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Old 12th July 2015, 08:41 AM   #161
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The Man Who Watched Women by Horth & Rosenfeldt and The Past by Tessa Hadley, both advance proof copies for Amazon Vine review.

The first is "scandinavian crime noir" holiday reading-type pulp, the other, a standard novel about "an ugly secret" at a remote cottage where a group of family members descend.
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Old 13th July 2015, 07:36 AM   #162
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Just finished Reginald Hill - The Woodcutter but I didnt really like this at all. I miss Pascoe and Dalziel!

I wanted to read some sciencefiction and ended up reading:
Enchantress - James Maxwell
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Old 18th July 2015, 07:07 AM   #163
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Originally Posted by xterra View Post
Neither. It appears to be a function of the software.

I am reading the book through the OverDrive app on a 10" tablet. The usual touch-screen swipe-to-enlarge gestures do not work in OverDrive, so there is no way to make the graphics larger. I can set the font size, but that does nothing to the graphics.

I might try to download the book in a different format to use with a different reader, and see if the graphics can be made bigger.
The bane of my life with maths books. Equations are graphics and so tiny they look like lines sometimes. In play I can at least increase the size of the graphics. In Kobo I have to use a magnifying glass.
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Old 20th July 2015, 06:07 AM   #164
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Started Flashman and the Seawolf by Robert Brightwell, about Harry Flashman's uncle.
It remains to be seen if the series is as good as the original.
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Old 24th July 2015, 06:52 PM   #165
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Ghost rider by Neil Peart If you like the band Rush or you ride a Motor Cycle you will enjoy this book.
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Old 26th July 2015, 03:57 AM   #166
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I am up to book 12 in the audio versions of Inspector Salvo Montalbano series by Andrea Camilleri. Superbly read by Daniel Philpott. Very funny at times too.
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Old 6th August 2015, 12:28 PM   #167
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Having being infuriated by _Gravity's Rainbow_, I thought I might give Pynchon another chance. Other difficult books don't make me feel like I'm reading antic manic gleeful ********. There's something about Pynchon. He has to cram six impossible things in every page, maybe.

So, _Vineland_. Same thing. But I relaxed and just read it as a comical but lyrical riff on 80's California culture, and that at least reduced my indignation.

Beneath all the glad banter, I'm an earnest lad.

Maybe a more serious Pynchon would be....David Foster Wallace. That is, he wouldn't have survived to write more wanky (but somewhat brilliant) books.

I'm trying to ease into _Against the Day_ but there's already a hot-air balloon and a dog that can read and several hundred other silly things.

Any Pynchon fans here? Someone might be able to say a few words and adjust my attitude, so that I can enjoy his work.
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Old 6th August 2015, 12:34 PM   #168
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Fortress by the late Ian Hogg, 1975. No matter how much else I read in mil. hist. and related topics, I always learn things from Hogg. And he wrote wittily and well.
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Old 6th August 2015, 12:38 PM   #169
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Originally Posted by calebprime View Post
Having being infuriated by _Gravity's Rainbow_, I thought I might give Pynchon another chance. Other difficult books don't make me feel like I'm reading antic manic gleeful ********. There's something about Pynchon. He has to cram six impossible things in every page, maybe.

So, _Vineland_. Same thing. But I relaxed and just read it as a comical but lyrical riff on 80's California culture, and that at least reduced my indignation.

Beneath all the glad banter, I'm an earnest lad.
http://www.wikihow.com/Read-a-Thomas-Pynchon-Novel

Quote:
9. Unlearn what you have learned. I've read a couple of those reviews that called "Gravity's Rainbow" "unreadable". They were written by people who operate under a certain theory of how literature inherently should be. Let the book go where it's going to go, because it's going to go there anyway. Resistance is futile.
Also, try The Crying of Lot 49.
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Old 6th August 2015, 01:58 PM   #170
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Originally Posted by Resume View Post
http://www.wikihow.com/Read-a-Thomas-Pynchon-Novel


Also, try The Crying of Lot 49.
Heh.

Ask a question, you get an answer.


I'm going to try, earnestly, to lighten up.

