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Discussion in 'Books' started by Ismitje, Jan 1, 2019.
No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger - Mark Twain
Parts of this are hilarious, other parts not so much.
Found this at a library book sale, I'm like, "A travel book by a Yugoslavian 20 something before he started grad school in philosophy? Pretty sure haven't read many of those before..."
Santhana: A Journey to the East which ends in an ashram but not before a couple of knife fights (with a members of a caravan in Afghanistan, and, later, a cabdriver in Bangkok) by Croat philosopher Bebek Borna, who from what I can tell doesn't have a wikipedia page
^That map of India is hurting my brain
Not if you are a fan of Assam independence.
Google is so great. I thought I was going to have to scan the actual books I read, but no, there's an image already available:
The Jungle Book -- Rudyard Kipling
I've long considered Kipling to be England's Hemingway: sophomoric writing characterized by repetitive adjectives, simple sentences, elementary foreshadowing, uncomplicated characters, etc. And that's true, to an extent, but man, what rollicking stories. I must have read Rikki Tikki Tavi 20 times through high school and after 30+ years, the story's as good as ever. Sure, there are some stinkers here -- the White Seal is an exercise in melodramatic pathos -- but this collection stands the test of time. Other than the aforementioned story of a heroic mongoose, I'm now wishing I had read/shared more of these stories with my kids when they were growing up. This was a delightful read.
Recently, Ive started listening into Christopher Clark's Sleepwalkers as an audio book and oh boy I rarely make any book recommendations... but if you are interested in history in general I cannot overstate how well written this book is. Just buy it. You learn about stuff that happened in Serbia 20 years prior that dont seem to have any importance and later the persons in question turn up contributing to the crisis in July 1914. Great Britain bonds with Japan against Russia and then later not. It's like real life European game of thrones. From a scientific pov it is possibly the best book dealing with this period
Milkman - Anna Burns
"Every weekday, rain or shine, gunplay or bombs, stand-off or riots, I preferred to walk home reading my latest book. This would be a nineteenth-century book because I did not like twentieth-century books because I did not like the twentieth century."
Winner of Man Booker prize, this is brilliant
I re-read the Terry Pratchett-Neil Gaiman novel Good Omens in advance of the television adaptation coming later this Spring. I read it several years ago and I enjoyed it quite a bit. And that's usually enough to dissuade me from watching a movie or tv version because I don't want the show to mess with the images, voices, mannerisms, sets, and the like I have in my mind from the book. This is different somehow, and the idea of seeing David Tennant and Michael Sheen in the main roles of the demon and angel who team up to stop the apocalypse. Re-reading the book, though, they disappear for long parts of the book and the main focus is on a group of pre-teens called The THEM, and to me the success of the series (six one-hour episodes airing on Amazon Prime in the US and BBC2 in the UK) will rest primarily with the kids.
I enjoyed the re-read and am looking forward to the show.
How I Became a Famous Novelist, a much-deserved winner of the Thurber Prize for humor chronicling the rise and hilarious downfall of a guy who becomes a writer of best-selling crap fiction in order to, obviously, get revenge on the woman who dumped him in college and is now marrying someone else by Steve Hely. Quite funny, and in the end, a surprising defense of the sort of great writing and thoughtful books that don't make the best seller lists very often. And damn funny.
The Call of the Wild - Jack London
A fun read that I never read before.
John Steinbeck -- East of Eden
I read the first three in this collection back in '16, then put it down. I finally got around to East of Eden, which I'm finishing up today. It has many emotionally difficult characters/situations and it's not subtle, but the effect is stunning.
I read The Pearl in ninth grade in 1999-2000. The white colonizers were prejudice against the natives.
Thanks to a recommendation of @Q*bert Jones III . . .
Things to Do When You are Goth In the Country and Other Stories by Chavisa Woods, who had the misfortune of growing up in rural southern Illinois while having a penchant for gothy things. Good stories. IMO, the longer the story, the better she handles the material, which means I hope she can crank out a novel at some point.
I am quite interested in the idea that as we codify violations of international norms, that it leaves the door open for unsavory actors to know exactly how far they can go without getting into trouble. Tanisha Fazal's Wars of Law is (despite its popular-looking cover) an academic look (and a good one) at the codification of the rules of warfare from the late 1800s to the present. Good stuff.
