Author Topic: What are you currently reading?  (Read 1145336 times)

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Offline André

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10840 on: May 03, 2021, 04:00:12 PM »
Finished this one by Tom Gauld (light reading)





Offline Mirror Image

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10841 on: May 03, 2021, 04:13:36 PM »
This biography on Strauss:

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Offline vers la flamme

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10842 on: May 04, 2021, 02:54:48 PM »
Irène Némirovsky's posthumously published, incomplete epic, Suite Française



I was initially drawn to this book, as one might expect, by the Bach connection of the title, but after learning more of the circumstances behind the writing and publication of this book (some 60 years after it was written), I decided that I had to read this. I'm about halfway into the novel and enjoying it so far. It has an ensemble cast of characters, all involved in one way or another in the exodus from Paris to the provinces during the German invasion of France in World War II. There are some extremely harrowing scenes described here. I'm a bit of a budding WWII junkie and I suspect I'll find something to appreciate in any book on the subject, fiction or non, but I guess I must admit that it doesn't quite live up to what I was expecting. I can comfortably blame this on the fact that the author only had the chance to finish about a third of what she was planning to write before she was murdered in the Holocaust. And, of course, my thoughts may change by the end of the book. It seems that I find about half of the many characters much more interesting than the other half.

Finished; while I did enjoy the book I'm sad that I didn't connect with it as much as I'd hoped to. Must return at a later date.

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10843 on: May 04, 2021, 04:32:40 PM »
Now that I'm back in touch with my Nook (as it were) I am re-reading Our Mutual Friend in earnest
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Offline aligreto

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10844 on: May 05, 2021, 04:07:06 AM »
Somerset Maugham: Cosmopolitans


   


This is a series of short stories commissioned by the magazine Cosmopolitan. The commission was based on strict space considerations in the magazine so these stories are naturally more terse that Maugham’s more normal flowing style. Also as a result of said restrictions Maugham pared back his descriptive language. As a result of these constrictions the stories make for interesting reading when compared with the greater body of his work [well, for a Maugham fan anyway].
It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and leave no doubt.

Offline Florestan

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10845 on: May 05, 2021, 09:03:45 AM »
Endo's Silence has just arrived.



Just finished this. Bleak and tough but impresssive. Raises a lot of difficult questions and challenges for me as a Christian, to which I have only theoretical answers. The moral dilemma of the protagonist is atrocious.
"Beauty must appeal to the senses, must provide us with immediate enjoyment, must impress us or insinuate itself into us without any effort on our part."
 --- Claude Debussy

Offline Dry Brett Kavanaugh

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10846 on: May 05, 2021, 09:36:47 AM »
Just finished this. Bleak and tough but impresssive. Raises a lot of difficult questions and challenges for me as a Christian, to which I have only theoretical answers. The moral dilemma of the protagonist is atrocious.

Glad to hear that you found Silence by Endo impressive and powerful. As we discussed in January, the values in the moral dilemma are apples and oranges. Impossible to choose one over the other. Yes, the book is very challenging, emotionally and theoretically.

Offline Florestan

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10847 on: May 05, 2021, 10:32:08 AM »
Glad to hear that you found Silence by Endo impressive and powerful. As we discussed in January, the values in the moral dilemma are apples and oranges. Impossible to choose one over the other. Yes, the book is very challenging, emotionally and theoretically.

One of the most interesting issues the book raised for me is this: to be a Christian in a Christian country is relatively easy, in the sense that at least nobody will force you to make impossible moral choices and least of all to renounce your faith* --- maybe the true test and trial is to be a Christian in a non-Christian, even anti-Christian, country, where your faith is challenged daily and where your choices may affect not only your life and soul, but those of many others as well.

Truly a disturbing, thought-provoking book, this one.
 
*although there is tension and even open conflict between the Christianity of Christ and the Christianity of the State, as the cases of Kierkegaard and Tolstoy clearly prove.
"Beauty must appeal to the senses, must provide us with immediate enjoyment, must impress us or insinuate itself into us without any effort on our part."
 --- Claude Debussy

Offline Dry Brett Kavanaugh

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10848 on: May 05, 2021, 10:49:52 AM »
One of the most interesting issues the book raised for me is this: to be a Christian in a Christian country is relatively easy, in the sense that at least nobody will force you to make impossible moral choices and least of all to renounce your faith* --- maybe the true test and trial is to be a Christian in a non-Christian, even anti-Christian, country, where your faith is challenged daily and where your choices may affect not only your life and soul, but those of many others as well.

