Author Topic: What are you reading?  (Read 47433 times)

Dannyhood91

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #60 on: October 25, 2017, 08:32:37 PM »
Have you read anything of his before? Funnily enough, I've been thinking of starting a thread on him....

Nothing at all. It's all new to me. I'm not entirely sure where to start.

Serge

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #61 on: October 25, 2017, 10:33:09 PM »
Well, if you've never read anything, definitely start with Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas. That and Fear And Loathing On The Campaign Trail are really the only two books that are satisfying all the way through (alongside the two collections of his letters), and some of the '80s and '90s titles aren't great. To save going into it all here, I'll try and start a thread in the next couple of days.

Artie Fufkin

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #62 on: October 26, 2017, 09:24:26 AM »

&
Me :)

I'm looking forward to it.

You !?

I loved the book.

Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #63 on: October 26, 2017, 10:29:28 AM »
I've just finished Devil's Day by Andrew Michael Hurley, the author of The Loney. I really enjoyed the earlier book, particularly its air of eerie 1970s gloom and whilst the new one was enjoyable - the story of the build up to and fall out from 'Devil's Day', a wicker-man style festival in a remote Lancashire farming hamlet - the narrator was quite unlikable and, on reflection, the book was a bit light. Also includes a significant event referred to at the book's outset that turns out to be a bit of a damp squib. Still, nice to read on the train whilst commuting through the windy and rainy gloaming.

Serge

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #64 on: October 27, 2017, 09:08:37 PM »
I finished Amor Towle's A Gentleman In Moscow this afternoon, and it's bloody marvellous. Although it's an easy enough read, I did feel that at the beginning of the book, he did get a bit carried away with the flowery language - I like the word 'interlocuter' as much as the next man, but don't keep using it! - though that does calm down as the book goes on.

It's set in Russia in the early to mid-20th Century, and the main character is Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, a man sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol Hotel in the centre of Moscow, told never to leave the building again as long as he lives. Not only is he confined to one building, he is turfed out of his suite and made to live in a small attic room. Rostov is nothing if not adaptable, and his implacable resistance to all forms of inconvenience and bad luck, along with his aim to remain a gentleman at all costs, are what get him through the next few decades as he carries on living in the hotel.

I don't want to give away too much of the plot, although for a lot of the time, it's more like a series of events featuring the same characters rather than an actual plot as such, though in the second half of the book, his life changes in a huge way which does set some kind of narrative in motion, ending in one of the most uplifting and cheering ending to a book I've ever read.

Twit 2

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #65 on: October 28, 2017, 02:29:23 PM »
The Drowned World

1/3 through, great so far.

zomgmouse

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #66 on: October 30, 2017, 02:40:12 AM »
Read the play Bug by Tracy Letts. Entirely set in a motel room that gets more and more infested by bugs (or does it?). Interesting study in paranoia. Keen to see the film adaptation by William Friedkin.

Serge

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #67 on: November 01, 2017, 10:11:44 PM »
I've just finished George Saunders' The Brain-Dead Megaphone, a collection of his non-fiction work, mainly essays for magazines such as G.Q. and The New Yorker. Pretty good, he can be very funny at times, and it's almost worth reading for the sub-headings alone. A couple of the shorter pieces almost seem like they should really have been included in one of his books of short stories - one in particular about a dog writing a letter to his master is basically a comic short story.

Sometimes his political rants (especially the title piece) are a bit on-the-nose and not really saying anything new or surprising, though to be fair, this is something he usually admits in the pieces, but a couple of articles - that title piece again, and one lengthy article about immigrants crossing the border from Mexico to the USA - are eerily prescient about Trump's America.

zomgmouse

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #68 on: November 02, 2017, 11:49:27 PM »
one in particular about a dog writing a letter to his master is basically a comic short story.

I swear I read something like this by Steve Martin once!

Dr Syntax Head

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #69 on: November 05, 2017, 10:28:51 PM »
I've just started reading Zero K by Don Delillo. Only a few pages in. During my last sober period I was pretty quiet and bored so Mrs Syntax did some research into the sort of books I'd read based on what's on my shelf. That was one of them. She also bought me Of Mice and Men cos I'd never read it. Devoured that sucker in a couple days. Really liked it, kept my thinking mind occupied.

