What are you currently reading?

Started by facehugger, April 07, 2007, 12:36:10 AM

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San Antone

#13020
Bound For Glory - Woody Guthrie (1.5 chapters in)

Intruders in the Dust - William Faulkner (about two-thirds finished)

Visions of Cody - Jack Kerourac (just started)

Brian

Quote from: San Antone on February 08, 2024, 01:50:19 AMBound For Glory - Woody Guthrie (1.5 chapters in)

Intruders in the Dust - William Faulkner (about two-thirds finished)

Visions of Cody - Jack Kerourac (just started)
I'm glad somebody else reads as many books at the same time as I do!

(I'm three chapters from finishing Wharton's The Age of Innocence, three chapters from beginning Pynchon's Vineland, and almost exactly halfway through Russell's history of philosophy.)

vers la flamme

#13022
Quote from: AnotherSpin on February 07, 2024, 05:52:55 PMIt's rather strange to read about Tolstoy's satire. He always seemed serious to me. One of the few writers whose seriousness doesn't get in the way. Tolstoy doesn't seem to have any more satire than the Upanishads. Maybe satire appears in translation? Anyway, for satire in Russian literature one should turn to others, to Gogol, Saltykov-Shchedrin.

Give me a little bit and I'll do my best to come up with at least a dozen examples for you, because there's one on almost every page. The number of times I've busted out laughing at this book... Not to say that his tone is not serious. Just that he seems to have a penchant for ridiculing just about every single character in the book—which is something I didn't expect. (And I wouldn't describe it as "gentle", as Brian did, but absolutely ruthless.) Having no Russian, I must of course concede the possibility that this is a failing of the translator, but I find it hard to imagine that Briggs is making all this up out of thin air.

A few things I laughed at:

Pierre's joining of the freemasons, which he and all participants regard with utmost seriousness—clearly, to the author (as I see it), it's all a big joke, and none of this approaches sincere spiritual feeling.

Berg and Vera's party—how happy he and his wife are that "absolutely everything was just like everywhere else"; delighted at how much they were conforming to the trends of good society.

Nikolai Rostov falling head over heels in love with the Tsar. "My God! I'd be so happy if he ordered me to go through fire here and now!"

Any time Boris Drubetskoy is on screen—his immense superiority and contempt for anyone and everyone he ever interacts with.

Any time Drubetskoy's mother is on screen—her shameless obsequiousness and machinations.

(This one might only be funny in English.) At one of Anna Pavlovna Scherer's soirées, as she is describing her guests in reductive terms to the guest of honor, Boris: "the simplest description of all was applied to M. Shitov, a 'man of much merit' who was always referred to thus." This is the only characterization we get, and more than once, of the unfortunately named monsieur Shitov ;D

Finally, I must again concede that maybe I'm the misanthrope for reading it all this way. But I don't think so, not totally, anyway.

ando


101 Opera Librettos
Complete Original Language Texts with English Translations of the World's Best-Loved Operas (1996, Black Dog & Leventhal)
It's a massive (1474 pages), hardcover tome that I picked up at my local library sale for a few dollars. I can't see sitting with it alongside an opera viewing but a prefatory read before a viewing or a comparative study should definitely prove useful. 

SimonNZ

It's been decades since I read War And Peace, but is there a bit where some elderly matchmakers get sick of a couple sitting in a room together in nervous silence, so they just burst in and congratulate them on their marriage proposal?

Or am I thinking of something else?

JBS

Quote from: SimonNZ on February 08, 2024, 08:44:32 PMIt's been decades since I read War And Peace, but is there a bit where some elderly matchmakers get sick of a couple sitting in a room together in nervous silence, so they just burst in and congratulate them on their marriage proposal?

Or am I thinking of something else?

Pierre and Elena Kuragina, IIRC.
And the marriage goes downhill from there.