Truly a disturbing, thought-provoking book, this one.
 
*although there is tension and even open conflict between the Christianity of Christ and the Christianity of the State, as the cases of Kierkegaard and Tolstoy clearly prove.


I also read the book, many years ago, in different perspectives, especially in terms of cultural centralism. The protagonist believes that his/Christian belief is universal, absolute, and true. He naturally and strongly believes that Japanese were believing in a wrong god whereas his God is true. He thought that he was helping the people in Japan- attempting to convert their belief- though the much of latter didn't appreciate his "help." Could one possibly consider that the tragedy could be partially due to the self-centered messianism in his belief?
« Last Edit: May 05, 2021, 01:01:35 PM by Dry Brett Kavanaugh »

Online SimonNZ

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10849 on: May 05, 2021, 01:53:08 PM »
i haven't read the book I've only seen the film, but yes to that last post: they weren't merely "being christian in a non-christian land"

(also a joke I'd make in other contexts about "being christian in a non-christian land" would be: "fucking immigrants - why wont they assimilate to to our culture?")

TD:



I'd started this before and put it aside but now I'm properly into it and after it takes some time to change up through the gears I'm now starting to see why it is Pulitzer-worthy.


and for when I'm wanting something lighter to dip in and out of:

« Last Edit: May 05, 2021, 02:01:42 PM by SimonNZ »

Offline vers la flamme

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10850 on: May 06, 2021, 01:47:04 AM »
Raymond Carver, Cathedral



The last of Carver's three major story collections for me to read, though there is also the compilation Where I'm Calling From which combines the other three books and adds a handful of new ones, so I suppose I'll have to read that one eventually. As for Cathedral, so far so good. I found the story "A Small, Good Thing", a rewrite of "Bath" from What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, just crushing. I've loved every bit of Carver's work so far. Wish there were more of it.

Offline Florestan

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10851 on: May 06, 2021, 02:14:37 AM »

I also read the book, many years ago, in different perspectives, especially in terms of cultural centralism. The protagonist believes that his/Christian belief is universal, absolute, and true. He naturally and strongly believes that Japanese were believing in a wrong god whereas his God is true. He thought that he was helping the people in Japan- attempting to convert their belief- though the much of latter didn't appreciate his "help." Could one possibly consider that the tragedy could be partially due to the self-centered messianism in his belief?

This idea crossed my mind too, but on close inspection it doesn't hold much water.

Rodrigues did not set out for Japan in order to convert them; he did it first in order to help those already converted, who were left without priests, baptism, confession and church services, and second in order to find out what really happened to Ferreira. During the whole book he doesn't try to convert a single person, he only administers baptism to and hears confession from nominal Christians. Moreover, when Ferreira tells him that the Japanese Christians turned the Christian God into something else, believing in a wrong sort of god, he doesn't believe it. What you say about attempting to convert their belief- though the much of latter didn't appreciate his "help." might apply to St. Francis Xavier and his immediate followers, ie to the very first Christian missionaries to Japan. But then again, according to the book, the latter were actually succesful, particularly in the Nagasaki area, where at one time there were 400,000 Christians and the authorities were tolerant or even benevolent.

The dire circumstances of Rodrigues and the Japanese Christians were a direct result of harsh and cruel persecutions but the book is silent (pun) about what caused them. After all, the vast majority of Japanese Christians were poor and destitute peasants who barely made ends meet on a daily basis and desired nothing but to be left alone to peacefully live their miserable life . What extreme danger could they pose to the warlords, the authorities and the Buddhist hierarchy so that they had to be crushed mercilessly?

Inoue tells Rodrigues that he (Rodrigues) is directly responsible for the suffering of his fellow Christians and that if he hadn't come to Japan they woud have not suffered, but this is pure sophistry. Firstly, the persecutions began long before Rodrigues set foot on Japan soil; secondly, it wasn't on Rodrigues' orders that the peasants were crucified in the sea or hanged upside down, but on Inoue's. If the intention was to punish Rodrigues, or break down his will, why such cruelty against people who were not responsible for his deeds?


