What Are You Reading

Discussion in 'The Reading Room' started by Lancealot, Aug 13, 2006.

  1. Benzadmiral

    Benzadmiral Call Me a Cab

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    It's peculiar, but I recall BNW as having some dry humor tucked into it.
     
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  2. MondoFW

    MondoFW Practically Family

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    And you would be right with that. That's what I can appreciate about the book. The rest is, frankly, too boring for me. Huxley's writing style is peculiar, at best.
     
  3. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    Dominican Thomas J White's insightful epistle, The Metaphysics of Democracy, First Things; Feb 2018 led back to Conor Cruise O'Brien's introduction to Edmund Burke's Reflections.
    A span of centuries easily bridged by current events. Human nature is a constant construct.
     
  4. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Half the fun is picking out Huxley's weirdly melded references to 1920s personalities. "Benito Hoover" indeed.

    A good followup is "Brave New World Revisited," written just before Huxley's death in 1963. This is a non-fiction work in which Huxley revisits the future he postulated in BNW and compares it to the world of the early 1960s to see how much has come true.
     
  5. MondoFW

    MondoFW Practically Family

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    This I may have to look into. Thanks, Lizzie! Unfortunately, I have not had much time to read lately. However, I want to peep out Lord of the Flies eventually, many friends of mine have read it and presented positive feedback.
     
  6. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

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    I've got so many books going at the moment I'm losing track.

    Don't You Know There's a War On? by Richard R. Lingeman. I've had this in my collection for years and am only now getting around to reading it.

    Avenue of Spies: A True Story of Terror, Espionage, and One American Family's Heroic Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Paris by Alex Kershaw.

    The Major's Daughter by J.P. Francis, a novel set in New Hampshire and dealing with a POW camp of Germans who help with the logging business. I'm having trouble staying interested mostly because there's nothing really going on - i.e. it's just characters doing their daily business and interacting occasionally. So yes, this is more of a "literary" read than anything. And I confess, I really lose my patience with "literary" reads. They are fine for character studies and philosophical discussions, etc., etc., but I am much more of a reader who thrives on a fast plot with complex characters. The characters need to be working toward a goal and things need to happen to get in the way of that goal. THAT is what keeps me turning the pages. Mini rant over. ;)

    I'm also beta reading one of my friend's unpublished novels and it is very, very good - I don't normally read sci fi/fantasy, but this one is gripping. It's set 500 years in the future. I'm hoping she can get it published.

    Various assorted reference books. I was reading a section of The FBI-KGB War by Robert J. Lamphere yesterday. Pretty interesting details into the FBI of the early 1940s.
     
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  7. Benzadmiral

    Benzadmiral Call Me a Cab

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    Death's Darkest Face, a mystery novel by Julian Symons. It would be of interest to Loungers, because it's set in two time periods, while being presented by Symons (in a Maugham-like, "I'm an author; people tell me things" way) in the 1980s. He tells us that an actor acquaintance of his dies and passes on to him a memoir manuscript, set partly in the Sixties and partly in the Thirties, concerning the mysterious 1936 disappearance of one Hugo Headley, a minor poet. And the manuscript written by the late actor friend is the main story.

    Symons sets up this frame story, I suspect, instead of just presenting the ms. as the entire novel, because he, in his capacity as author/editor of the whole thing, will draw conclusions about this mystery which has remained unsolved for some 50 years.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2018
  8. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    My girlfriend's dad gave me a collection of Ross Macdonald books for Christmas. I had read a few of his later books (written in the '70s) in the '80s, but this series starts with his books from the '50s. First up, "The Way Some People Die." I'm twenty or so pages in and, while a touch slow so far, I am enjoying the "film noir" feel of '50s Los Angles. I'll report back when done.

    Base on this ⇧, I bought this ⇩

    41bwYSJKoKL._SX304_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

    and boy am I glad I did. Since I invested $5 in it, I decided to read "Octopussy" despite it being, IMHO, an all but unwatchable movie (and this from a big Bond fan). It is not related to the movie at all, but instead it is a solid short story - tight and engaging despite Bond playing only a small role.

    Then it was on to the few page of the very enjoyable essay "007 in New York." As Benzadmiral said, it's kinda a brief travelogue of New York - fun as it exposes more of Bond's personality as you get to see him dealing with life's normal annoyances (like getting through customs) versus him just saving the world.
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2018
  9. Benzadmiral

    Benzadmiral Call Me a Cab

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    MacDonald's private-eye stories date back to the very late Forties, I think -- one of his early ones I read in an Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine prize contest volume from around that time. One detail that seems odd to us now is that, apparently, it was once common for the registration information for a car and its owner to be fastened to the steering column, behind the wheel, and Lew Archer is able to read it.
     
