. So I prefer the delusion that he literally is a giant bug, because then I can pretend the first half is just amusing, lighthearted fun (haha! giant bug!) instead of entirely depressing... though either way it still ends up being sad :(.
I'm pretty sure there are several things that make that unfeasible. I remember very specifically a part where someone throws apples at him and they get embedded into his exoskeleton and things like that. (Maybe the apples are metaphors!) I dunno, it's not written from his perspective, so I can't really think that even mental illness would work unless we're assuming the author is withholding or skewing the truth? I certainly understand and agree with the interpretation of the story, but I don't quite grasp why people would just pretend that "bug" = "disabled" within the context of the story (especially given I don't think it works out if you just swap concepts). Obviously the message is about an internal or external human transformation (although I read it more along the lines of him having a sudden realization of something he'd been becoming over a long time) but the delivery of that message is through a bizarre and literal transfiguration for several reasons (absurdity/humor, subtlety, providing a more compelling plot, giving monstrous connotations to what the transformation stands for).

Anyway, I'm reading Game of Thrones, about midway through it. Very good stuff. Can't really imagine how much of it would be transferred to television.
 

Sulkdodds

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The problem with assuming that the manbug is 'one big metaphor' is that you risk turning literary criticism into a big game of Hunt for the Real True Meaning where everyone competes to discover what 'real' scenario best fits the fictional one (as if our apprehensions of any given situation in the so-called real world were not as shaped and twisted by metaphor as fiction is). This is the school of literary criticism that brings you "x film is all in y guy's head" or "z is all a metaphor for injuring yourself while clipping your toenails". In fact, it's all aesthetics, all a representation, and as such when you boil it right down there is no possible 'one to one' correspondence between a text and a 'thing'. There is only resemblance, which is much more complicated.


To follow up on the whole female authors conversation, here's some recommendations:

Angela Carter: ferociously smart modern gothic/baroque using beautiful/terrible crenelations of convention and pastiche to build worlds and characters that illuminate our own world in new ways. Her technique is similar to magic realism, which you're probably familiar with via Milan Kundera. The most persuasive arguments for third wave feminism I have ever encountered are implicit in her ornate, witty stories. See Nights at the Circus, The Bloody Chamber.

Ursula K Le Guin: A science-fiction titan by virtue of having charged the pulp genre with enough skill and significance to duke it out with the literary big boys. Pioneer of 'soft' i.e. anthropological sci-fi, where the point is to imagine a society with completely different norms to ours and examine the meaning of the differences. See The Dispossessed, The Left Hand of Darkness.

Virginia Woolf: Wittily psychological high modernism. Stream-of-consciousness pioneer, towering examinations of psyche and desire weaving together the interior lives of various characters all ****ed-up in their own uniquely modern repressed way. See Between the Acts (quite short, good start), To the Lighthouse.

George Eliot: There are in my opinion two (2) properly great writers of the mid-19th century English realist wide-angle social canvas novel. One is Dickens whose style was eclectic, madcap, sentimental, convoluted and descriptively intense. But the other is Eliot, in whose hands the realist aesthetic was elevated to a thing of enormous nuance and subtlety. Like Dickens, she has a reputation for being boring and boring, but (also like Dickens, albeit in a different way) she's actually very deft and funny. See Daniel Deronda, but, let's be honest, really just see Middlemarch.

Joan Didion: Have not read her but comes highly recommended. See Slouching Towards Bethlehem, The Year of Magical Thinking.

Margaret Atwood: Have not read her but comes highly recommended. See The Handmaid's Tale, Oryx and Crake.

Anne Finch: Late 17th/early 18th century poet who reacted to the intense sexual scrutiny of her time with an aesthetic that is deeply aware of visibility and concealment. Comfort in shade, the rigours of light, pleas to God to establish a female Eden. See poems.

Mary Wortley Montagu: Early 18th century writer and poet who was basically a gloriously awful aristocrat addicted to adulation wh owas nevertheless in possession of a sensitive soul, sharp wit and keen observation skills. See her mid-east travelogue Turkish Embassy Letters, plus poems.