Hollywood Beach Broadwalk

AnotherSpin

Quote from: vers la flamme on February 08, 2024, 06:09:04 AMGive me a little bit and I'll do my best to come up with at least a dozen examples for you, because there's one on almost every page. The number of times I've busted out laughing at this book... Not to say that his tone is not serious. Just that he seems to have a penchant for ridiculing just about every single character in the book—which is something I didn't expect. (And I wouldn't describe it as "gentle", as Brian did, but absolutely ruthless.) Having no Russian, I must of course concede the possibility that this is a failing of the translator, but I find it hard to imagine that Briggs is making all this up out of thin air.

A few things I laughed at:

Pierre's joining of the freemasons, which he and all participants regard with utmost seriousness—clearly, to the author (as I see it), it's all a big joke, and none of this approaches sincere spiritual feeling.

Berg and Vera's party—how happy he and his wife are that "absolutely everything was just like everywhere else"; delighted at how much they were conforming to the trends of good society.

Nikolai Rostov falling head over heels in love with the Tsar. "My God! I'd be so happy if he ordered me to go through fire here and now!"

Any time Boris Drubetskoy is on screen—his immense superiority and contempt for anyone and everyone he ever interacts with.

Any time Drubetskoy's mother is on screen—her shameless obsequiousness and machinations.

(This one might only be funny in English.) At one of Anna Pavlovna Scherer's soirées, as she is describing her guests in reductive terms to the guest of honor, Boris: "the simplest description of all was applied to M. Shitov, a 'man of much merit' who was always referred to thus." This is the only characterization we get, and more than once, of the unfortunately named monsieur Shitov ;D

Finally, I must again concede that maybe I'm the misanthrope for reading it all this way. But I don't think so, not totally, anyway.

Of course, the understanding of satire, or humour, may be different, and different for each reader. I see Tolstoy as unusually serious almost everywhere. But, again, one can read the same book differently. For me, the point of War and Peace is to illustrate Schopenhauer's ideas above all else. Maybe I'm reading something that other readers aren't paying attention to. Also, Tolstoy has much love for his characters and people in general.

AnotherSpin

Quote from: Florestan on February 08, 2024, 12:51:53 AMFor humour in Dostoevsky one has to turn to The Diary of a Writer and The Double, the latter being almost Gogolian in atmosphere and presentation.

As for the writer absolutely despising his characters in relentlessly bitter satire, Feodor Sologub's The Petty Demon might beat even Gogol.

Sologub lived in a sick, stuffy world and yes, his heroes are not pleasant. However, I do think he despised and enjoyed them at the same time with some perverse affection. I read Мелкий Бес forty or so years ago, and I would hardly come back.

Ganondorf

Recently finished Proust's La Prisonniére. Enjoyed more than I should have, perhaps, considering how far off the deep end the protagonist goes in this one, basically holding Albertine captive. Next stop should be Albertine disparue but I'm not sure when I can start that one, having several other captivating reading projects going on.

For one, I am already halfway through 4-volume biography of Wagner by Ernest Newman. Started 3rd volume today, nearing close to famous Tannhäuser fiasco in Paris. Newman writes extremely well. One thing I disagree with him though is his failure to understand Minna. I mean, seriously, is Minna supposed to take Wagner's infidelities in good humor?

vers la flamme

Quote from: SimonNZ on February 08, 2024, 08:44:32 PMIt's been decades since I read War And Peace, but is there a bit where some elderly matchmakers get sick of a couple sitting in a room together in nervous silence, so they just burst in and congratulate them on their marriage proposal?

Or am I thinking of something else?

Yes! And yes, it is Pierre and Hélène Kuragina. That was another scene I thought was hilarious.

Quote from: Tolstoy'There's something special that's supposed to be said on these occasions,' he thought, but for the life of him he couldn't remember what was supposed to be said on these occasions...

'I love you!', he said in formal French, suddenly recalling what was to be said on these occasions.