  10. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    That's ⇧ a LizzieMaine type of detail.

    And thank you for the Bond recommendation - thoroughly enjoyed both stories and wish both had been longer. It was nice to read Bond material that wandered a bit from the formula.
     
  11. Julian Shellhammer

    Julian Shellhammer Practically Family

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    1776 by David McCullough
     
  12. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    Finished Ross Macdonald's 1950 "The Way Some People Die."

    Good, uneven, promising but not fully satisfying.

    The good is the film noir feel and some dialogue exchanges which are tight, snappy and character exposing. Also good is the hard look at drug use and the sex trade - not something you'll get too much of from the movies and even many of the novels of the time. Life in the Golden Era had its gritty corners and pain as all time and places had.

    The uneven was the seemingly forced and overly engineered plot, too many two-dimensional characters, pages that could have been edited out and an unsatisfying ending (can't reveal more, but felt unworthy of all the effort to get there).

    The promising is both the good noted above and that the problems could easily be addressed and, my guess owing to his long career, were.

    Will take a little time off and then return again to Macdonald.
     
  13. Benzadmiral

    Benzadmiral Call Me a Cab

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    I was correct in my supposition. Symons, in his role as "author presenting a manuscript to the public," does some armchair detective theorizing in the last chapter, and comes up with a neat surprise.

    ETA: With nothing else in my queue (i.e., the pile of library books on my shelf at home), I'm rereading Stephen King's The Stand.
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2018
  14. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    Spied an ad for Maine Quarterly in the New York Times last week and gave it a go, found the Arts section with Winslow Homer and Andrew Wyeth content.
    All of Homer is provocative while Wyeth's Christina's World is a soul searing introspective masterpiece.
     
  15. Bushman

    Bushman My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    I never got around to Origin of Species, but bought a copy on Amazon for $5. Terrible Lizard I got 100 pages into before I had to return the book having already used up the renewal on it. I bought that one on Amazon for $5 aslo. I'm finding Terrible Lizard incredibly interesting. It's not just about the founding years of paleontology in the 1800s, but the early years of geology in general and how religious dogma carved out the modern geology I studied in my early college years prior to changing majors. It also discusses how egos and traditional societal roles (not just gender roles, but English classes as well) impede the progress of the fledgling sciences. Furthermore, because geology was initially founded to prove the biblical miracles and catastrophes (such as the Great Flood), and paleontology was an extension of that mission, the discovery of long extinct reptiles really threw a monkey wrench into the whole Biblical Geology thing.
     
  16. DNO

    DNO One Too Many

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    Just finished Richard van Emden's The Quick and the Dead: Fallen Soldiers and Their Families in the Great War. Excellent read...answered some questions I've always had about the grave registration unit and the early days of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

    Now, for a change of pace, I'm re-reading Bernard Cornwell's The Fort.
     
  17. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom Call Me a Cab

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    Am reading “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles.
    This book could very well be mandatory reading for all Loungers.
    The book is about a Russian Count who, in the wake of the Russian revolution, charmingly evades a firing squad only to be sentenced to lifelong confinement in the elegant Hotel Metropol in Moscow. There, he fritters away the 1920s, 30s and 40s. The question is: How to navigate years and decades of such a life without falling into deadly ennui? I won’t give any spoilers, but the count does it largely by combating the insane world by way of meticulous (but not fussy) attention to the small details, manners, and acts of generosity that define class. Also, the book is stunningly well written (the comparison with the last book I read, is 180 degrees.) But my big ponder is this: isn’t the book asking if we are all not prisoners in the Hotel Metropol? At least temporarily, the book is making me a better person. :rolleyes:
     
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  18. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    I read it right after it came out and loved it. It is an incredibly enjoyable story and very well written. Nina might be my favorite child in fiction ever. What happens to her as an adult is a subtle but searing comment of the USSR - really well done.

    Towles' first book, "Rules of Civility" is good - and worth the read - but "A Gentleman in Moscow" is a big leap forward for him. Can't wait to see what he comes out with next.