Seconding Gaskell.

P.S. Avoid Mary Shelley. Everything except Frankenstein is turgid, and even that's actually not very well written once you get past its big ideas.

Anyway, I'm reading Game of Thrones, about midway through it. Very good stuff. Can't really imagine how much of it would be transferred to television.
Really? I enjoyed the book, but its main attractions were A) good characters, and B) good plotting. The prose left a lot to be desired and the world-building was mundane (basically blandified medievalism). With that in mind, it's made for TV. Good actors can communicate psychology well enough for the project.
 

Sheepo

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I actually completely agree with that assessment of the book, however I just think there's too much going on at any given time to really capture it. A good deal of it is overt narration covering past events, internal monologues which are a little too intricate to cover through acting, flashbacks, also some of the locations and structures and so forth. Granted, I'm imagining it as a straightforward "absolutely everything in the book is shown in the show and in the same order" which is almost definitely not what they did. I can never get over that I expect adaptations to be exactly what I picture in my head as I read, though I know things are inevitably removed and reworked and it ends up it's own unique and fine take on the story. I've heard good things, so it must work.
 
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Really? I enjoyed the book, but its main attractions were A) good characters, and B) good plotting. The prose left a lot to be desired and the world-building was mundane (basically blandified medievalism). With that in mind, it's made for TV. Good actors can communicate psychology well enough for the project.
It even has TV/movie timing, a la Dan Brown!

But seriously, Martin has written lots of screenplays in his time. You can start to see the surprises coming just by the way his chapters work. What gets really interesting is in books 4/5 where he starts to change up his style and undermine your expectations (or undermine your expectation for him to undermine romantic fantasy expectations? somethingsomething).

Take out a few minor plots and characters and its roughly presentable on TV. There will be a lot of subtlety lost, for sure, but without a monologue that's expected. What will be a problem is Dany's situation in books 3/5. The number of massive wars, spectacles, and cities she experiences... Just doing the cgi for one of those will cost a fortune for the show.

Off topic pet peeve, but: Martin's hilarious with his understanding of metallurgy and weapon technology. Common steel cutting tables in half, ridiculous armor sets that would be impossible with nothing less than high tech furnaces and tools, (non-Valyrian) swords retaining razor-sharpness over several fights, the apparent inefficacy of archers in all of the battles...
 
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Answer? Magic.
Series is meticulous about dividing what's magic from what not. Average knight fighting with average weapon != magic.

Even as a joke, it flies in the face of what Martin's tried to do with the fantasy genre.
 

Maestro

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Eh, yeah. Martin has a tenuous grasp at best on physics, perhaps this is due to writing screenplays? He's sure no Tolkien when it comes to realism.
 
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Yorick

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To Say Nothing of the Dog is a riotously funny book, my dad and I loved it. Willis has written other things in that universe like Blackout/All Clear, which is a lot of fun, and The Doomsday Book. The Doomsday Book is very sad, however, I will warn you.
I like funny. I also like sad. So those both sound good.

If you like interesting/depressing, you should definitely include Du Maurier on your list too. All her stories are quite creepy and melancholy. I tried to read a book of her short stories during a mountain-top observing run at an isolated telescope but found myself beginning to imagine things and getting creeped out by my own shadow..definitely read them when you have other people and distractions around you to keep you sane!

I think Wuthering Heights was Bronte's only novel. I read it in school too but not as part of a class so I think that automatically would have made it more enjoyable for me.

Edit: first replaced with only in the above sentence.
Hm, okay. I think I read Wuthering Heights in high school but I actually don't remember. Which is in itself a reason to read it again, I suspect.

George Eliot: There are in my opinion two (2) properly great writers of the mid-19th century English realist wide-angle social canvas novel. One is Dickens whose style was eclectic, madcap, sentimental, convoluted and descriptively intense. But the other is Eliot, in whose hands the realist aesthetic was elevated to a thing of enormous nuance and subtlety. Like Dickens, she has a reputation for being boring and boring, but (also like Dickens, albeit in a different way) she's actually very deft and funny. See Daniel Deronda, but, let's be honest, really just see Middlemarch.
I'm iffy on this one. I absolutely detest reading Dickens and if she's on the same level of boring, then I'm not sure it'll be a good fit. I'll add the rest to my list, though, thanks!


