Author Topic: What are you currently reading?  (Read 762978 times)

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Offline Ken B

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #9380 on: September 02, 2019, 09:24:28 PM »
  I'll keep an eye out, but I tend to really dislike that particular mix. When a writer creates an alternate reality with a tight set of rules to govern how things work, it's quite a challenge I think. But as far as our own world goes, I prefer cold logic, reasonable physics, and probability for everything. If it is supposed to be "our" world, even when fate and karma take a hand, or aboriginal peoples suddenly have mystical visions and insights, it turns me off cold.
My mantra is “nature has no mind”. Any book that violates that gets turfed. I once gave up on a 1000 page novel on page 950 when something like those mystical powers happened.

I hope then I can enroll you in the “magical realism is shit” club. Every year we pick a Garcia Marquez book to not read. Each October a book will not arrive by mail.
Give a man a fire and he is warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he is warm for life.

Offline SimonNZ

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #9381 on: September 02, 2019, 11:05:19 PM »

I hope then I can enroll you in the “magical realism is shit” club. Every year we pick a Garcia Marquez book to not read. Each October a book will not arrive by mail.

I haven't read Marquez (started one once and stopped after a few pages for reasons I can't remember now) or really anything else that self-describes itself as "magical realism", but am a pretty big fan of Murakami, whose occasional dashes of dream-like elements are said to fall within the wider definition of that genre. have you read anything of his?

TD: into the last quarter of Richard Evans, vol.3. Am reminded that I have been meaning to read Ian Kershaw's The End. Might try that immediately after, depending on the extent and approach to which Evans covers the fall of Berlin, and if I feel in the mood for a compare-and-contrast. If not that then probably Giles MacDonough's After The Reich, which is also waiting.

Apparently Evans also has a couple of stand-alone volumes out there on the legacy and changing memory of the war, which I'll also have to track down.



« Last Edit: September 02, 2019, 11:15:08 PM by SimonNZ »

Offline Florestan

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #9382 on: September 05, 2019, 10:41:41 AM »
Re: Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Not everything he wrote is a masterpiece --- Chronicle of A Death Foretold is a huge letdown --- but when he's good, he's actually very good, nay excellent: Hundred Years of Solitude, The General in His Labyrinth, Love in the Time of Cholera, Of Love and Other Demons are masterpieces IMO. Plus, he was an avowed Communist, good friends with Fidel Castro --- yet there's no trace of Communist ideology in any of the above named masterpieces --- a big plus (pun) in my book.

In the same vein I heartily recommend Alejo Carpentier: The Lost Steps, The Rite of Spring, The Harp and the Shadow --- all very good.

And now that I think of Latin American literature, I also heartily recommend Augusto Roa Bastos' I, the Supreme and Alvaro Mutis' The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll

I also read Ernesto Sabato's On Heroes and Tombs but honestly it's too dark and enigmatic for my taste --- the chapter on blind people was downright repulsive to me. On the other hand, his essay Man and Mechanism is interesting and insightful, albeit not very original.

That being said, my favorite Latin American writer is Mario Vargas Llosa.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2019, 11:07:27 AM by Florestan »
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Offline Ken B

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #9383 on: September 05, 2019, 11:39:15 AM »
The General in His Labyrinth is the book we won’t be reading next month.
Give a man a fire and he is warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he is warm for life.

Offline Florestan

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #9384 on: September 05, 2019, 11:43:45 AM »
The General in His Labyrinth is the book we won’t be reading next month.

Your loss, big big time. Count me out of your darn club.
I compose music because I must give expression to my feelings, just as I talk because I must give utterance to my thoughts. --- Rachmaninoff

Offline Ken B

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #9385 on: September 05, 2019, 11:57:29 AM »
Your loss, big big time. Count me out of your darn club.