:laugh:

@AnotherSpin definitely agree on the possibility of two individuals reading the same novel in different ways. Not that I've read all of Schopenhauer, but I agree: the influence of his ideas is all over War and Peace.

SimonNZ

#13030
Started:



"In May 2016, Fort McMurray, Alberta, the hub of Canada's oil industry, was overrun by wildfire. The multi-billion-dollar disaster turned entire neighbourhoods into firebombs and drove 90,000 people from their homes in a single afternoon. Through the story of this apocalyptic conflagration, John Vaillant explores the past and the future of our ever-hotter, more flammable world.

For hundreds of millennia, fire has been a partner in our evolution, shaping culture and civilization. Yet in our age of intensifying climate change, we are seeing its destructive power unleashed in ways never before witnessed by human beings. With masterly prose and cinematic style, Vaillant delves into the intertwined histories of the oil industry and climate science, the unprecedented devastation wrought by modern wildfires, and the lives forever changed by these disasters. Fire Weather is urgent reading for our new century of fire."


also picking away at the essays in this collection:


LKB

Currently re-reading the best general science book I've encountered over the last fifty years, Steven Brusatte's The  Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs.
Mit Flügeln, die ich mir errungen...

vers la flamme

Quote from: LKB on February 12, 2024, 02:58:24 AMCurrently re-reading the best general science book I've encountered over the last fifty years, Steven Brusatte's The  Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs.

Looked it up; that's going on my wish list. Haven't read a good biology book in quite some time.

LKB

Quote from: vers la flamme on February 12, 2024, 01:04:31 PMLooked it up; that's going on my wish list. Haven't read a good biology book in quite some time.

It's really a great read. I recommend it to any human who happens to be breathing.  ;)
Mit Flügeln, die ich mir errungen...

SimonNZ

#13034
Added to things on the go:



I've actually read all the books these are taken from, but look forward to a revisit.

Can still remember my first encounter with his writing, his essay on attending Glostonbury. A couple of samples from that for the uninitiated:

"[...]The truth is this alternative weekend nirvana all comes down to plumbing and waste management. There are armies of kids who've been given tickets in exchange for picking up rubbish, of which there is an extraordinary amount. But it's bogs that are really the central leitmotif of Glastonbury. It's all about one thing: colonic endurance. Can you go the full three days without going? Because the very thought is so nauseous, so utterly medieval, it makes a colostomy bag sound like a civilised option. There are plenty of loos laid out like back-to-back miners' cottages. You can see the rows of feet in the morning, the whole-earth pasty-shoe next to the Nike Airs, next to Doc Martens. That's the thing that's rarely mentioned about hippies - they've managed to achieve completely unisexual footwear but, my darling, the smell. By the third morning it's, well, it's half a million turds and all the trimmings. There are horror stories of dropped stashes, of tripping and slipping, of horrible, horrible rectal explosions. But, for me, the most poignant, the most grisly, is the girl who told me she'd been putting off the call of nature for as long as sphincterally possible and until she was so comprehensively stoned and drunk she could face the drop. So at 2am she gingerly made her way to the pitch-black amenities block. Opening the door, she dropped her pants and, with the tense precision of a Romanian gymnast, lowered her posterior over the open sewer. Something cold and clammy squidged between the cheeks of her buttocks and in a sudden dark, repulsive flash of third-eye insight she realised she was squatting on the pointy turtle's head of the last occupant's offering, which itself was the high peak of a mountain of shit that had risen like the devil's soufflé from the bowl. She said her scream woke at least 4,000 people.[...]"