P.S. Avoid Mary Shelley. Everything except Frankenstein is turgid, and even that's actually not very well written once you get past its big ideas.
I liked Frankenstein, but I wasn't planning on reading anything else by Shelley.

I finally managed to get a copy of Kundera's "Immortality", so I'll be going with that soon. I also picked up Gilgamesh, a copy of Shadow of the Wind, and a new copy of Watchmen, all of which I've read before but want to own. And I got Cherie Priest's "Boneshaker" because I've been wanting to read that for a bit. Steampunk and Zombies is a bit different from what I usually read, so it should be a nice relaxing change of pace. And someone loaned me a copy of "Extra Lives: Why Videogames Matter" which I'll probably read first (after Kafka) so that I can return it to them.

I'm actually just about to put down "Naked Lunch" by William Burroughs. I'm only about halfway through, and I hate quitting in the middle of a book, but these stories that are based around drug use, I don't know if I'm missing something, or if it's just because I don't have a frame of reference, never having so much as smoked marijuana, but I can't get into them. I had the same thing happen with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Which isn't to say that it's a bad book, just that I tried to get into it, and simply couldn't. In this case, it's actually quite well written, there's a lot of great imagery and analogy, but I don't consider clever writing style to be a substitute for plot.
 

Ennui

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My favorite female author is Flannery O'Conner. Her short stories are simply fantastic.
 

Sulkdodds

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I absolutely detest reading Dickens and if she's on the same level of boring, then I'm not sure it'll be a good fit. I'll add the rest to my list, though, thanks!
Man, de gustibus ain't what dey used to be.

Also Flannery O'Connor is a boss. Seconded.
 

Maestro

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I am not a fan of Wuthering Heights. The plot, when combined with excessive Gothic motifs and tepid prose, just makes the whole thing feel even more contrived than a story about rural gentry's rivalries normally would. Jane Austen's works about similar themes work because they are imbued with a sense of wit and self-awareness that is completely lacking in anything the Bronte sisters write.
 
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Yorick

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Alright, moving right along. (Jesus Christ I've read 10 books already this year.)

Goethe - "The Sorrows of Young Werther". 4/5.

William Burroughs - "Naked Lunch". -/5. I only got about halfway through this book. I have a serious problem getting into books that are based around drug culture (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is another book that I started and couldn't get into). I assume that my inability to connect with these books stems from never having done drugs myself, but regardless they seem to me to be "shock value" books that don't really have much to say.

Franz Kafka - "Selected Short Stories of Franz Kafka". 4/5. Goddamn, almost every story in this was a masterpiece. One could argue that there were perhaps too many "personified animal" stories, but each one was so different that it really worked. And they were spread out by stories about prisoners on Mars, the Hunger Artist, a Country Doctor, etc.

Milan Kundera - "Immortality". 3/5. Not my favourite of Kundera's works, but still quite good and very interesting. I feel like I would not have enjoyed it as much if I hadn't read The Sorrows of Young Werther previously, since that story (and Goethe) are fairly major players in this book.

"The Epic of Gilgamesh". 4/5.

Cherie Priest - "BoneShaker". 4/5. Not without faults, and far more shallow than things I usually read, but really damned enjoyable all the same. A steampunk world set around the American Civil War where Seattle has been quarantined, there are zombies, and the heroine of the story is at least partially responsible? Goddamn yes. I'm going to end up reading the sequel, I just know it.

Milan Kundera - "The Unbearable Lightness of Being". 4/5. Reread it, since it was the first Kundera book I read. Loved it just as much, if not more, the second time around.

Kurt Vonnegut - "Breakfast of Champions". 2/5. The first Vonnegut book I've read that I didn't particularly care for. It's almost vulgar in how it is written, and has so little of what I love about his other books.