Artie Fufkin

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #70 on: November 06, 2017, 10:20:08 AM »
Andrew Michael Hurley's The Loney.
About halfway through it now. Really liking it. Still not quite sure where it's going.

Last week I read Adam Nevill's The Ritual, which was great fun ! In an exhausting kinda way. A great slice of old school horror. Read it in about 2 days. A real page turner, as they say.

Serge

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #71 on: November 06, 2017, 10:23:26 PM »
I've just finished Jennifer Egan's Look At Me, thanks to a recommendation by Talulah, really! in the Great American Novels thread. Fantastic stuff. Although it does occasionally feel like she's trying to cram in as many observations about shifting identities as she possibly can, the quality of the writing makes this less of a concern than it could have been. Some of the sections concerning Charlotte (the model) are very reminiscent of Bret Easton Ellis, whereas some of the sections with Charlotte (the teenage girl) are more Elizabeth Strout. But without a jarring feeling between the two styles.

It's interesting that this was written before 9/11, as even Egan admits in an afterword that it seems eerily prescient at times. The character of Michael West (or Z, or Aziz) could possibly have done with a coda to show his fate in Los Angeles, but that's a minor quibble. There are also moments which seem to foresee Big Brother, social media and even the rise of Trump, though to be fair, you can read that last into almost any American novel of the last 25 years without it necessarily actually being there.

I'll definitely be checking out more of her stuff. Always nice when you discover an author you like who has at least another half dozen books available!

Serge

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #72 on: November 08, 2017, 09:49:17 PM »
Just finished Muhsin Al-Ramli's The President's Gardens, which is absolutely brilliant. Al-Ramli is an Iraqi by birth, though has lived in Madrid since the mid-nineties, and although this book is a work of fiction, much of it is based on real-life stories that he has heard about his homeland over the years, stretching back over decades. The basic plot follows the lives of three friends, Ibrahim The Fated, Abdullah Kafka and Tariq The Befuddled, from their birth in 1959, up until the point in 2006 where Ibrahim's severed head - along with the heads of eight others - is unceremoniously dumped in the middle of the village where they all grew up. That's not a spoiler, by the way, that's page one of the book!

Although much is made of the closeness of this trio of friends, the book mainly concentrates on Ibrahim and Abdullah's stories, with the snaky Tariq popping in and out of the narrative. Abdullah's story focuses on his experiences during and after the Iran/Iraq war and the question of his real parentage, where Ibrahim's is tied up in his self-inflicted guilt over his actions in the same war, and how this leads to him taking a job in the gardens of the title. Over the course of the book, Al-Ramli uses these lives to show the bloody history of Iraq over the past few decades, and the ultimate futility of war and the grasping for power that some people think justifies their actions. Not an easy read, by any means, but a completely compelling one, and should be more widely read than it's likely to be.

zomgmouse

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #73 on: November 09, 2017, 07:46:30 AM »
About to start The Conformist.

Well this was brilliant. Terrific analysis of systems of power and violence, and what constitutes such in fascist states, all through the character of an Italian man who was sexually abused as a child and later became a government secret service operative. Exploring normality and shifting modes of normality and the aggressive nature of fitting in. I loved this a lot.

Artie Fufkin

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #74 on: November 09, 2017, 08:43:45 AM »
Andrew Michael Hurley's The Loney.
About halfway through it now. Really liking it. Still not quite sure where it's going.

Yep. Loved it. Like a Hammer Films' Father Ted episode. The end put the right willies up me, as they say.
I've now started William M Sloane's The Edge Of Running Water. Another book recommended by someone on here.
Keep it up !

Artie Fufkin

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #75 on: November 09, 2017, 10:43:25 AM »
Great stuff. I loved it. It's a really lean and relentless book and the characters all felt very real and well-observed. Let us know what you think!

Ritual : Yeah, loved it. Old school horror. As you say, relentless. From the trailer that I saw the other day, the film has a different take on it.
The slight change of direction for the second half of the book initially grated, but, no, I think it worked in the end.
I'm looking forward to reading more of his stuff.