(Lighting up doesn't help. It makes things worse.)
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Old 9th August 2015, 01:13 AM   #171
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In order of complexity and the effort required:

Re-re-reading Reginald Hill's "Deadheads".

Reading for the first time Donna Tartt's "The Goldfinch".

Reading for the first time Sir Thomas Browne's "Religio Medici" (out loud, as I'm recording it, and I don't think I'd personally be capable of comprehending and relishing this luscious C17 prose in any other way - Sir Thomas was 11 when Shakespeare died so the grammar, syntax and vocabulary of English were as in flux as they are in Shakespeare. Like Shakespeare, he is making up the language as he goes along.)

All the above highly recommended, though "Religio Medici" is not for sooks.

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Old 10th August 2015, 05:48 AM   #172
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Just finished reading Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee and White Hunger by Aki Olliainen, based on the natural famine 0f the 1860's that saw 15% of the population of northern Sweden and Finland wiped out.

Currently reading Winter War by Philip Teir, translated from the Swedish about middle-class ennui in Helsinki. Shades of Jonathan Franzen.

I was amused to note the protagonist, Max, is an addict of forums such as this one. Had to smile.
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Old 10th August 2015, 09:50 AM   #173
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Just started reading William Forstchen's novel One Year After, sequel to One Second After
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Old 10th August 2015, 12:58 PM   #174
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The Library At Mount Char by Scott Hawkins. Saw this in my Science Fiction Bookclub offerings and got the Kindle version.
A wild ride so far. One reviewer described it as "American Gods as American Gods should have been."

We have an individual who may or may not be God...Or at least "a" god, various other supernatural critters, and a group of adopted individuals who call this being "Father".
It's not a pleasant household.
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Old 10th August 2015, 04:45 PM   #175
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Kitchi-Gami
Life Among the Lake Superior Ojibway by Johann Georg Kohl

Less racist than Henry Schoolcraft on same subject. That's all I can say so far.
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Old 11th August 2015, 03:34 AM   #176
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Re-reading a bunch of Doctor Who EU novels as part of the Extracanonical Who RPG project.
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As human right is always something given, it always in reality reduces to the right which men give, "concede," to each other. If the right to existence is conceded to new-born children, then they have the right; if it is not conceded to them, as was the case among the Spartans and ancient Romans, then they do not have it. For only society can give or concede it to them; they themselves cannot take it, or give it to themselves.
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Old 11th August 2015, 04:48 PM   #177
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To The Beat of a Different Drum. The Life and Science of Richard Feynman. By Jagdish Mehra 1994.

Read it several years ago and decided it's time for a re-read. This book is light on his social life and instead focuses on going over his work in science in greater detail. It has all the math
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Old 12th August 2015, 02:20 AM   #178
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Buchanan's Gunpowder, Explosives and the State: A Technological History
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As human right is always something given, it always in reality reduces to the right which men give, "concede," to each other. If the right to existence is conceded to new-born children, then they have the right; if it is not conceded to them, as was the case among the Spartans and ancient Romans, then they do not have it. For only society can give or concede it to them; they themselves cannot take it, or give it to themselves.
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Old 12th August 2015, 05:34 AM   #179
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'Viriconium' by M John Harrison, for the third time. Linguistically speaking the best fantasy writer I've read second to China Mieville. I was interested to learn that Mieville also rates him highly and Harrison's influence can be seen in several of Mieville's novels.

At the moment also reading Stephen R Donaldson's 'The Last Dark', Mieville's 'The City and the City' for the tenth time (best book I ever read), 'Buddhism for Beginners' - Max Kornfield, 'Perv' - Jesse Bering and 'Time Reborn' - Lee Smolin. Oh, and 'Hallucinations' by Oliver Sacks, again.
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Old 16th August 2015, 02:50 PM   #180
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_Dead Souls_ -- Gogol

I'm about 7 chapters in. We're not told, so far, why our main character is buying up the souls of serfs. But as he goes from estate to estate, we meet the owners, each more eccentric than the last. And all can be persuaded to sell.