Kurt Vonnegut - "The Sirens of Titan". 4/5. Beautiful and absolutely heartbreaking. Potentially one of my favourite of Vonnegut's works. It's more typical 50's science fiction than his stories usually are, but still has that Vonnegut flare where it doesn't feel too out there, even when it should. "I was a victim of a series of accidents. As are we all."

Sylvia Plath - "The Bell Jar". 5/5. In one part of the story, Esther sits down with the intent to write a novel, but finds herself unable to get into it, her reasoning being that she hadn't lived / experienced enough. Plath's understanding of depression goes beyond that which an author can fake knowledge about, and so much of herself is reflected honestly and poetically in the pages of Esther Greenwood. A really, really moving read.

---

I have to go back through the last several posts of this thread sometime soon and make a proper reading list, but here's what I have in mind, for the foreseeable future at least:

Top Priority: Charlotte Bronte - Jane Eyre, reread Ignorance by Kundera. William Faulkner - As I Lay Dying, The Sound and the Fury. Stephen King's The Gunslinger. Jean-Paul Sartre - Nausea, No Exit. Albert Camus - The Fall.

And secondary: Connie Willis - Passage. Hemingway - A Farewell to Arms. Milton - Paradise Lost. Goethe - Faust. Elizabeth Gaskell - Sylvia's Letters. Connie Willis - To Say Nothing Of The Dog. Toni Morrison - Beloved. Dostoevsky - The Idiot, The Brothers Karamazov
 

dfc05

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Reamde (Neal Stephenson) - 7/10

Latest Neal Stephenson book. Not his best. Set in current times which is a nice departure from the sci-fi and historical-fiction stuff. It's vaguely about MMORPG gold farming, Chinese "hackers," a Russian mob, and I won't spoil the other group (they don't show up until perhaps 1/4 of the way through). Less of the "nerds on adventure" theme although of course there's still some of that element. A few pretty funny parts, but mostly more serious and Stephenson seems to be reining in the crazy -- perhaps just because he has to work within the constraints of the "now" setting. But I don't count that as a negative aspect.

Mostly I marked down the score because it's overly long, at 1042 pages. I found myself skimming around pg. 600, since I checked it out from the library and don't have forever to read this. And it's probably a good thing that I "rushed" through (over the course of two weeks), because there are four story lines and it can be difficult to keep track if you put it down. Around page 700 or 800, he started resurrecting minor acronyms and characters introduced toward the beginning of the novel. I still have no clue what "FBO" is supposed to stand for. I also noticed that the copy editor must've started getting lazy toward the end, because typos started popping up, and some minor plot points were either left unresolved or forgotten (spy chick introduces herself as "Laura" to some people, but later they greet her by her real name).

Overall: Starts out with a fairly interesting premise but then gets bogged down in the middle with, what essentially amounts to, moving characters around in "exciting" (not-so-much) ways. Picks up toward the end. Last chapter is pretty cheesy (kinda reminds me of the end of Forrest Gump), but whatevs. I hope every novel he writes from here on out isn't >1000 pages. My eyes hurt.
 

Maestro

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It sounds like typical Stephenson. His ideas are good, but he writes for autistic people. I had the same problem with the Baroque Cycle; I got so tired of him wasting my time at book three I just gave up on it. I try so hard to like his books, but except for Crytonomicon and Anathem they just face-plant somewhere in the middle and never quite make it back on the horse.
 

Eejit

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The Prince of Nothing trilogy - Scott Bakker 9/10

Very unique fantasy series. Contains a great deal of philosophy without being overly weighty, one of the main characters is basically a Mentat rationalist Monk dude. Cultures drawing more from ancient Mediterranean inspiration than fantasy's typical medieval or renaissance european. Closest thing you could compare it to is that Harry Potter Methods of Rationality fanfic.
The second trilogy in the series is 2/3rds done with a third trilogy still to come.

Beware of Odd Names Overload at the beginning however.
 