Serge

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #76 on: November 19, 2017, 09:35:59 PM »
I've just finished reading Benjamin Myer's The Gallows Pole, which overcame the fact that it contains most of those literary conceits that I hate - chapters in italics, passages which are nothing but lists, passages in dialect/phonetics, the tendency that historical fiction has to let its author get away with showing how thoroughly they've researched their field - to actually stand as an amazing novel with some of the finest writing about place that I've read in a while.

It helps that it's based on the real life story of the Crag Vale Coiners - a bunch of men in the 18th Century who counterfeited coins and upset the balance of riches enough that the establishment noticed and went after them with a vengeance - with enough violence, murder and madness to fill any book. Although it's based on real life events, obviously Myers does fictionalise the characters to an extent, and also brings in several folk horror elements - the Stag Men, walking scarecrows and the mysterious Alchemist who does most of the counterfeiting - which he does a good job of incorporating in a way that makes these things feel part of the landscape of the novel and not just added for effect.

Talking of landscape, his descriptions of the moors, valleys and towns in which these events take place are so vivid that you do actually feel like you know these places well - you can imagine every step of the way up to Bell House, or the crowded streets of Halifax and York.

There are no heroes in this book - although the Coiners are desperate men trying to make the most out of their livelihoods before industrialisation sweeps across the land and changes the places they know forever, they are violent and pig-headed men, and the descriptions of what they do to people who won't fall in with their way of life, or who are 'different' in any way, marks them out as dangerous and unpleasant men. The establishment figures, who see their veneer of civilisation as a cover that sets them above the men they're after, are just another bunch of crooks in finer clothes.

Somebody give Ben Wheatley the film rights now!

Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #77 on: November 19, 2017, 10:09:11 PM »
This is set where I live and the author lives a couple of villages along from us. I did enjoy it although thought the way many of the people spoke in really grand poetic ways was really shit. The same author has written some crime novels and, in the latest, the references to the town (Hebden Bridge) are really jarring. The main character is a journalist and he interviews a singer called Jenny from a band called the Thank Yous!

Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #78 on: November 26, 2017, 01:29:34 PM »
I've been reading Stella Gibbons' Cold Comfort Farm, like I'd been meaning to do for years. My favourite passages stylistically are when she slips into second person. There's a lot more roundabout talk of sex than I expected in ways that are often very funny. It's a fun lil' novel!

Serge

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #79 on: November 26, 2017, 05:20:40 PM »
This is set where I live and the author lives a couple of villages along from us. I did enjoy it although thought the way many of the people spoke in really grand poetic ways was really shit. The same author has written some crime novels and, in the latest, the references to the town (Hebden Bridge) are really jarring. The main character is a journalist and he interviews a singer called Jenny from a band called the Thank Yous!

I somehow missed this post last week. I did wonder if you'd read it, as I knew it was set in your neck of the woods! (In fact, isn't the town you live in mentioned once or twice?) I saw that he's written a few other books, but hadn't really looked them up. I vaguely remember Beastings being published - is that the one you're on about?

I've just finished Ishmael Reed's Mumbo Jumbo, which I thought was great. I'd never heard of him before, and it does seem like most of his books are out of print (in the UK at least), and this is a recent reissue as a Penguin Modern Classic, so maybe some of his others will get that treatment?

Although written in 1972, the bulk of the book takes place in 1920, when a contagion called Jes Grew (which is loosely the effects of jazz and ragtime on the young, mainly black, American populace, and described as an 'anti-virus') is sweeping across America, much to the consternation of the older, white, repressed establishment of the day. They attempt to wipe it out by getting a thousand-year-old member of the Knights Templar to suppress it by creating a fake magazine to make it look bad and coming up with a 'talking android' who will be their mouthpiece to run it down.

They're opposed in this aim by PaPa Labas, a Vodou priest and private detective, who seeks to find the killer of a former friend of his, and who also has an alternate history of the World on his side that places the roots of Jes Grew in Ancient Egypt, with Osiris as the nature-loving reveller who's all for it, and Set as the original sun-worshipping Atonist who wants everybody to live by the rules.