This is great, and a real consolation.
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Old 17th August 2015, 12:38 PM   #181
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Moby Dick. It's been decades since my last re-read. Chapter after chapter, he heads us into the dime-store for some cheap transcendentalism and self-indulgent gassing. It reads a tad too much like padding. But when it gets good, it's very good.
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Old 18th August 2015, 06:54 AM   #182
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_Galileo's Middle Finger_ -- Alice Dreger

A great read, and an admirable person, I think.

NYT review here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/19/bo...eger.html?_r=0
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Old 19th August 2015, 02:47 AM   #183
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Originally Posted by calebprime View Post
_Dead Souls_ -- Gogol

I'm about 7 chapters in. We're not told, so far, why our main character is buying up the souls of serfs. But as he goes from estate to estate, we meet the owners, each more eccentric than the last. And all can be persuaded to sell.

This is great, and a real consolation.

It will blow your mind! No spoilers obviously.
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Old 19th August 2015, 03:53 AM   #184
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Crusading for Chemistry: The Professional Career of Charles Holmes Herty by Germaine M. Reed

I'm also proofing a novel by a historian I know about an alternate outcome to the Easter Rising and an aftermath diverging from our history. And re-reading some more Doctor Who novels as background for an article, inspired by the Unbound series, called What If... the Master took an Apprentice?
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As human right is always something given, it always in reality reduces to the right which men give, "concede," to each other. If the right to existence is conceded to new-born children, then they have the right; if it is not conceded to them, as was the case among the Spartans and ancient Romans, then they do not have it. For only society can give or concede it to them; they themselves cannot take it, or give it to themselves.
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Old 20th August 2015, 09:16 AM   #185
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Asimov - Forward the Foundation

(Just finished reading the other six... )
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Old 20th August 2015, 03:17 PM   #186
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Reading, for me, is as much about encountering another mind -- the writer's -- as it is about the subject matter. Nothing too surprising about that.

Today I must be feeling oversensitive, because this book makes me queasy:

_The Man Who Couldn't Stop -- OCD and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought_ by David Adam.

David Adam has suffered for a long time from severe OCD, although he's managed to hold down a job and a marriage with a child.

The proportions are odd: His chapter on Zoloft, which he feels really helps him, is the shortest. There's a very long chapter on lobotomy and its latter-day versions, which are sometimes the treatments when everything else has failed.

The tone is odd, but maybe I just don't understand the British mind, or maybe this tone is the result of trying to write zippy popular science on a complex subject. Or maybe the author really is weird, even allowing for his OCD.

And, of course, OCD is very strange, and the other treatments for it -- apart from SSRIs -- CBT and exposure therapy, are odd but helpful.

I've dived in a few times, and I want to get out of there.

Oliver Sacks is* a quirky fellow -- a gay Jewish power-lifter, former amphetamine addict, someone who writes in different colored pens and calls his therapist for support all the time, and suffers from facial agnosia. Yet I love his mind.

Aside from the similarity of the title to a book by Sacks -- which seemed to start a trend in such titles -- I can't warm up to this author.

He seems glib and a little affectless, even though his subject is serious.

I read lots and lots of books -- lots of books on psychology and lots of memoirs of madness, and I've never quite gotten this feeling before.

It's almost as if...I don't want to touch this mind. Very strange: I can't quite put my finger on why.

eta: Twelve positive but perfunctory reviews on Amazon, grateful to have a decent book on the subject.

* Now, sadly, terminally ill.

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Old 20th August 2015, 03:28 PM   #187
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_I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son_ -- by Kent Russell.

Two chapters in. One thing's for certain -- fer sure -- he's a heck of writer. He's a pleasure to read, even if I have no affinity for his subjects.

Heh, a lot of bad reviews on Amazon. Almost a good sign, in this case.

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Old 21st August 2015, 11:20 AM   #188
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Calebprime,

Is this the Oliver Sachs who wrote "The man who mistook his wife for a hat"?
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Old 21st August 2015, 02:02 PM   #189
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It is indeed:

http://www.oliversacks.com
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Old 24th August 2015, 11:05 AM   #190
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_Finders Keepers_ -- Stephen King

Like most of King's books, this starts strong, with some intriguing psychology. Then -- again like most -- it shifts gears into action, then ends with something blowing up or burning down, more or less. This is true of almost every book of his I can think of.

