What Are You Reading

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

  1. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    7,896
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US

    Pynchon is an acquired taste, I put V down a few times before he and I went our separate ways.
    Interestingly enough Foucault's Discipline & Punish is atop my study desk now, patiently awaiting further
    revisit though not felt such an immediate demand. Celine and Joyce are a pair, but pale against Melville
    who produced the finest novel in American letters, Moby Dick, and Dostoyevsky for The Brothers Karamazov,
    which in my opinion ranks as the premiere novel penned in the last two hundred years.

    I favor truth over falsehood or mere entertainment and confess that Shakespeare bequeaths
    such abundance of truth and beauty I concluded long ago that his father must have been Irish.;)
     
  2. dubpynchon

    dubpynchon Practically Family

    Messages:
    942
    Location:
    Ireland
    Have you read the Pevear and Volokhonsky translations of Dostoyevsky? They're excellent, I read their Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov last year. They really captured the hallucinogenic quality in Crime and Punishment, when Raskolnikov is wandering around, half off his head with guilt and confusion. The Brothers Karamazov makes me wonder what it's sequel would have been, Dostoyevsky had planned it as his next novel as far as I know, it's very open-ended, I could see a sequel ten years on, with Dmitri back and Ilyusha grown up. It's truly a novel where Dostoyevsky's trying to understand suffering in the world.
     
  3. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    7,896
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    Within the supernatural realm salvation can only be achieved through suffering. Mankind must share
    Christ's suffering to achieve salvation; Dostoyevsky loved Christ and endured the Dark Night of the Soul
    surely as writ by St John of The Cross, and lived by the mystic Russian to clarify that men who refuse
    this belief are forced to endure denial's consequent despair. The loss of God, forfeited faith, internal
    torture, cumulative tally for the deliberate act of refusing the yoke.

    Of course, this truth is a Catholic perspective told in secular literature. Such truth is not easily availed.
    Many prefer a more temporal view of life without transcendance or the painful path its offer bades trod.
     
  4. dubpynchon

    dubpynchon Practically Family

    Messages:
    942
    Location:
    Ireland
    It’s Raskolnikov’s realization at the end of Crime and Punishment, that suffering eventually brings redemption. On the other hand we have Ivan’s argument, but then Ivan went mad. Alyosha was really the hero of that novel.
     
  5. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    7,896
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    The characters are ephemeral to the truth with the exception of the Grand Inquisitor and Christ,
    and I have always taken the Inquisitor to be Satan, adversary in the biblical sense, a temptor of perverse
    falsehood. Dostoyevsky considered Christ the ultimate, he possessed a jealous love for Christ so that
    even if it were proved that Christ is outside the truth, and that truth outside Christ, he would prefer
    to remain with Christ than with truth.
     
    dubpynchon likes this.
  6. dubpynchon

    dubpynchon Practically Family

    Messages:
    942
    Location:
    Ireland
    Christ was the ultimate hero archetype, so I can understand that. I agree with your interpretation of the Inquisitor as Satan, the freedom which the Inquisitor says the people would give throw back in Christ’s face reminds me of Notes from the Underground, where Dostoyevsky says that if man was given a city which would fulfill all his wants, he would eventually burn it down. It’s Jung’s Shadow, that spiteful level of the personality.
     
  7. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    7,896
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US

    Dostoyevsky emerged after prison with the belief that human nature while enigmatic had an innate
    compulsive desire to express its individual will, an instictive freedom; which could neither be denied
    nor shackled, and, if forced would retaliate whatever sacrifice.
    This entirely rejects Tolstoyan idealism and passivity.

    No other author in the nineteenth century so completely pierced human nature's psychological complexity.
    None scaled the soul's summit nor plumbed its absolute depth so thoroughly. And in the past two
    centuries none have come closer to capture mankind's inherent need for truth beyond mere mortal conjecture.

    Dostoyevsky swept the entirety of human history with his pen, distilled its treasury of recorded knowledge,
    and summed the insoluble equation not as an enigmatic riddle but as derived revelation.
     
    dubpynchon likes this.
  8. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    7,896
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    After I finish my coffee and awaken, I will read this review and order the book.;):):)
     
    Fading Fast likes this.
  9. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    7,896
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    Ordered The Disenchanted from Amazon, new and a good price. Will have time to reread and see Gatsby.:)
     
    Fading Fast likes this.
  10. zebedee

    zebedee One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,467
    Location:
    Shanghai
    I am reading the short stories of Breece D'J Pancake and am amazed. Absolutely stunning.
     