In Solitude a woman learns of a tragedy, I think the death of her son, when the pot of milk on the stove turns into snakes. The world is full of books that never get quite that silly or that maudlin. It’s the stuff Cervantes mocked.
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Offline Florestan

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #9386 on: September 05, 2019, 12:08:35 PM »
In Solitude a woman learns of a tragedy, I think the death of her son, when the pot of milk on the stove turns into snakes. The world is full of books that never get quite that silly or that maudlin. It’s the stuff Cervantes mocked.

Margaritas ante porcos.

I compose music because I must give expression to my feelings, just as I talk because I must give utterance to my thoughts. --- Rachmaninoff

Offline Ken B

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #9387 on: September 05, 2019, 12:35:55 PM »
Margaritas ante porcos.
Actually today it’s Gin&Tonic before the pork. Port afterwards. 8)
Give a man a fire and he is warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he is warm for life.

Offline Florestan

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #9388 on: September 05, 2019, 12:38:59 PM »
Actually today it’s Gin&Tonic before the pork. Port afterwards. 8)

Nu ştie ţăranul ce e şofranul.  ;D

Google it --- and ask me for genuine translation  ;D
« Last Edit: September 05, 2019, 12:42:50 PM by Florestan »
I compose music because I must give expression to my feelings, just as I talk because I must give utterance to my thoughts. --- Rachmaninoff

Offline Mookalafalas

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #9389 on: September 05, 2019, 05:08:23 PM »
My mantra is “nature has no mind”. Any book that violates that gets turfed. I once gave up on a 1000 page novel on page 950 when something like those mystical powers happened.

I hope then I can enroll you in the “magical realism is shit” club. Every year we pick a Garcia Marquez book to not read. Each October a book will not arrive by mail.

 Wow. A lot of hatred for Marquez.  Actually, I like him fine, and used to be a really big fan.  His favorite writer was William Faulkner, and his first book of short stories "No One Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories" is amazing, but even bleaker than Faulkner.  When he moved into "magical realism", there is certainly no divine power acting for the benefit of good and making sure everything turns out fair and happy because mystical powers are helping the characters. Just the opposite, usually. To me he is something like Kafka, politically, but poetic and often funny. However, life is equally hopeless and everyone is still doomed by human nature and oppressive governments (Chronicle of a Death Foretold, The General in His Labyrinth, 100 Years of Solitude). And his mid-period short stories tended to be surrealist/absurdist.  I remember really liking "The Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" and "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World." But there was no power acting for good in these, either. Love in the Time of Cholera was his huge hit, but I considered it a decline. I don't think I read anything after that. I tried his autobiography, but soon got bored with it.
It's all good...

Offline Ken B

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #9390 on: September 05, 2019, 05:52:42 PM »
Wow. A lot of hatred for Marquez.  Actually, I like him fine, and used to be a really big fan.  His favorite writer was William Faulkner, and his first book of short stories "No One Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories" is amazing, but even bleaker than Faulkner.  When he moved into "magical realism", there is certainly no divine power acting for the benefit of good and making sure everything turns out fair and happy because mystical powers are helping the characters. Just the opposite, usually. To me he is something like Kafka, politically, but poetic and often funny. However, life is equally hopeless and everyone is still doomed by human nature and oppressive governments (Chronicle of a Death Foretold, The General in His Labyrinth, 100 Years of Solitude). And his mid-period short stories tended to be surrealist/absurdist.  I remember really liking "The Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" and "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World." But there was no power acting for good in these, either. Love in the Time of Cholera was his huge hit, but I considered it a decline. I don't think I read anything after that. I tried his autobiography, but soon got bored with it.

Sounds like you have a LOT of patience for violations of logic and probability, just not when they make for a happy ending.
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Offline JBS

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #9391 on: September 05, 2019, 06:02:14 PM »
Sounds like you have a LOT of patience for violations of logic and probability, just not when they make for a happy ending.

But most books are full of violations of logic and probability.  The Sherlock Holmes stories are full of them. The difference is that Conan Doyle wrote as if they weren't violations of logic and probability (or provided complicated pseudoexplanations to make them seem to be no violations,  whereas magical realism makes no pretence that they are not violations.