Alongside all of this are a gang of people calling themselves mu'tafikah who are ransacking the World's art collections to return stolen items to the countries they originated from, a President that both sides are trying to claim as their own, and an appearance of the Black Star Line.

Stylistically, it's an explosion of ideas. The first chapter takes place before the title and copyright pages even appear. The text is littered with photos and drawings, some of whose relevance is immediately obvious, others not so much. There are handwritten sections, typed sections, inserted news stories, etc. The writing is fantastic, some of the most incessant riffing on ideas I've ever read. It's a truly unique book.

zomgmouse

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #80 on: November 27, 2017, 03:28:33 AM »
Read A Midsummer Night's Dream which must be the first Shakespeare I've read outside of high school. It was quite enjoyable, though slightly too much happening I think for the farce to truly come out as there are a lot of characters who don't often get much to say. But it's incredibly light and fluffy and a lot of fun to read.

Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #81 on: November 27, 2017, 12:28:57 PM »
Read A Midsummer Night's Dream which must be the first Shakespeare I've read outside of high school. It was quite enjoyable, though slightly too much happening I think for the farce to truly come out as there are a lot of characters who don't often get much to say. But it's incredibly light and fluffy and a lot of fun to read.

I find Midsummer far more enjoyable to read that to watch, interestingly - it has lots of poetry to savour when reading, but if I'm watching it I'm just waiting for the Mechanicals.

MoonDust

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #82 on: November 27, 2017, 02:40:21 PM »
Foundation by Isaac Asimov. My commie friend said I'd like it because the idea of "psychohistory" (the science in the novel which allows psychohistorians to predict the future) is a bit of an allegory to Marx's idea of historical materialism.

Anyway, its meaning aside, really enjoying it so far. Surprised how short it is for a book set in an entirely different time line than ours. Like, most hardcore sci-fi and fantasy has to be big to allow for description and world building, but not Foundation.

Now I've finished my thesis it's inspired me to start writing my own novel, which I realise some might see as hypocritical given the thread I started about not believing most people have an unfinished novel they tried to write. (Misunderstood the original article, and people thought I was saying writing is the re-mit solely of the well off and privileged).

I now want to start a thread on writing a novel, but too scared of this hypocritical topic I once posted haaa.

MoonDust

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #83 on: November 27, 2017, 07:17:39 PM »
A major and obvious downside of Foundation is there are ZERO female characters. Like, honestly none at all. Some argue Asimov was a product of his time (wrote the Foundation stories in the 1940s) but c'mon, female characters were nothing new in Asimov's day, and it's also set tens of thousands of years into the future. Surely, even if he himself was ignorantly sexist in his story-telling, he could have envisioned a future where women can play major roles in a fictitious Galactic Empire.

Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #84 on: November 27, 2017, 08:39:41 PM »
I somehow missed this post last week. I did wonder if you'd read it, as I knew it was set in your neck of the woods! (In fact, isn't the town you live in mentioned once or twice? Yep!) I saw that he's written a few other books, but hadn't really looked them up. I vaguely remember Beastings being published - is that the one you're on about?


No, he's released a book either side of The Gallows Pole. The first, Turning Blue, is set up this way and has a Savile-esque baddy who is mixed up in all sorts. The main 'good' characters from that are in his latest, These Darkening Days, the one which is so blatantly set in Hebden Bridge. I think it's going to be a series of 'folk noir' crime although whether they deserve that epithet is debatable. Incidentally, Myers' wife, Adelle Stripe, wrote a really well received book this year. Black teeth and A Bright Smile seems to be a semi-fictionalised account of the life of Andrea Dunbar who wrote Bob Sue and Rita Too. Seems odd that there's that and The Arbor film both about a relatively little known writer.

I'm currently about halfway through Lincoln in the Bardo and am struggling really. It's not exactly the most gripping of stories, is it? Seems more like a series of comic vignettes.

Serge

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #85 on: November 27, 2017, 09:40:18 PM »
I did enjoy 'Lincoln', but didn't think it was quite the groundbreaking tour-de-force that most reviews did, but it was also so short that I read it in about two hours! Unlike The Sellout, it's not exactly flying off the shelves, either.....