Ennui

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Finished all the Song of Ice and Fire novels recently, but I won't bother rating them since I read them for fun and don't have much critical input on them since they aren't really what I would call literature.

Also recently read:

Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut. 8.5/10. Haven't enjoyed a Vonnegut novel this much since I first read Cat's Cradle.

Island by Aldous Huxley. 7/10. If I had read this between the ages of 16 and 18 I would have probably thought it was the most enlightened shit ever, but the depicted utopia (Huxley's response to his dystopia in Brave New World) felt too convenient for me to really grok. The whole thing smacked of early 60s psychedelic mysticism, complete with its emphasis on half-castrated Eastern spirituality. I did appreciate that he chose a skeptic for his protagonist, but his psychological redemption was all too easy to see coming and felt empty and half-baked when it did.

That being said, negatives aside I actually quite enjoyed many aspects of the novel. It is an interesting take on utopia, and closer to reality than most such exercises although it's still pretty easy to poke gaping holes in his reasoning. His ideas on how to nourish a society that is self-limiting, spiritually free and wholly responsible for itself are in some cases pretty reasonable even if you have to wade through some silliness to get there. I also appreciated the discussion of entheogens as legitimate psychological and spiritual tools when used reverently (the fictional psychedelic in the novel seems based on psilocybin mushrooms) as much as I was irritated by the strains of hippie mysticism that permeated it. I can't really blame Huxley for being so fascinated and excited by it since he wrote the novel at the very beginning of the 60s after being introduced to psychedelics in the 50s as an old man and it must have all seemed very revolutionary and paradigm-breaking at the time (and in many ways it was, despite the central thematic tragedy of that generation being that it was not as revolutionary as everyone believed it would be).

Worth a read in any case.

I'm currently about a hundred pages into a re-reading of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn purely for pleasure. After that I'll probably finish Max Hastings' All Hell Let Loose, a comprehensive history of WWII across every theater, and once that's over with I've made up my mind to reread either Brothers Karamazov or Anna Karenina now that a few years have passed since I originally read them. I've also been slowly making my way through White Noise by Don DeLillo.
 

Warped Dan

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Still reading The Hobbit, The Avengers: Above and Beyond (comic), and Leviathan Wakes. All are fiction/sci fiction and are amazing to say the least. Just wish I had more time for all of these.
 

Wheaties-Of-Doom

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The Long Earth, by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

It's the first in a science fiction series that explores a number of different topics; from parallel worlds, to artificial intelligence, some mild debunking of libertarian ideals, what is the line between sentient and not, ect. The story starts with a scientist publishing the instructions to build a device (Powered by a potato) that allows travel between parallel earths. Suddenly humanity has access to an infinite supply of resources and land; so naturally complete chaos ensues. The main character, who discovered that he could travel the multiverse without the potato-device, is hired by a mysterious cooperation to lead an expedition with the goal of discovering and cataloging as many Earths as possible. It's a grand story, and I liked it. Maybe someone else here will to.

Yes, I know nobody has posted here for two years. Just let me pretend I'm contributing to something.
 

Shem

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Dracula was good, but not great. 3/5. It was interesting and often tense, but also dull and dragging in parts, with some main characters who are largely forgettable. Dracula himself was, of course, excellent.

I managed to find another John Fowles book, A Maggot. Have I mentioned how I goddamn love John Fowles and you should all read him?
Read this last fall. Definitely a 3/5; the prose is serviceable and quite good at times. Again, like you said, forgettable, but it became infinitely more interesting when we went over it in terms of orientalism/"New Woman" ideology.

Currently reading Whitman - Leaves of Grass. excellent
Never got the appeal of Whitman. "When Lilacs..." is rather poignant but for some reason I can't get into the free verse. Bloom calls Wallace Stevens Whitman's spiritual successor (along with every other American modernist) but I find Stevens to be infinitely better (c.f. "Sunday Morning," "The Emperor of Ice Cream" for just *a few* highlights)

I haven't read many female authors either. I think that's the case for most people.