Offline Ken B

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #9392 on: September 05, 2019, 06:15:25 PM »
But most books are full of violations of logic and probability.  The Sherlock Holmes stories are full of them. The difference is that Conan Doyle wrote as if they weren't violations of logic and probability (or provided complicated pseudoexplanations to make them seem to be no violations,  whereas magical realism makes no pretence that they are not violations.

Well the point at issue was fantasy novels and *physics*. Al said he like fantasy world building, but if the book was recognizably about “our” world he didn’t like the woo, he wanted physics. You don’t get that in magical realism. You might think Holmes's logic is full of holes but DOYLE'S physics isn’t full of trees that weep blood because *sob* the lovers must part. If a character can read in the sky the death of his brother five hundred miles away I put the book down.
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Offline Mookalafalas

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #9393 on: September 05, 2019, 11:12:06 PM »
Well the point at issue was fantasy novels and *physics*. Al said he like fantasy world building, but if the book was recognizably about “our” world he didn’t like the woo, he wanted physics. You don’t get that in magical realism. You might think Holmes's logic is full of holes but DOYLE'S physics isn’t full of trees that weep blood because *sob* the lovers must part. If a character can read in the sky the death of his brother five hundred miles away I put the book down.
  Sorry, for some reason I didn't see any of the intervening posts before mine went up. I didn't mean to ignore all your comments.
  Anyway, the other day some woman running for president in the US put up a post suggesting that if we all concentrate on the hurricane not hitting the coast, maybe it wouldn't.  She deleted the post, but she thought that might work in the real world.  Some writers share her sense of...reality. Paul Coelho, perhaps. I hate that stuff.  I don't think Garcia-Marquez really thinks a tree might, under any circumstances, bleed human blood out of sympathy. But he might use it as a poetic metaphor. In the "General in His Labyrinth" the ocean by the corrupt tyrant's country was gone, and there was a desert where it had been, because he had sold it to an American company. That's clearly an image, and a political statement, rather than an indication of his lack of understanding of basic principles of reality. Shakespeare has lots of magic in "The Tempest." In Macbeth, too, I suppose, and there's the ghost in Hamlet, but those don't bother me at all.  But when a Native American detective sees a vision that helps solve a grisly murder in a "realistic" police procedural, I have a problem.  In Twin Peaks, however, I enjoy it quite a lot (especially as there were giants, dwarves, and people who speak backwards in the vision). I guess my view is that authors can make any laws they want in their fictional world, and its fine if they are consistent. But using the tools of true realism (or naturalism) indicate they are subjecting themselves to the laws of empirical phenomonology, as does using real historical events and figures, unless the story is parody or comedy or tongue-in-cheek.  I hated when Tarantino showed moving and horrific scenes of Nazi brutality and then turned the movie into a fantastical farce. So was all that human suffering just "entertainment"?
  Anyway, sorry to ramble on.   
It's all good...

Online Jo498

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #9394 on: September 06, 2019, 02:02:37 AM »
If something like karma exists it is not a "mind" in nature but something fairly close to a natural law. Like a ball bounces back from the wall because of conservation of momentum, you reap the fruits of your deeds by some impersonal cosmic connection between certain acts and suffering etc.

But that's beside the point. There is plenty of "poetic justice" in "naturalist" settings in literature without evoking fate, gods, karma etc. Like with other improbable coincidences literature is rife with I think it also  depends for "magical" elements on how well it is done. There are pretty good "supernatural" horror stories, there is probably also good magical realism (I only read a few short pieces by Garcia Marquez ages ago, so I cannot comment on his work). There is also a lot of silly or annoyingly inconsistent stuff out there, of course.
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Offline Ken B