A major and obvious downside of Foundation is there are ZERO female characters. Like, honestly none at all. Some argue Asimov was a product of his time (wrote the Foundation stories in the 1940s) but c'mon, female characters were nothing new in Asimov's day, and it's also set tens of thousands of years into the future. Surely, even if he himself was ignorantly sexist in his story-telling, he could have envisioned a future where women can play major roles in a fictitious Galactic Empire.

I haven't read much Asimov, but I did read a few of Clifford Simak's novels a few years ago, who was writing science fiction at about the same time as Asimov, and one of his novels had a female character who had been put in suspended animation for thousands of years, but a fault meant that her mind stayed active, so, with thousands of years of thinking time, she'd basically become the cleverest person in the universe, knew the meaning of life, could figure out any problem in the World, etc. So what happens when all of the lights go out suddenly? She screams, because she's a woman, of course! That did bring me out of the story a bit.

buttgammon

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #86 on: November 27, 2017, 10:57:31 PM »
I enjoyed Lincoln in the Bardo and have found it complements Twin Peaks weirdly well (don't ask me why because I haven't figured it out yet), but I don't think it's his best, and would sooner recommend Civilwarland in Bad Decline as an introduction to Saunders.

Artie Fufkin

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #87 on: November 28, 2017, 09:12:22 AM »
Well, I finished William M Sloane's The Edge Of Running Water. Written at the end of the 30's, I believe.
The writing style was a wee bit clunky, I thought. But it was ok. Some nice atmospheric bits to it.

I've now started Mark Morris' The Immaculate, which is old school horror. I remember reading The Toady, also by him, which was awesome. But then I was 15ish at the time.

Serge

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #88 on: November 28, 2017, 10:22:49 PM »
I've just finished Elizabeth Strout's Abide With Me, and have now managed to work my way through her entire backlist. I'm now going to have to wait until she writes another one.

Excellent stuff, as always. Set in her familiar smalltown New England setting (although she's been mixing it up with New York and the Midwest for her most recent novels), it's about a minister struggling with his life just over a year after the death of his wife, and how the Maine town in which he resides reacts to it. I've seen it described as a book about a man struggling with his faith, which makes it sound like a cliche, and moreover, as a description it's completely wrong - Tyler never really loses his faith in God, but has problems with his faith in other people.

And it's not surprising, as, while only a handful of people offer to help him through, most of the town descends into gossip hell, with people delighting in telling tall tales about him behind his back, whilst maintaining what they see as their own moral superiority. A bunch of bastards, in other words. He's also not helped by his overbearing and self-regarding mother, who only sees his troubles as something that might make her look bad.

He's trying to cope with bringing up two young girls, the elder of whom is practically mute after the death of her mother, and who the adults of the town seem to rejoice in being able to use as a stick to beat him with. And his housekeeper is harbouring troubles of her own, the revelation of which is a stunning piece of work.

While, as a vehement atheist, I can't share Tyler's faith - and, to be fair, Strout only writes about it as it applies to him, rather than as something she necessarily believes in herself - he is a likeable hero, who tries to hold himself to standards that are almost impossible to attain whilst his world is in turmoil.

Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #89 on: November 28, 2017, 10:31:19 PM »
I enjoyed Lincoln in the Bardo and have found it complements Twin Peaks weirdly well (don't ask me why because I haven't figured it out yet), but I don't think it's his best, and would sooner recommend Civilwarland in Bad Decline as an introduction to Saunders.

Likewise. Many of his best short stories are still available to read on the New Yorker website.

Currently reading Jon McGregor's Reservoir 13. Also meaning to get round to Jennifer Egan's Manhattan Beach and Elif Batuman's The Idiot following the recent NY Times Book Review list. Maybe I'll get round to those when I'm recovering in just over a month!

EDIT: Forgot about Andrew Sean Greer's Less. Trying to read more contemporary fiction, as I've read more pre-1990 fiction than anything else this year.
« Last Edit: November 28, 2017, 11:28:25 PM by Porter Dimi »