  11. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

    Messages:
    15,192
    Location:
    New York City
    If you find you like "The Disenchanted," another Schulberg one you might like is "What Makes Sammy Run" (comments here: #8663).
     
    Harp likes this.
  12. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    7,896
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    I need to read Fitzgerald through eyes other than my own.
    Schulberg offers that and more. Hopefully, a balanced even keel take on the man and his concluding chapter.
     
    Fading Fast likes this.
  13. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

    Messages:
    15,192
    Location:
    New York City
    Since Schulberg was a young writer teamed with F. Scott during his time in Hollywood, Schulberg had a front-row seat. Whether he is fair in his roman a clef portrayal is one for the Fitzgerald scholars to debate. The broad outlines of the story seem consistent with what I've read about Fitzgerald's time in Tinseltown, but it is a fictionalized account. Looking forward to your post-read comments.
     
  14. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    7,896
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    What is Critical Race Theory, and Why Is Everyone Talking About It?; Columbia News, 8/06/21
    Kimberle Crenshaw; Kendall Thomas; and Patricia Williams

    I tend to taper professional obligations toward week's end and typically spend Friday afternoons
    scouring Thoroughbred stakes sites preparing for Saturday track runs. But this weekend despite a number
    of lucrative big-name races, I called tomorrow off to read and relax after a hectic week. Crenshaw,
    Thomas, and Williams are Columbia law faculty and their comments on CRT; supposedly an academic
    discipline, will be briefed.
    I should have searched the web this afternoon for relevant CRT law review articles but that can wait
    until next week when I again have access to my federal government printer.;)
     
    Fading Fast likes this.
  15. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

    Messages:
    15,192
    Location:
    New York City
    51n4vZzOsSS._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
    Haven Point by Virginia Hume published in 2021


    Every summer I try one or two of the current and popular "beach reads." The trick for me is finding one, leaning against the wont of most new fiction today, not overly imbued with modern politics. Also, most importantly, I want it to be a big ball of giant soap-opera cheese with back-stabbing, shady finances, extramarital affairs and plenty of family skeletons tumbling out of the closet.

    Haven Point's author understands the "genre," but you never get vested enough in her characters to care about the back-stabbing, shady fiances, extra-marital affairs and family skeletons that populate her story.

    Set, mainly, in a small enclave in Maine and spreading across three generations of the Demarest family, the broad outline of a good "beach read" is here. We see the grandparents meet in WWII - he's a doctor, she's a nurse - where, after a quick war-time romance, they marry before meeting each other's family.

    She, Maren, is a Midwest salt-of-the-earth farm girl; he, Oliver, is a Maine Yankee from an old family who lives in a small community on a remote peninsula in Maine (the families there are WASPy, but most are not uber rich).

    From there, and told through chapters that alternate time periods, we see how Oliver and Maren and their children and grandchildren fare in changing times amidst all the big and small dramas that impact most families.

    The Demarest have a strain of alcoholism that pops up here and there over a few generations. There are also, of course, extra-marital affairs, young tragic deaths, sexual awakenings, homosexuality (when that was a big deal), great friendships formed and equally great enemies to battle.

    Along the way, the turbulent 1960s, with their anti-war protests, adds a few more family scars. There are also the other usual problems and issues all families face, but heightened as is the style of a "beach read."

    Yet Haven Point doesn't really work because the characters are "types," not fully developed people. While Hume avoids gratuitous politics, the book still clearly tilts "progressive" in the way most books do today.

    That would be okay, but the author, like many modern writers, hasn't figured out how to make her heroes conform to all the in-vogue progressive demands or have her villains stand opposed to them and still come across as three-dimensional characters. That is possibly because, in real life, most people are complex contradictions not neatly aligned to ideological purity.

    But in Haven Point, the "good" women, the heroes, are super smart, independent, caring, charitable and confident, but diffident about their beautiful looks, kind hearts, incredible skills and talents. So their big fault is they are too modest: "She doesn't realize how smart she is, how kind she is, how self sacrificing she is." Give me a break; it's the "I work too hard" job-interview answer to what is your greatest weakness.

    The mean girls are always "privileged" (as if there are no mean girls from modest backgrounds), while the men are either (and mainly) bad because they are (fill in all the bad-men tropes) bossy, arrogant, bullying, cheating, destructively competitive, cold introverts, etc. or they are good guys who are so nice and deferential to women that no man or woman could stand being in a room with them.

    So another book dies on the altar of modern politics. And that's without even going into all the horrible things we can no longer abide about an old WASP enclave, but all the boxes were checked and appropriately modern condemning words used. To be fair, there was one very favorable scene about the community supporting a family who had just suffered a tragic death, but the overall message didn't change.