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #9395 on: September 06, 2019, 05:20:27 AM »
  Sorry, for some reason I didn't see any of the intervening posts before mine went up. I didn't mean to ignore all your comments.
  Anyway, the other day some woman running for president in the US put up a post suggesting that if we all concentrate on the hurricane not hitting the coast, maybe it wouldn't.  She deleted the post, but she thought that might work in the real world.  Some writers share her sense of...reality. Paul Coelho, perhaps. I hate that stuff.  I don't think Garcia-Marquez really thinks a tree might, under any circumstances, bleed human blood out of sympathy. But he might use it as a poetic metaphor. In the "General in His Labyrinth" the ocean by the corrupt tyrant's country was gone, and there was a desert where it had been, because he had sold it to an American company. That's clearly an image, and a political statement, rather than an indication of his lack of understanding of basic principles of reality. Shakespeare has lots of magic in "The Tempest." In Macbeth, too, I suppose, and there's the ghost in Hamlet, but those don't bother me at all.  But when a Native American detective sees a vision that helps solve a grisly murder in a "realistic" police procedural, I have a problem.  In Twin Peaks, however, I enjoy it quite a lot (especially as there were giants, dwarves, and people who speak backwards in the vision). I guess my view is that authors can make any laws they want in their fictional world, and its fine if they are consistent. But using the tools of true realism (or naturalism) indicate they are subjecting themselves to the laws of empirical phenomonology, as does using real historical events and figures, unless the story is parody or comedy or tongue-in-cheek.  I hated when Tarantino showed moving and horrific scenes of Nazi brutality and then turned the movie into a fantastical farce. So was all that human suffering just "entertainment"?
  Anyway, sorry to ramble on.

No need to apologize, interesting thoughts.

The disappearing ocean is less irksome than communication by milk turn8ng to snakes but both remind me of my dislike for Marvel Comics movies. (Very unlike gods in the Iliad I think.) Lazy and a bit frivolous. You need super villains in order to imagine evil, while Hitler,Stalin, Mao, and ABBA are living memory? I am no fan of Graham Greene, but for some reason I suddenly recall him evoking true, mundane, evil very well indeed without such stuff.

Magicalrealism also reminds me of the kind of hyperbole that Goldman mocks so well in The Princess Bride, which is worth reading.

Interesting question: is moving a hurricane more or less plausible than moving an ocean ...  ;)
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Offline Brian

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #9396 on: September 06, 2019, 10:06:18 AM »
The last Garcia Marquez I read was non-fiction, and therefore something Ken could tolerate. "Clandestine in Chile," a short (150 page) book narrating the adventures of an anti-Pinochet documentary filmmaker who smuggled himself into the country in disguise to produce a movie about life under the dictatorship.

The book is quite entertaining and written with typical GGM flair. By all accounts, it's more interesting than the actual movie.

Offline Ken B

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #9397 on: September 06, 2019, 12:12:33 PM »
I did like the one book I read by Vargas Llosa, but the only South American author I have read several books by is Jorge Amado. I read I 3 or 4 of his, decades ago. He was active in the communist party, so Andrei might enjoy the books ...

Vargas Llosa wrote a murder mystery, which is on my list.
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Offline Florestan

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #9398 on: September 07, 2019, 02:51:34 AM »
I did like the one book I read by Vargas Llosa, but the only South American author I have read several books by is Jorge Amado. I read I 3 or 4 of his, decades ago. He was active in the communist party, so Andrei might enjoy the books ...

As long as he keeps his politics away from his books, I really might. What do you recommend for a starter?

Quote
Vargas Llosa wrote a murder mystery, which is on my list.

Actually, he wrote two. Who Killed Palomino Molero? and Death in the Andes, featuring the same policeman, corporal Lituma. Both are quite good.
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Offline Ken B

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #9399 on: September 07, 2019, 06:45:06 AM »
As long as he keeps his politics away from his books, I really might. What do you recommend for a starter?

Actually, he wrote two. Who Killed Palomino Molero? and Death in the Andes, featuring the same policeman, corporal Lituma. Both are quite good.

Dona Flor and her two husbands

And The Black Book of Communism ...  8)
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