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Old 4th November 2012, 02:09 PM   #3921
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I've just finished Dark Heart, being the second volume of NZ fantasy writer Russell Kirkpatrick's second trilogy "Husk".

The third book isn't available on Kindle yet so I've started a new series I've wanted to read for a long time - Patrick Rothfuss' "The Kingkiller Chronicle". Volume one is The Name of the Wind.
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Old 4th November 2012, 04:08 PM   #3922
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Interesting comments from Calebprime and others here. I am pretty much in agreement about the film Happiness which I found quite lacking, and about Ballard's Crash, which I did actually get through but only because I was at a stage in a failing marriage where I did little else all night but read, hitting a book or two a day. At that point I don't think Ballard's world was that much odder than mine. I never cared much for Wagner, either. However, I must say I have a bit more liking for A.M.Homes, who, strange as she is, seems at least sometimes to transcend her own nasty world. Matter of taste, perhaps, and I haven't read everything of hers and nothing recently, but it seems as if at least some times she jumps off from her own world into something a little more like art.
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Old 5th November 2012, 09:38 AM   #3923
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Bad History, can't be bothered to google the author.

It does what it says, but not for the reason the author thinks.

It is supposed to be a collection of the typical misconceptions about history but instead manages to contain a mixture of the extremely well known (shock horror, Lincoln was more concerned with preserving the Union than in abolishing slavery, M. Guillotine didn't actually invent the eponymous method of execution etc...) and pretty poorly supported assertions which seem to just be contrarian.
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OECD healthcare spending

http://www.oecd.org/els/health-syste...uesteddata.htmlink is 2013 data (2011 Data below):
UK 9.4% of GDP of which 82.8% is state expenditure = 7.8% of GDP from taxes
US 17.7% of GDP of which 47.2% is state expenditure = 8.5% of GDP from taxes
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Old 6th November 2012, 10:42 AM   #3924
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Originally Posted by bruto View Post
Interesting comments from Calebprime and others here. I am pretty much in agreement about the film Happiness which I found quite lacking, and about Ballard's Crash, which I did actually get through but only because I was at a stage in a failing marriage where I did little else all night but read, hitting a book or two a day. At that point I don't think Ballard's world was that much odder than mine. I never cared much for Wagner, either. However, I must say I have a bit more liking for A.M.Homes, who, strange as she is, seems at least sometimes to transcend her own nasty world. Matter of taste, perhaps, and I haven't read everything of hers and nothing recently, but it seems as if at least some times she jumps off from her own world into something a little more like art.
I respect you bruto; you're a no b.s. guy. I was responding only to the reviews of A.M. Homes, who I've never read. If you've liked some of her work, I'd give it a chance based only on that. Everyone is saying that she's at least very talented. I simply don't like writing that is only interesting because it's transgressive or twisted or gratuitously bleak.

The thing is to find stuff to read that is more than only that.

Honest, well-earned bleakness is ok, especially if there's a ray of intelligence or the sound of laughter in there somewhere.
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Old 6th November 2012, 10:44 AM   #3925
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_Every Love Story is a Ghost Story -- A Life of David Foster Wallace_

Finally came in after a long wait at the library.

I can learn from people who are smarter, sicker, and more self-dramatizing than I am. (Thank whatevah.)
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Old 7th November 2012, 07:06 AM   #3926
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Originally Posted by calebprime View Post
_Every Love Story is a Ghost Story -- A Life of David Foster Wallace_

...
In which we learn all kinds of things --

-- Recovery and recovery-groups were more important to him than I'd realized. He attended meetings through thick and thin.

--He was a major pot-head/addict, even during some fairly successful periods.

--Didn't get it together to write _Infinite Jest_ 'til he was long sober.

--Sober, he still had serious flaws. (That doesn't affect my opinion of his work, but some of the stories surprise me.)

--He nearly hired a hit-man to kill the husband of Mary Karr, with whom he had an, err, tempestuous relationship. Also threw a coffee-table at her. Also nearly threw her out of a moving car.

--He bought into the sexual-abuse theories, the _Drama of the Gifted Child_ stuff.

--After sobriety, after success, he slept with every female he could. (Which was a lot.) This was not an entirely happy thing for him. (What's it all about, David?)

--Maybe if he'd given the Nardil a second chance, he could have been stabilized.