"[...]And I remember the nude wanker. Occasional nudity is respected at Glastonbury. It is the original flavour and spirit of nonviolent alternative protest, where hippies came from. Where would your flower-power happening be without some flaxen-haired, clear-eyed child of the morning getting her tits out and flicking peace signs at the world? This one wasn't exactly from central casting.
In front of the un-amplified folk gazebo where real, head-shaking lonely mandolin pluckers and finger-in-ear off-key whingers attracted a crowd of two or three delicate souls so hammered and wrung-out that their heads had been turned into iPods, there was a lady who had been so carried away by a folk combo that she'd taken all her clothes off. Nothing wrong with that. She'd been so transported by the musk she was moved to give herself a bit of a wank. Not a gentle, feel-good fingering, but the complete, top-of-the-range, brace-yourself-Doris, blurred-wrist seeing to. No, maybe not too much wrong with that either. There's an over-21 age limit and it's Glastonbury. The half-dozen pigs walk round with blinkers on doing community relations, funny-hat-wearing. Lord Lucan jacking up with Osama Bin laden would have difficulty getting arrested here, but the trouble was this wasn't some buff, fit, pert hippy chick with flowers in her hair and plaited pubes. It was an old, fat, hideous, meat-faced nutter bagwoman and something had to be done on purely aesthetic grounds. She was putting the folk folk off their protest songs, and they were complaining.
Two large security guards spent a lot of time animatedly shouting into their walkie talkies before gingerly approaching the frotting troll with rubber gloves and a blanket, the old trout desperately trying to finish off the full Meg Ryan while at the same time telling Securicor to f*** themselves, like what she was doing. And they danced around her trying to grab her wrists without getting the finger. I watched with bated breath on tenterhooks. Would they? Will they? And then one of them did. Gave me the punch line. "Oh, please, love. Come quietly." Yes![...]"

LKB

Bah, the cops should have just arranged for her to meet an old, fat and hideous boyfriend to finish up with...
Mit Flügeln, die ich mir errungen...

Florestan



This is a superb book, highly recommended for anyone interested in that period's music and culture in general. It's written in an eminently readable style, technical analysis and examples are kept to a minimum and skipping them does not impact the coherence of the narrative or the argument. Most commendable and refreshing, the composers and their music are evaluated from the perspective of their own and their time's aesthetic values and priorities, not from an anachronistic one. It is also lavishly illustrated with relevant contemporary artworks. The only thing I miss is a bit of humour, but this is a quibble. 
I love Italian opera – it's so reckless. Damn Wagner, and his bellowings at Fate and Death. Damn Debussy, and his averted face. I like the Italians who run all on impulse, and don't care about their immortal souls, and don't worry about the ultimate — D. H. Lawrence

Todd

It's early in this general election year, and I figured I'd revisit one of my favorite essays "Politics and the English Language", from way back in 1946.  It remains germane.  One of my favorite excerpts:

Quote from: Eric BlairMany political words are similarly abused. The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies 'something not desirable'. The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice, have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another. In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of régime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different...Other words used in variable meanings, in most cases more or less dishonestly, are: class, totalitarian, science, progressive, reactionary, bourgeois, equality.

As with works by Veblen, Bernays, Galbraith, and Schumpeter, among others, despite its age, the work remains evergreen.
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

People would rather believe than know - E.O. Wilson

Propaganda death ensemble - Tom Araya

AnotherSpin

"Consider these four questions, which cannot, as a whole, be satisfactorily answered with any combination of 'yes' and 'no', but rather lead one on in an endless circle.
    (1) Does there exist a Self?
    (2) Does there exist a world outside Self?
    (3) Does this Self cease with bodily death?
    (4) Does the world cease with my bodily death?"


LKB

Quote from: AnotherSpin on February 17, 2024, 07:21:04 AM"Consider these four questions, which cannot, as a whole, be satisfactorily answered with any combination of 'yes' and 'no', but rather lead one on in an endless circle.
    (1) Does there exist a Self?
    (2) Does there exist a world outside Self?
    (3) Does this Self cease with bodily death?
    (4) Does the world cease with my bodily death?"


1. Yes
2. Yes
3. No
4. No

See how easy that was?

>:D

Mit Flügeln, die ich mir errungen...