"Beauty must appeal to the senses, must provide us with immediate enjoyment, must impress us or insinuate itself into us without any effort on our part."
 --- Claude Debussy

Offline Florestan

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10852 on: May 06, 2021, 10:14:30 AM »
Re-reading this



Yevgeny Zamyatin --- We

The world it depicts is every bit as bleak and depressive as that of Silence. probably more so --- because in a world of conflicting religions, cultures and countries there is still room aplenty for personal and free choices, actions and creativity, while in a world where there's only one state, one religion (or rather a complete lack thereof) and one culture, all of them organized strictly and exclusively on rational and scientific principles, notions such as "personal", "free", "choice" and "creativity" are regarded and derided as primitive, obsolete and even dangerous.

It's obvious to me that Zamyatin understood Dostoevsky only too well. We is The Demons fast-forwarded a millenium.
"Beauty must appeal to the senses, must provide us with immediate enjoyment, must impress us or insinuate itself into us without any effort on our part."
 --- Claude Debussy

Offline Florestan

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10853 on: May 06, 2021, 11:18:42 AM »
Not without connection to Silence, this illumminating article on Kierkegaard's conception of Philosophy, Theology and Christianity:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/334516766_Kierkegaard%27s_Existential_Conception_of_the_Relationship_Between_Philosophy_and_Christianity

(Kierkegaard being my favorite Protestant thinker by a wide margin)
"Beauty must appeal to the senses, must provide us with immediate enjoyment, must impress us or insinuate itself into us without any effort on our part."
 --- Claude Debussy

Offline Florestan

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10854 on: May 06, 2021, 12:06:37 PM »
Really, this Shusaku Endo is hands down my greatest literary discovery of this year and quite possibly the most disturbing and thought-provoking writer I've encountered since I can't remember when. (sic!)

Hat tip to vers la flamme and Dry Brett Kavanaugh for that!

Now I must read Graham Greene (believe it or not, I haven't read a single line of his till now).
"Beauty must appeal to the senses, must provide us with immediate enjoyment, must impress us or insinuate itself into us without any effort on our part."
 --- Claude Debussy

Offline vers la flamme

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10855 on: May 06, 2021, 12:21:01 PM »
Really, this Shusaku Endo is hands down my greatest literary discovery of this year and quite possibly the most disturbing and thought-provoking writer I've encountered since I can't remember when. (sic!)

Hat tip to vers la flamme and Dry Brett Kavanaugh for that!

Now I must read Graham Greene (believe it or not, I haven't read a single line of his till now).

Very happy to hear you've enjoyed Endo's Silence. It was similarly eye opening for me. As for Greene, I just read two of his books and enjoyed both: The Heart of the Matter and The End of the Affair. But he's written so many books.

Offline Florestan

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10856 on: May 06, 2021, 12:29:07 PM »
Very happy to hear you've enjoyed Endo's Silence. It was similarly eye opening for me.

I would be very, very interested in your thoughts on what I wrote about Silence.

https://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,68.msg1366497.html#msg1366497

Do you agree even partially? Do you completely disagree?  Either way I thank you in advance for expressing your thoughts.

As for Greene, I just read two of his books and enjoyed both: The Heart of the Matter and The End of the Affair. But he's written so many books.

I just bought The Power and the Glory.
« Last Edit: May 06, 2021, 12:30:41 PM by Florestan »
"Beauty must appeal to the senses, must provide us with immediate enjoyment, must impress us or insinuate itself into us without any effort on our part."
 --- Claude Debussy

Offline vers la flamme

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10857 on: May 06, 2021, 12:39:28 PM »
I would be very, very interested in your thoughts on what I wrote about Silence.

https://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,68.msg1366497.html#msg1366497

Do you agree even partially? Do you completely disagree?  Either way I thank you in advance for expressing your thoughts.


Give me some time to collect my thoughts and get back to you on that.

I just bought The Power and the Glory.

I read this in high school and I have it on my shelf, ready for a reread in the near-ish future. It's a good one, and actually rather similar to Silence if I recall correctly.

Offline Florestan

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10858 on: May 06, 2021, 12:47:07 PM »
Give me some time to collect my thoughts and get back to you on that.