The biography is good. Down-to-earth, matter-of-fact. Not hero-worship, or indulgence in literary theory. It explains what he was trying to do, covers the major events and people in his life.

Overall, it seems his needs and struggles were even more central to his writing and colored his opinions than I would have thought.

America was about addiction, because David Foster Wallace was all about addiction.

(Or: Everything is about status, because Tom Wolfe is all about status.)

(Or: Everything was about weird distortions of Christianity, because Flannery O'Connor was an idiosyncratic but passionate Christian...)
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Old 7th November 2012, 07:37 AM   #3927
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Originally Posted by calebprime View Post
_Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?_ Jeanette Winterson

There are people I can learn from, and she's one of them.
I read and enjoyed 'Oranges...'. Definitely adding this to my list of want-to-reads.
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Old 10th November 2012, 02:18 PM   #3928
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I Hate Your Guts by Jim Norton
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Old 10th November 2012, 03:33 PM   #3929
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Originally Posted by FFed View Post
I Hate Your Guts by Jim Norton
Just join the queue.
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Old 11th November 2012, 06:38 AM   #3930
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I'm reading "Click to Calm: Healing the Aggressive Dog" by Emma Parsons and the third chapter of my Pharmacy Technician certificate course...exciting.
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Old 11th November 2012, 09:53 AM   #3931
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Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy.

I'm making up for lost time as I never read it in school, never saw a film version. I'm only 100 pages in and I find it exquisite.

Also: Danse Macabre by Stephen King. His only non-fiction book apart from the much later On Writing, DM is an overview of horror fiction from the dawn of such literature, and horror films from 1950-1980. It's interesting but a bit dated, very few surprises. King's writing -- conversational, funny -- is what keeps me going rather than any philosophical revelations.
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Old 12th November 2012, 12:21 AM   #3932
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Thinking Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman

I did not know that things like "will power" and solving complex math problems requires significant amounts of glucose.
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Old 14th November 2012, 12:38 PM   #3933
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Originally Posted by h.g.Whiz View Post
Thinking Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman

I did not know that things like "will power" and solving complex math problems requires significant amounts of glucose.

That makes sense, if I understand you to mean the most obvious sense of your statement: that thinking hard burns a lot of energy. Playing a game of chess is one of the most exhausting things I've ever done! (and I've done some hard labour in my time!)

And immersing yourself in a Kerouac-style splurge of creative writing nonstop for a couple of hours (if you are burning the conceptual engine fuel in a real engagement of mentation, that is, not just ranting dada!) will leave you feeling like you've just run a two mile obstacle course, or just hauled yourself ashore out of a wild river swim!

I'll check out the book, thanks for mentioning it.

Just finished Neal Stephenson's latest intelligent thriller Reamde and I wish it was even longer! A thousand pages passed like a hundred, and there was not a single flabby word. This book seriously interferes with your interest in doing anything else!

I've read every word this man has published since Snowcrash and it's all good, and I feel more tuned in to the modern world as a result of reading him (which may be my own bias at work, not to mention delusion! but that would be my fault, not his!)

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Old 14th November 2012, 12:44 PM   #3934
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The Shadow of the Sun (My African Life) by Ryszard Kapuscinski, which is an account of the life's work of a Polish foreign correspondant in Africa. Unfortunately a little let down by the translation, but fascinating nonetheless.

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Old 14th November 2012, 12:51 PM   #3935
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Kai Lung's Golden Hours by Ernest Bramah
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Old 14th November 2012, 01:11 PM   #3936
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Originally Posted by calebprime View Post
....
Artists have to move beyond being injured children. They have to be grownups, in their work. They can draw on the outraged innocence of their former selves, but they must become older and wiser. Or so I insist.

All kinds of masks, voices, personas can be used, but there has to be a fully-intelligent, fully-experienced adult pairing his fingernails (or whatever) behind it all.....
I love your reviews, Cal! I have decided I can trust your mind, and I am definitely taking note of what you say!

" jimbob
That summed up my opinion when I tried to read Crash by JG Ballard around 1992. I persevered for 30 pages.

Nothing to recommend it."



Originally Posted by calebprime View Post
Yes, from the summary I read. Gimmickry, obsession with celebrity, bad psychology, nihilism, violence, theatricality, weird sex.