A Turn In The South a travel book that does a pretty good job capturing the Reagan-era south which in many ways was the same as it ever was while also evolving into the condition wherein, in the words of novelist Walker Percy, "there are Atlanta and Charlotte suburbs that are as much like Cleveland suburbs as any in Ohio" (paraphrased from memory) by the Anglo-Hindu Trinidadian Cosmopolitan V. S. Naipaul
Shakespeare of London -- Marchette Chute
Since we still know relatively little directly about William Shakespeare, there have been a whole raft of bios of the guy that are centered on the world he lived in: Will in the World, 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare, and The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606. What I didn't know is that this work predates these writings by 75 or so years. The copy I have looks brand new, but it was a 1999 Book of the Month Club reprint of a BOMC book published in 1939.
Chute styles herself as a theater historian so this bio is a case history of the Elizabethan theater scene and it is nicely done: brisk, without too much of what I call history-by-analogy. Chute does the best job of putting a life-sized Shakespeare onto the page of any bio I've read since Bryson's bio. The biggest takeaway for me: Shakespeare was an actor, and he made a lot of money acting as opposed to his playwriting. This is how he ended up owning 6 pieces of land/homes in Stratford and a share of Blackfriars. And this is ultimately the finest defense of the Shakespeare authorship "controversy": Shakespeare's considerable fame came from his membership in his acting company. There is no way anyone not part of that company could be authoring the Bard's works.
The Third City: Philosophy at War with Positivism, a book that came out when I was in college that, had I read it then, might have changed my life, by Croatian philosopher about whom the internet doesn't know very much named Borna Bekek.
Joseph Conrad: A Chronicle - Zdzislaw Najder
A well-done massive literary biography
Massive? Frederick Karl's biography of Conrad is over 200 pages longer!
I demand a word count.
Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest a book by Hanif Adurraqib that is blessed with a cover that really does help one judge the book, or at least decide whether or not one is interested in reading it. 90s rap had very little impact on my life, but Abdurraqib is a terrific writer. His best has rarely been equalled in writing about music. Maybe Lester Bangs on The Clash, Hector Berlioz's memoirs, things like that.
So it being Spring Break, it was time again for impulse borrowing at the local library. First up is this, which only worked as long as I used Fred MacMurray's voice and cadence as Walter Neff in Double Indemnity whenever the protagonist speaks in the first person. But eventually, even that didn't work and I had to abandon it.
B.A. Paris' attempted noir, Bring Me Back.
On my way to Bangkok, I found this book recommended by a travel website. The title of the book and its cover reminded me of an erotic pr pornographic novel for sex tourist heading to the "exotic" Far East. I never heard of Stephen Leather, but I realised that Jackie Chan's recent movie was from one of his books. So I did not think of him as a sex writer. I downloaded a sample into my kindle(I would not carry this book with this cover around town) and tried to read it.... I ended up buying the book.
I am from the part of the world where prositition is much more acceptable practice than in the West. However, it is still a taboo. Stephen Leathe did a good job of the love story between an expat and a Thai bar girl. In the book, he used differnt point of views of people around the main character and his Thai hooker girlfriend. I will turn 50 in a few weeks.... I have been around. I grew up in a place where songs were written, movies were made and books were written about love stories between a hooker and her client. And I knew of real life stories in which a client does fall in love and get in trouble with a lady of the night. When I was a younger man, I heard of the same warnings from older men about them... both Asians and expats living in Asia said the same thing. Once, I had a very religious ex-girlfriend. One day, I made a joke about prositution. She got mad at me. "You came from a good family, where your parents can send you to study in the United States. There are many people who can barely able to survive. The girls have to do what they have to do. You cannot judge a person when you are never in their shoes," she said to me. And I was enlightend....I should never judge a person that way. Of cource, I grew up in a period, where China emrged from a dirt poor country to Chinese tourists taking over the Gucci stores all arund the world. I heard of factory owners describing how their workers disappearing from work and becoming hookers so that her entire village could move ahead in life. So I do have an unerstanding why things happened.... at least, in my part of the world.
Let's say the story seemed realistic enough for me.
TIL that this has been commissioned to be turned into an opera for the Metropolitan Opera.
Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, a historically-based investigation into the most recent manifestations of one of the most misguided policies of the 20th and 21st century that has massive international implications (countries that tried to end prohibitions would be punished by aid and trade policies, cf Mexico about 50 years ago) by Johann Hari.