Off the top of my head, I'd recommend the short story The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. You can read it here. I'd enjoyed it without knowing of its historical importance -- out of context, some of the imagery with the wallpaper as the protagonist goes insane, and the final scene, made a lasting impression. In context, it's an early feminist work, from back when male doctors thought the solution to depression was to lock the lady up in a room all day.

Also, I'm reminded that I never got around to reading Toni Morrison's Beloved (had the option of that or Cormac McCarthy in English class, and I went with McCarthy). Supposedly that's a great book.
"The Yellow Wallpaper" is good, think I've read it at least three times now for various classes. I know you and most others are not here, but frequently paired with Gilman is Chopin whose The Awakening is well-written and quite moving on the basis of its deftly exploring the nuances of female sexuality and empowerment. Of course, read "The Story of an Hour" to get just a taste of her style.

Female authors you should read: Charlotte and Emily Bronte, Nancy Mitford, Elizabeth Gaskell and Daphne Du Maurier. My favourite female author is of course Agatha Christie, but it's not exactly what you'd call high literature.
The Bronte sisters, absolutely. Wuthering Heights I prefer to Jane Eyre (if only for the fact that the former is impregnably dark but in a beautiful way). We read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd for a class this semester, which then gave way to a postmodernist analysis of who the "real" killer was. Christie may not be considered "high" literature (and that term, rightfully, possesses irony quotes) but her stripping of mystery-genre conventions was very influential to authors like Borges (whom I'd also recommend: get Ficciones, the Spanish is simple).

Goethe - Young Werther, William S Burroughs - Naked Lunch, Kafka - Metamorphosis, William Faulkner - As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner - The Sound and the Fury, Milan Kundera - Immortality, Dostoevsky - The Idiot, Charlotte Bronte - Jane Eyre, Dostoevsky - The Brothers Karazamov, Stephen King - The Gunslinger, Connie Willis - Passage, Ernest Hemingway - A Farewell to Arms, John Milton - Paradise Lost, Goethe - Faust, Sylvia Plath - The Bell Jar, Elizabeth Gaskell - Sylvia's Letters, Connie Willis - To Say Nothing of the Dog, Toni Morrison - Beloved.
Faulkner, of course, is fantastic. I'm honestly surprised though that, in a search for Joyce, no results popped up in this thread. Really, if anyone is here, start with Dubliners and work your way up to Portrait followed by Ulysses. Finnegans Wake I have no recommendation for unless you want to put yourself through the absolute horror/joy of reading it. The only work of his I haven't finished.

Also, Milton is shit: the modernists hated him (as do I) for having completely dissociated thought from sensibility (c.f. "The Metaphysical Poets" by Eliot). Plus when I took the GRE Lit test this year the timer stopped on a question from Paradise Lost and I slogged through that work like twice over the summer and ****.


The problem with assuming that the manbug is 'one big metaphor' is that you risk turning literary criticism into a big game of Hunt for the Real True Meaning where everyone competes to discover what 'real' scenario best fits the fictional one (as if our apprehensions of any given situation in the so-called real world were not as shaped and twisted by metaphor as fiction is). This is the school of literary criticism that brings you "x film is all in y guy's head" or "z is all a metaphor for injuring yourself while clipping your toenails". In fact, it's all aesthetics, all a representation, and as such when you boil it right down there is no possible 'one to one' correspondence between a text and a 'thing'. There is only resemblance, which is much more complicated.


To follow up on the whole female authors conversation, here's some recommendations:

Angela Carter: ferociously smart modern gothic/baroque using beautiful/terrible crenelations of convention and pastiche to build worlds and characters that illuminate our own world in new ways. Her technique is similar to magic realism, which you're probably familiar with via Milan Kundera. The most persuasive arguments for third wave feminism I have ever encountered are implicit in her ornate, witty stories. See Nights at the Circus, The Bloody Chamber.

Ursula K Le Guin: A science-fiction titan by virtue of having charged the pulp genre with enough skill and significance to duke it out with the literary big boys. Pioneer of 'soft' i.e. anthropological sci-fi, where the point is to imagine a society with completely different norms to ours and examine the meaning of the differences. See The Dispossessed, The Left Hand of Darkness.