And now to confuse things, slightly, via my habit of free-associating:

Just add a dash of innocence in there, and you have, perhaps, a fulfillment of Nietzsche's late rant about Wagner and the modern trend:

Wagner is the modern artist par excellence, the Cagliostro of modernism.

In his art there is mixed, in the most seductive manner, the things at present most necessary for everybody,

the three great stimulants of the exhausted:

brutality, artifice, and innocence (idiocy).


I just like trotting that out.

I am moved to stand up for JG Ballard. Crash is the culmination of an artistic act of poetry that Ballard worked obsessively for a number of years from the 60s into the 70s, as he became one of the main voices driving the British New Wave in SF that centred on Michael Moorcock's version of the sf magazine New Worlds. As such, it is the most intensely and surrealistically condensed work of word art he could achieve (the annotated version which came out in the 80s had even more dense "notes" in the broad margins that were like jewels sprouting from the body of the text, cryptic cankers like the diseased bolls that erupt from the bodies of trees...)

It wasn't until I read his autobiography a few years later that I could see where all that had been coming from.... but I have to say the sheer power of the language did carry me beyond any queasiness with his imagery... in fact in practice I found it inoffensive, not prurient, somehow self vindicating...

I have abandoned books for being gratuitously and "soullessly" offensive or gross or what have you. I rarely let horror films occupy my ocular space
but in small doses, read more as poetry than as fiction, as an object the square book with wide margins I mentioned above and other illustrative design features, was a worthwhile experience.

Something of which Cal's Nietzschean corollary of Wagner's qualities echoes a deeper sonar return than my matchstick fumblings above!
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Old 14th November 2012, 07:38 PM   #3937
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Just finished "Campaign Zen" by Peter Prasad, a book of prose poetry concerning elections from 500 A. D. onward. Yep, that's right, election poetry. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water...
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Old 14th November 2012, 11:16 PM   #3938
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Eeek, I read "50 Shades". Well most of it, anyway. 3/4 of the way through I skipped to the end. Yeah the author can write a good sex scene. But the pain thing, no way, sorry, I don't get it.

And if you think Bella Swan has nothing going for her except she has a boyfriend, Anastasia Steele is 100 times worse. The whole relationship is one sick guy who enjoys inflicting pain and a girl who is supposed to be a college grad that is head over heels for the guy because, as far as I can tell, he's rich and good looking. Nothing else happens. There is no relationship there, none zilch.

I wonder what the fan fic of 50 shades might look like? (50 shades started as Twilight fan fic for those who don't know.) If you made Anastasia into another sick puppy like Christian Grey, there might actually be a story there: two twisted people and how their sick minds interact. But instead there's nothing in this story but some sex scenes that if you ignore the pain BS are pretty hot. Add in the pain, though, and they become icky. If people find pain erotic I think they really need to see a shrink.
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Old 15th November 2012, 05:07 AM   #3939
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Originally Posted by Skeptic Ginger View Post
Eeek, I read "50 Shades". Well most of it, anyway. 3/4 of the way through I skipped to the end. Yeah the author can write a good sex scene. But the pain thing, no way, sorry, I don't get it.

And if you think Bella Swan has nothing going for her except she has a boyfriend, Anastasia Steele is 100 times worse. The whole relationship is one sick guy who enjoys inflicting pain and a girl who is supposed to be a college grad that is head over heels for the guy because, as far as I can tell, he's rich and good looking. Nothing else happens. There is no relationship there, none zilch.

I wonder what the fan fic of 50 shades might look like? (50 shades started as Twilight fan fic for those who don't know.) If you made Anastasia into another sick puppy like Christian Grey, there might actually be a story there: two twisted people and how their sick minds interact. But instead there's nothing in this story but some sex scenes that if you ignore the pain BS are pretty hot. Add in the pain, though, and they become icky. If people find pain erotic I think they really need to see a shrink.
Have you read Nine and a Half Weeks? Similar subject, much better characterisation.

[off topic] 50 Shades helped give the world the term "mummy porn"
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Old 15th November 2012, 10:25 AM   #3940
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Originally Posted by catsmate1 View Post
Have you read Nine and a Half Weeks? Similar subject, much better characterisation....
No, are the sex scenes good?
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Old 15th November 2012, 11:14 PM   #3941
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Originally Posted by asydhouse View Post
That makes sense, if I understand you to mean the most obvious sense of your statement: that thinking hard burns a lot of energy. Playing a game of chess is one of the most exhausting things I've ever done! (and I've done some hard labour in my time!)