    It's not that I disagree with all the politics - I don't - it's that a fictional beach read that fails to create engaging characters because of its political obeisance has failed at its core mission.

    There are plenty of books out on politics that you can carry to the beach, but a "beach read," like Haven Point, should be a soap opera first and foremost; after that, the author can tuck in some politics if he or she wants.
     
    Harp likes this.
  16. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    7,896
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    ^^^I know you've read it and caught the flick, but I'll pitch Mario Puzo's The Godfather
    as the ultimate surf schmaltz beach read ever. All the necessary ingredient wheretos and whatnots.

    Puzo scored the great American novel and later wrote a magazine piece about being summoned
    to Sinatra's table at a posh dig someplace once and pointedly asked who set him up for the story
    since Puzo really quite literally threw the book at him. Puzo claimed to be somewhat taken aback
    by Frank's effrontery but that's just horseradish sprinkled over the mag piecezza.

    Puzo shot his bolt with Godfather. His subsequentz later never hit the mark and I attribute this
    to his personal indulgences following publication and film production. Wine and women, way too much
    of both, drilled hisself more'n he shoulda and dulled the quill. Still, his first born is tops.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2021
    Fading Fast likes this.
  17. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    7,896
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    Michael J Lewis' reflections on the late author, The Cooling of John le Carre; The New Criterion June 2021

    And a sweet review of Salzburg's Italian Opera Festival featuring Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva singing Verdi and Puccini.
     
    Fading Fast likes this.
  18. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    7,896
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    Lewis, ardent le Carre reader looks askance at the later canon, focusing on the late author's inward bitterness
    and overtly political left lean that became less pro and increasingly caustic toward the West; and various demons
    that pursued him from childhood. An intriguing revision.
    ________

    Reflections on Whiteness as Property, Cheryl I. Harris, Harvard Law Review vol 134 8/13/2020

    A theory based upon tenuous ground of imagined validity.
     
    Fading Fast likes this.
  19. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

    Messages:
    15,192
    Location:
    New York City
    30881169335.jpg
    Wall of Noise by Daniel M. Stein published in 1963


    "His doubts about Kelsey were diminished by the memory of all the bets Tarrant had won for him in the past. The money involved had long ago been spent, lost and replaced, but the satisfaction of having won it remained. The thought of it gave Papadakis a warm feeling of opulence and easy profit. He loved to gamble and Tarrant's proposition had been irresistible to him from the start."

    Everybody is a gambler all the time; life necessitates it. The only difference between people is some see it and some don't and some are good at it and some aren't. But whether you see it or not, or are good at it or not, doesn't change the fact that life is just a series of gambles.


    I found my way to Wall of Noise via its 1963 movie adaptation (comments here: #29098). Once again, the cliche is true: the movie is good; the book is (much) better.

    As noted often, the mid 1950s into the early 1960s was a heyday for dramas, umm, melodramas, umm, soap operas, umm, big giant ball-of-cheese soap-opera stories. Saponaceous book upon saponaceous book was churned out with the better (ehh, I guess, better) of them being turned into movies.

    In Wall of Noise, author Stein wraps two wonderful things into one story: a insider's look at the world of thoroughbred racing and the torrid life of a brilliant, but erratic trainer whose gambling nature, prickly personality and passion for women keeps his career on the margin, buffeted by a series of ups and downs in his professional and personal life.

    Back then, thoroughbred racing was a major sport familiar to much of the public. Stein's protagonist, talented trainer Joel Trarrant, in his mid thirties, ruggedly handsome and taciturn, has a gift for understanding the high-strung horses in his care. Yet, he hasn't mastered the politics of people - in particular, the rich and, usually, clueless-to-horses owners that hire him.

    When the book opens, Trarrant is training a few mediocre horses at a small Baltimore track, but then a wealthy California developer, Sal Rubio, hires him, sight unseen, to train his horses, with the promise of autonomy in decisions related to the horses (ha!).

    Without a contract - Tarrant often takes wild gambles with his life decisions (but not his horses) - he moves out West and begins training Rubio's horses. There he meets Rubio's much-younger wife, former movie star Helen Hastings, with whom he's quickly having an affair.

    Everything in Tarrant's world is amped up: his prior marriage imploded when his best friend and favorite jockey stole his wife; he thinks nothing of gambling his last dollar on one race; he'll drink through the night and, then, work a full day at the track and he'll ride the unbroken horses in his care because he won't ask another man in his employ to do a difficult job he won't first do himself. Tarrant's personal and even professional life is chaos, but he is thoughtful and protective of his horses.