    My comments from when I read it: http://www.thefedoralounge.com/threads/what-are-you-reading.10557/page-369#post-2215159
     
  19. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    Read the New York Times coverage of the Mueller probe last nite on the train, following an earlier look at the Washington Post,
    insipid ad hominem, but legal sites are also betwixt rhyme and reason: Article II presidential authority, personal rights under the Fifth Amendment,
    United States v. Nixon and Clinton vs. Jones. The latter involved presidential civil deposition where a defendant; Nixon called documentary
    evidence response to subpoena-not quite germane precedent; whereas Mueller might eventually bring a contempt proceeding against the president,
    to kick up a little constitutional dust storm.
     
  20. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Over the past week or so, I've reread the entire run of the "Peanuts" comic strip -- October 1, 1950 to February 13, 2000.

    "Peanuts" was omnipresent in my childhood -- paperback collections of the strip were among the first books I read, and I followed the strip in the daily paper from the time I understood what a newspaper was until the very end of the run, so I experienced about 4/5ths of the strip's run in real time. Most of that time I took it for granted -- it was part of the environment, sometimes great, sometimes OK, and eventually you just read it out of habit on your way down the page to "Calvin and Hobbes" or "Bloom County." But rereading the entire strip, start to finish, in bulk and in sequence, is a fascinating experience.

    It's hard to believe that anything as relentlessly, hopelessly bleak as "Peanuts" was ever accepted for publication by an American newspaper syndicate in 1950. For most of its first fifteen years, the strip was a continuous and trenchant rebuttal to the forced optimism of those years: the strip dealt, not with happiness-thru-modern-living, but with the endless cruelty of daily life as seen thru the person of Charlie Brown. Many, many, many of the early strips had no perceptible gag or comic business at all -- they were simply ritualized, relentless humiliations of a lonely six-year-old boy who frequently ended the strip with his head leaning helplessly against a tree or a wall. The Charlie Brown of the 1950s was not the eye-rollin, resilient Everyman of the 60s and 70s -- he was a child suffering from what appeared to be clinical depression, and why and how 1950s America responded to this character in the way that it did is something worth thinking about.

    The "Peanuts" most of us remember is the strip as it was from the mid-1960s until about 1975 -- but that definitive version didn't really last much beyond the mid-seventies. Snoopy dominated the strip for much of this "classic" poeriod with his many "Here's The World Famous.." personae -- but the bleakness is still there when you think about what he's actually doing. He's a *dog,* who in reality lives the life of a suburban dog -- meals, sleeping, and little else. His only escape from the emptiness of his life is this constant parade of imaginary personalities he assumes -- but no matter what he does in his mind, he can't escape from the fact that, in reality, he's nothing but a dog who can do absolutely nothing on his own. Bleak, bleak, bleak.

    The 80s and 90s, however, may have been the bleakest period of the strip's existance. Much of this period focused on three basic motifs: Sally's lazy and relentless cynicism, Peppermint Patty's stupidity, and little Rerun's naivete. Snoopy lost a lot of his luster during this period, spending much of the strip's last two decades as a stooge for his unappealing relatives, and Charlie Brown was reduced largely to acting as Sally's straight man. And the most complex character of all, Linus, had almost nothing to do during the last decade of the strip but go door to door witnessing for the Great Pumpkin in a pointed parody of the evangelical beliefs that Charles Schulz had, by this time, rejected.

    The worst aspect of the late period, though, was Schulz's treatment of Peppermint Patty -- once a fun, vibrant character, she was reduced by the end to a target for cheap, repetitious "dumb" jokes. Schulz was sometimes accused of cruelty in his treatment of Charlie Brown -- but you never laughed *at* Charlie Brown. You always sympathized with him. But the treatment meted out to Peppermint Patty thru the last fifteen years of the strip can only be described as cruel. In the end, sadly, the bleakness of "Peanuts" seemed to consume even its creator.

    All that said, though, there is much that is fascinating in "Peanuts." Schulz was a much funnier comedy writer than he ever gets credit for, and he had an impeccable sense of how to time a gag that remained with him to the very end of his life: at his best, Charlie Brown's aggrieved reactions are positively Bennyesque. And his longer continuities of the 1960s and early 1970s show a real mastery of how to build an interesting plot and string out the suspense just long enough to keep the reader wanting more. Despite all the psychological baggage woven into the strip -- or maybe because of it -- "Peanuts" in totality is one of the most fascinating works of art produced in 20th Century America. If you've never read it all the way thru, it's a worthwhile challenge to take up.
     

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