And immersing yourself in a Kerouac-style splurge of creative writing nonstop for a couple of hours (if you are burning the conceptual engine fuel in a real engagement of mentation, that is, not just ranting dada!) will leave you feeling like you've just run a two mile obstacle course, or just hauled yourself ashore out of a wild river swim!

I'll check out the book, thanks for mentioning it.

Just finished Neal Stephenson's latest intelligent thriller Reamde and I wish it was even longer! A thousand pages passed like a hundred, and there was not a single flabby word. This book seriously interferes with your interest in doing anything else!

I've read every word this man has published since Snowcrash and it's all good, and I feel more tuned in to the modern world as a result of reading him (which may be my own bias at work, not to mention delusion! but that would be my fault, not his!)

For what its worth, it did win a nobel prize in 2010.
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Old 16th November 2012, 12:17 AM   #3942
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I've just finished - well, I'd started so I thought I might as well finish! - 'The Little Stranger' by Sarah Walters. Supposed to be mysterious and creepy, but, although read well, just fizzled out at the end. A friend said she is a good author, but that she hadn't read this particular book. Definitely not recommended!
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Old 16th November 2012, 03:38 AM   #3943
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Originally Posted by Skeptic Ginger View Post
No, are the sex scenes good?
Well they're understated, the book is more about what's happening in Elizabeths mind.
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Old 16th November 2012, 03:59 AM   #3944
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I've just finished "The Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss. I quite enjoyed it, and immediately started the next book in the series, "The Wise Man's Fear". While I liked the first, I am finding the second much, much more enjoyable.

I was very disappointed to learn the third book isn't finished yet, because it took him four years to get the second one out, and I'll probably have it finished inside a week.
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Old 23rd November 2012, 01:13 PM   #3945
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Good to hear about the Rothfuss; it has been recommended my way (for audiobook-while-doing-microscope-work sustenance, now that I'm through with Book of the New Sun and not quite ready for Book of the Short Sun), and I wasn't quite sure whether to bite. I guess I shall.

In paperspace, re-reading A Fire Upon The Deep by Vernor Vinge. 20 years ago, it was among the first of the new breed of Space Opera that mixed epic stories and massive scale with nifty extrapolations and well-applied phlebotinum, and it still rocks. The concept of an audio-based group mind is taken about as far as it can go, eldritch horrors spread across the galaxy, and the Net is still full of noobs (only they represent entire civilzations now). The prequel A Deepness in the Sky, which was also very good, shan't get another reading, sadly; there's one single instance of squick in there that just curdles me innards and makes me not want to get immersed in the story again...

Coming up is a return to late childhood, Nils Holgersson's wonderful journey across Sweden by Selma Lagerlöf. I'd be interested to know how many people outside of northern Europe have ever heard of this? In Scandinavia, I think it's known to plain everyone; in Germany, at least to everyone of my generation.
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Old 23rd November 2012, 01:17 PM   #3946
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Starting Pratchett's "Going Postal" ...for the plane ride from NC to Colorado...
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Old 24th November 2012, 06:19 AM   #3947
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Old 24th November 2012, 10:16 AM   #3948
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Having read most of _Infinite Jest_ at least three times, and having read the (good) biography by D.T. Max, I've been going back and reading or re-reading everything that David Foster Wallace wrote, including some of the early stuff.

It's interesting to see all the connections between pieces, and to see connections between them and his life.

A Supposedly Fun Thing That I'll Never Do Again has a nice arc: It gets more and more hilarious.

The collection _Brief Interviews with Hideous Men_ is disturbing if you know how autobiographical most of it is.

Then, between DFW and Franzen, there's a boatload of fiction to check out that they refer to: Coover, Updike, Delillo, Nabokov, etc.

Maybe _Pale Fire_, by Nabokov, after this round.

DFW has some interesting notions about time, which seem to figure into his speculations about what suicide would be like.

His philosophical/logician streak might have been a capacity I lack, a compensation for depression, or part of the very thing that was his madness: The ability to take dubious notions to their logical (?) conclusions.