    Wall of Noise is an engaging window into the nuances of Tarrant's world of thoroughbred racing where we learn how horses are prepped for races, how a good trainer can spot the smallest change in a horse's gait (a sign of a potential injury) and how everything from a thoroughbred's feed to its gate position is part of that day's racing strategy. It's a tutorial on racing that flows seamlessly with the narrative arc of Tarrant's ups and downs.

    After the job and affair in California blows up as it had to (sleeping with the boss' wife and all, plus he didn't have the autonomy he was promised), Tarrant heads out to a small track in Nevada with one horse, a powerful but moody thoroughbred who has not won a race in years (he overpaid Rubio for him in a fit of anger).

    Also part of this traveling circus is his friend, the jockey who stole his wife (who'd guess, but there's still some friction between these two), who is the only jockey who really knows how to ride Tarrant's temperamental horse.

    In hock for his overpriced thoroughbred, Tarrant reconnects with an old pal, a gangster and gambler, Johnny Papadakis (sorry, but in the 1950s, the accepted stereotype was that many Greeks were gamblers and bookies) who uses a legitimate modeling agency, which doubles as a escort service, as a front for his various "less-legitimate" businesses.

    After putting everything he has plus on the upcoming race of his horse (betting some money legitimately at the track and more through his pal Papadakis) and winning, Tarrant proceeds to party with Papadakis and some of his, umm, "professional" women. Now, most men, you assume, would know to draw a hard line between prostitute and girlfriend, but not Tarrant.

    So, when he heads back to the West Coast, with his now rising-star race horse to enter him in the big-money California races, his circus includes his beautiful, but mercurial-in-nature hooker-girlfriend - hey, it's a choice.

    Tarrant and his winning horse now have a high profile in racing circles, which only increases the pressure to win. For the moment, he's the new star of thoroughbred racing with the beautiful girlfriend (her job history isn't known in California) who everyone wants a piece of.

    Despite his new prestige, Tarrant's hold on racing fame is tenuously based on one horse. If his horse stops winning (it happens sometimes) or is injured (it happens often), the fame and money flow go as well.

    So when his horse's tendon swells a bit the week of the upcoming stakes race (the big one), Tarrant is faced with a go-no-go decision with everyone from the jockey to the media opining. By race day, the horse seems better, but is he almost imperceptibly still favoring that leg? Wall of Noise takes you to the edge of your seat on this race and the book's equally dramatic ensuing denouement.

    Ayn Rand wrote captivating novels about men of passion and honor who would not sacrifice one bit of integrity in their professional lives for easy advancement. They are wonderfully inspiring tales, but they are not real life.

    Joel Tarrant is a real-life version of an Ayn Rand character. He isn't perfect, but his default is to honor his profession as a horse trainer and tell everyone else to go to hell if they don't like it. But he does compromise, especially when he starts to taste success. And like those Randian characters, his personal life is a mess with a series of passionate but broken relationships littered about his past and present.

    Wall of Noise rises above its saponaceous genre and mediocre writing because, in Joel Tarrant, you meet someone you understand and respect, despite his many flaws.

    You appreciate his Randian skills and professional integrity, but recognize and relate to him because he's a man who makes mistakes and bad decisions sometimes, like all of us. But he doesn't go for the quick or easy buck as he lives life by his own honest-but-flawed standards. He's Randian at his best, but human quite often, which makes him an engaging character and Wall of Noise an engaging read.


    @Harp, if you can lower your usually high standards to go slumming with me in a 1960s melodrama, I think you'd enjoy Wall of Noise with its thoroughbred-racing story line.
     
  20. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    7,896
    Location:
    Chicago, IL US
    Sold. Since your film review I have considered both flick and its lit-to-script. Stocking up for cold winter
    reading, and, I'll toss out another must read turf tome: Not By A Long Shot by T.D. Thornton.
    Thornton penned a fantastic look at the late great Suffolk Downs in East Boston, a blue collar oval
    sold for real estate development. A storied history and pedigree that feature Runyonesque characters
    who are the smallfry unnoticed and unappreciated in the race biz, with a close focus look at the hard
    and harsh economics underneath it all.

    As you know The Queen's Plate; Pacific Classic and other thoroughbred big races ran this weekend.
    A big bucks track weekender all preceded by a lousy week at work. A pro has to know when to push his
    chair away from the card table or track for whatever reasons and sit out some playable action.
    Mind not on the game but there is always another day. :)
    :)
     
    Fading Fast likes this.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.