Virginia Woolf: Wittily psychological high modernism. Stream-of-consciousness pioneer, towering examinations of psyche and desire weaving together the interior lives of various characters all ****ed-up in their own uniquely modern repressed way. See Between the Acts (quite short, good start), To the Lighthouse.

George Eliot: There are in my opinion two (2) properly great writers of the mid-19th century English realist wide-angle social canvas novel. One is Dickens whose style was eclectic, madcap, sentimental, convoluted and descriptively intense. But the other is Eliot, in whose hands the realist aesthetic was elevated to a thing of enormous nuance and subtlety. Like Dickens, she has a reputation for being boring and boring, but (also like Dickens, albeit in a different way) she's actually very deft and funny. See Daniel Deronda, but, let's be honest, really just see Middlemarch.

Joan Didion: Have not read her but comes highly recommended. See Slouching Towards Bethlehem, The Year of Magical Thinking.

Margaret Atwood: Have not read her but comes highly recommended. See The Handmaid's Tale, Oryx and Crake.

Anne Finch: Late 17th/early 18th century poet who reacted to the intense sexual scrutiny of her time with an aesthetic that is deeply aware of visibility and concealment. Comfort in shade, the rigours of light, pleas to God to establish a female Eden. See poems.

Mary Wortley Montagu: Early 18th century writer and poet who was basically a gloriously awful aristocrat addicted to adulation wh owas nevertheless in possession of a sensitive soul, sharp wit and keen observation skills. See her mid-east travelogue Turkish Embassy Letters, plus poems.

Seconding Gaskell.

P.S. Avoid Mary Shelley. Everything except Frankenstein is turgid, and even that's actually not very well written once you get past its big ideas.

Really? I enjoyed the book, but its main attractions were A) good characters, and B) good plotting. The prose left a lot to be desired and the world-building was mundane (basically blandified medievalism). With that in mind, it's made for TV. Good actors can communicate psychology well enough for the project.
Realizing in retrospect, and belatedly, how shrewd Sulkdodds was with this stuff. All good choices: I remember reading Montagu's Letters and Gaskell out of a Norton Anthology this summer. However, tried getting through Eliot's Mill on the Floss but I couldn't, and perhaps at that point I was overread and exhausted (Dickens is almost unbearable for me, but equally so is Thackeray).

Woolf is nice: Dalloway is also in the Norton Anthology, of which I read a little.

My favorite female author is Flannery O'Conner. Her short stories are simply fantastic.
They really are: she's deceptively simple in her writing. I've read "Good Country People" twice now and there was one more I read whose name I forget. Just reminiscent of that Southern aesthetic to which I'm so accustomed. Katherine Anne Porter is also incredible: "Flowering Judas" is lovely.

I am not a fan of Wuthering Heights. The plot, when combined with excessive Gothic motifs and tepid prose, just makes the whole thing feel even more contrived than a story about rural gentry's rivalries normally would. Jane Austen's works about similar themes work because they are imbued with a sense of wit and self-awareness that is completely lacking in anything the Bronte sisters write.
I'm just the opposite: I feel that Bronte's prose is, in fact, heartbreakingly beautiful, in the sense that she can move from picturesque snapshots of the moors to the torturous, haunting scenes indoors. She was imaginative, deeply imaginative: it was her strength.

I'm currently about a hundred pages into a re-reading of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn purely for pleasure. After that I'll probably finish Max Hastings' All Hell Let Loose, a comprehensive history of WWII across every theater, and once that's over with I've made up my mind to reread either Brothers Karamazov or Anna Karenina now that a few years have passed since I originally read them. I've also been slowly making my way through White Noise by Don DeLillo.
Oh that just reminds me I still need to read the Russians. They're impenetrable, impervious, aren't they?
 

Ennui

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they certainly are. i knew when i saw the title of this resurrected thread that i would have some pretentious ass posts in it... and i was right

that being said shem yes read the russians
 
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