But I hold fast to my little dim-witted combination of Epicurus, skepticism, and common-sense. With just a dash of recovery-speak, of 12 steps.

That is: tomorrow's another day. Get through this one.

Any given moment is tolerable. Observe it. It's your head that gets you into trouble.

Stinkin' Thinkin' indeed.
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Albert's Path is a strange and difficult one.

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Old 24th November 2012, 03:25 PM   #3949
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Originally Posted by calebprime View Post
Having read most of _Infinite Jest_ at least three times, and having read the (good) biography by D.T. Max, I've been going back and reading or re-reading everything that David Foster Wallace wrote, including some of the early stuff.

It's interesting to see all the connections between pieces, and to see connections between them and his life.

A Supposedly Fun Thing That I'll Never Do Again has a nice arc: It gets more and more hilarious.

The collection _Brief Interviews with Hideous Men_ is disturbing if you know how autobiographical most of it is.

Then, between DFW and Franzen, there's a boatload of fiction to check out that they refer to: Coover, Updike, Delillo, Nabokov, etc.

Maybe _Pale Fire_, by Nabokov, after this round.

DFW has some interesting notions about time, which seem to figure into his speculations about what suicide would be like.

His philosophical/logician streak might have been a capacity I lack, a compensation for depression, or part of the very thing that was his madness: The ability to take dubious notions to their logical (?) conclusions.

But I hold fast to my little dim-witted combination of Epicurus, skepticism, and common-sense. With just a dash of recovery-speak, of 12 steps.

That is: tomorrow's another day. Get through this one.

Any given moment is tolerable. Observe it. It's your head that gets you into trouble.

Stinkin' Thinkin' indeed.
I think Nabokov can be great fun. Less fond of Coover, though I confess I have not opened a Coover book for close to 30 years. I read some of his short fiction long ago (Pricksongs and Descants), which were beautifully written at times, but was quite put off by his attitude. If you are familiar with "postmodern" writers, many of whom insert themselves and their own attitudes into their fiction, you'll get Coover, but he took it a bit further at times, purposely violating what I always thought were the rules of fiction. If you read, say, John Barth, who inserts himself into much of his work, you get the impression that he's full of himself and his work perhaps, but also that his basic attitude is "this is fiction with a capital F, and it's so cool, here's how it works." With Coover you get the slightly different sense that he's saying "this is just fiction, you're a fool for wanting to know 'what really happened' in the story, because it's just fiction, nyah nyah, I'm the author and I make the rules." I had a similar problem reading his Public Burning, which I also tried, hoping to be fair, but did not finish. In that, he mixes history with fiction so seamlessly that one cannot tell, once again, what's real and what is not. For those to whom the early Nixon years are real history and historically important, I found that purposeful confusion too irritating. Coover had great skill, but what I thought was an imperious attitude toward those who truly love fiction. I don't mind the "gee whiz" attitude of someone like Barth, who could be channelling Henry Fielding at times, with his "dear reader" asides, but could not abide Coover.
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Old 24th November 2012, 07:46 PM   #3950
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So I finally read the last chapter of Malcom Gladwell's Outliers.

Excellent book. Got a little boring 2/3 the way in but still very enlightening. Highly recommended for new parents. Of course, it isn't a "how to make your child successful" book. It's an interesting conciousness raiser on why some people become successful and some don't. Inate ability has little to do with it.