Take all the time you need, my friend!

Quote
I read this in high school and I have it on my shelf, ready for a reread in the near-ish future. It's a good one, and actually rather similar to Silence if I recall correctly.

Excellent! I'll start reading it asap.

"Beauty must appeal to the senses, must provide us with immediate enjoyment, must impress us or insinuate itself into us without any effort on our part."
 --- Claude Debussy

Offline vers la flamme

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #10859 on: May 06, 2021, 12:57:23 PM »
Spoiler alert in case you haven't read Silence and want to.

This idea crossed my mind too, but on close inspection it doesn't hold much water.

Rodrigues did not set out for Japan in order to convert them; he did it first in order to help those already converted, who were left without priests, baptism, confession and church services, and second in order to find out what really happened to Ferreira. During the whole book he doesn't try to convert a single person, he only administers baptism to and hears confession from nominal Christians. Moreover, when Ferreira tells him that the Japanese Christians turned the Christian God into something else, believing in a wrong sort of god, he doesn't believe it. What you say about attempting to convert their belief- though the much of latter didn't appreciate his "help." might apply to St. Francis Xavier and his immediate followers, ie to the very first Christian missionaries to Japan. But then again, according to the book, the latter were actually succesful, particularly in the Nagasaki area, where at one time there were 400,000 Christians and the authorities were tolerant or even benevolent.

The dire circumstances of Rodrigues and the Japanese Christians were a direct result of harsh and cruel persecutions but the book is silent (pun) about what caused them. After all, the vast majority of Japanese Christians were poor and destitute peasants who barely made ends meet on a daily basis and desired nothing but to be left alone to peacefully live their miserable life . What extreme danger could they pose to the warlords, the authorities and the Buddhist hierarchy so that they had to be crushed mercilessly?

Inoue tells Rodrigues that he (Rodrigues) is directly responsible for the suffering of his fellow Christians and that if he hadn't come to Japan they woud have not suffered, but this is pure sophistry. Firstly, the persecutions began long before Rodrigues set foot on Japan soil; secondly, it wasn't on Rodrigues' orders that the peasants were crucified in the sea or hanged upside down, but on Inoue's. If the intention was to punish Rodrigues, or break down his will, why such cruelty against people who were not responsible for his deeds?

I don't think that Rodrigues had a messianic complex, either. Okay, maybe a little bit, early on in the book: he does seem to be a bit hung up on the concept of martyrdom, at least until his visions of which were completely shattered after seeing his new friends die brutally on the beach. Nor do I think that Rodrigues was completely misguided in his goal of going to Japan to help the persecuted Christians. While it's true that he never stated a goal of converting more Japanese to Christianity, I don't know if there's any Jesuit in the 17th century who didn't dream of a completely Christianized Japan, which probably in reality never could have happened. But I agree with you; I don't think that was ever really his direct goal.

The character of Inoue was fascinating: especially the whole Pilate connection. I need to brush up on my Gospels, but somehow the comparison feels incomplete. With Inoue, I don't think it was a "forgive them for they know not what they do" situation. But I am having a hard time piecing together his true motivations. I'm not convinced that he was just a violent sociopath or some demonic figure who just wanted to inflict suffering on people, but I'm also not convinced that he was a fervent believer in his own religion of Japanese Buddhism. Still trying to figure out who exactly he was in this book.

While the Japanese Christians as depicted in the book were, as you say, harmless peasants just wanting to live a life of peace and striving toward Christian salvation—it is not quite so simple in my view. Christianity indeed is an existential threat to Japan in the 17th century: a completely Christianized Japan could easily have become a vassal to the Portuguese empire. Obviously, the Japanese are not willing to give up their authority. I wonder if the persecution of Christians in Japan had much more to do with politics than any sense of religious conviction.

My favorite part of the book was Rodrigues' and Garrpe's brief ministry in the mountain shack outside the village. I found their small community of faith very honest and touching, independent of all sociopolitical and historical considerations.

I wonder if our Western perspective colors our interpretation of this wonderfully ambiguous book. Like you, I am a Christian, though surely not the greatest one in the world—I am not (yet) a churchgoer by any means. I like Greene's self identification, later in life, as a Catholic agnostic.