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Old 24th November 2012, 10:10 PM   #3951
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Doris Lessing's, 'On Cats'.
According to the jacket cover, "...convinces us with stunning recognition of the reasons why cats really matter.".
We'll see about that.
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Old 25th November 2012, 02:10 AM   #3952
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Originally Posted by StevieB View Post
Doris Lessing's, 'On Cats'.
According to the jacket cover, "...convinces us with stunning recognition of the reasons why cats really matter.".
We'll see about that.
Well it's not deep philosophy or anything... just some cat-centric memoirs, in fine Lessing prose.
(On that note, how old does she plan to get before we can read the next volume of her autobiography? The last one ended in '62! Pretty please...?)
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Old 25th November 2012, 04:42 AM   #3953
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Originally Posted by Floyt View Post
Well it's not deep philosophy or anything... just some cat-centric memoirs, in fine Lessing prose.
(On that note, how old does she plan to get before we can read the next volume of her autobiography? The last one ended in '62! Pretty please...?)
That would just be purrrrfect. I just finished Kahneman's, Thinking:Fast and Slow, and was hoping for something just a little lighter. After reading just a few pages of On Cats I can see it isn't going to be warm and fuzzy either. Which is good.
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Old 25th November 2012, 05:26 AM   #3954
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Originally Posted by bruto View Post
I think Nabokov can be great fun. Less fond of Coover, though I confess I have not opened a Coover book for close to 30 years. I read some of his short fiction long ago (Pricksongs and Descants), which were beautifully written at times, but was quite put off by his attitude. If you are familiar with "postmodern" writers, many of whom insert themselves and their own attitudes into their fiction, you'll get Coover, but he took it a bit further at times, purposely violating what I always thought were the rules of fiction. If you read, say, John Barth, who inserts himself into much of his work, you get the impression that he's full of himself and his work perhaps, but also that his basic attitude is "this is fiction with a capital F, and it's so cool, here's how it works." With Coover you get the slightly different sense that he's saying "this is just fiction, you're a fool for wanting to know 'what really happened' in the story, because it's just fiction, nyah nyah, I'm the author and I make the rules." I had a similar problem reading his Public Burning, which I also tried, hoping to be fair, but did not finish. In that, he mixes history with fiction so seamlessly that one cannot tell, once again, what's real and what is not. For those to whom the early Nixon years are real history and historically important, I found that purposeful confusion too irritating. Coover had great skill, but what I thought was an imperious attitude toward those who truly love fiction. I don't mind the "gee whiz" attitude of someone like Barth, who could be channelling Henry Fielding at times, with his "dear reader" asides, but could not abide Coover.
I expect I'll feel the same way about Coover. Just got _The Public Burning_ and a bunch of others from the lib. yesterday.

I want to know what Wallace and Franzen are talking about -- all these books I haven't read yet.

DFW made a project of trying to overcome his own self-consciousness, of trying to be sincere, without irony.
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Old 25th November 2012, 06:02 AM   #3955
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Originally Posted by calebprime View Post
I expect I'll feel the same way about Coover. Just got _The Public Burning_ and a bunch of others from the lib. yesterday.

I want to know what Wallace and Franzen are talking about -- all these books I haven't read yet.

DFW made a project of trying to overcome his own self-consciousness, of trying to be sincere, without irony.
I must confess I've not read any Wallace. I've read a couple of Franzens in the last couple of years, and found him one of those writers who is good enough that one doesn't seem to have to ask "why."
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Old 26th November 2012, 01:47 PM   #3956
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Just finished Everyday is an Atheist Holiday by Penn Jillette

About to start Makers; The New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson
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Old 26th November 2012, 01:52 PM   #3957
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Double poast.
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Old 27th November 2012, 01:44 PM   #3958
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Just skimmed through _Monkey Mind -- a Memoir of Anxiety_ by Daniel Smith.

It wasn't what the blurbs -- from Oliver Sacks, among others -- lead me to expect.

It's more funny, personal, and anecdotal than it is like _Darkness Visible_, or like _The Noonday Demon_.

Overall, the lesson is: Face what's making you anxious -- where applicable.

Smith, as a green 20-something writer for The Atlantic, wrote his first big piece on the controversy about electroshock therapy -- coming down gently on the side of being in favor of it.

The article elicited howls of rage from both sides, and a 23-million dollar lawsuit. Talk about anxiety-making! Yikes! His career at The Atlantic was finished before it began.

Can be skimmed in one quick sitting/lying.
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Old 27th November 2012, 09:55 PM   #3959
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Halfway through The Voyage of the Beagle. The ship has just left Tierra del Fuego (cold, damp, gloomy, with Fuegians aggressively and incessantly pestering the crew for what, I'm afraid, were just trinkets).

The Beagle is now sailing towards Valparaiso and, soon, the Galapagos.

The young Charles Darwin knew how to write.
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Old 28th November 2012, 07:23 AM   #3960
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Originally Posted by Tiktaalik View Post
Starting Pratchett's "Going Postal" ...for the plane ride from NC to Colorado...
Finished. Now looking for more Pratchett. I have a chart showing me the relationships between books. Think "The Colour of Magic" is probably next on the list...
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