This is better, by a little, than his last two. But I was disappointed with several things. One was that he brought back some of the characters from _Mr. Mercedes_, imo one of hist worst. They're not necessary, not integral to the story. The second was related to the first. Having re-introduced those characters, he intersperses scenes with them, which both slows down the action and also just isn't that interesting.

I have the same experience with every book. I get hooked, and I can't put it down. Then as I read on, I'm less and less interested, until I'm skimming.

The action in this one centers around the work of a writer who is sort of a mash-up of J.D. Salinger and John Updike.

For an author who -- according to the blurbs -- can work in any genre (!), I find his books to be like plywood boxes. Decent veneer, but cheap. Punch through, and you find they're hollow on the inside.

Last edited by calebprime; 24th August 2015 at 11:10 AM.
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Old 29th August 2015, 07:37 AM   #191
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_In a Dark Wood_ -- Joseph Luzzi

This man's wife was killed in a car accident when she was eight months pregnant. Suddenly he was a father, and a widower. Throughout this book, he draws on his study of Dante's Divine Comedy, in his account of grief and eventual recovery.

I took an instant mild dislike to his writing, if not him. (Which, from hints he drops, he would return.) I've only read perhaps 20 pages. So I was glad to read this review in the NYT:

Quote:
That he confesses all this is admirable, and what he has to say about the “electric” quality of grief will be recognizable to readers who have dealt with grief themselves. But as grief turns to mourning — from “Underworld” to “Purgatory” in the book’s apt scheme — Luzzi’s grief-induced loneliness turns into therapy-induced self-absorption. Vivid images — when, say, a young mother offers to wet-nurse the infant Isabel — come swaddled in high sentiment. (“I couldn’t bear the thought of another person, even if she was a loving friend, fulfilling the role that should have been Katherine’s.”) Clichés show up in bunches: “ivory tower,”  “uncharted terrain,”  “perfect storm” all on one page. A passage about Luzzi’s obsession with tennis ends perfectly — “Some people turn to drink, some to porn, others to religion; I had chosen a clay rectangle by the sea” — but then a new page begins and he’s in bed with a beautiful woman, and “my heart is racing . . . as though it’s about to burst from my chest.”

Partly the problem is grief, and partly it’s what Henry James called “weak specifications.” Quoting Dante, Luzzi tells himself to “stop treating shades as solid things” — but too often in the writing he treats solid things as shades. New girlfriends are boldly inked in, but his daughter and his mother are left in outline. And his deceased wife is just as opaque as he says she is. ...

“ ‘The Divine Comedy’ was not a self-help manual,” he reminds himself, and for the most part he avoids the glibness of the book’s subtitle. Oddly, though, we never actually see him turn to Dante’s work for consolation or open a book in a moment of need. Instead, he distributes his insights post hoc so the glories of Dante’s towering poem are always brought back to the flatlands of Luzzi’s grief. The great poet, his beloved and his profound conception of the afterlife are forced through the needle’s eye of the memoirist’s outlook, when the intent surely was for readers to have their sense of life and loss made larger through the encounter.

As for Dante, I still hope to study this poem someday. I've collected every English translation I can find. I continue to wonder whether it really offers wisdom to someone like me -- who doesn't believe in justice, human or divine. And I wonder whether I can appreciate it without agreeing with it, and without speaking Italian.
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Old 31st August 2015, 12:41 AM   #192
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I'm half way through Kate Atkinson's sequel to "Life After Life", "A God in Ruins".

http://www.amazon.co.uk/A-God-Ruins-.../dp/0385618700

The main character, Teddy, is a brother of Ursula, the main character of "Life After Life". Both of them experience some of the worst of war - Ursula in The Blitz and Teddy as an RAF bomber pilot.

The "ruins" of the title are, I think, those of "poor ruined Europe".

I find Kate Atkinson's imagination and style very much to my taste - wry, sympathetic, parenthetical, funny, succinctly relating horrors.

Here's something I learnt about for the first time, The Raid on Nuremberg, 1944:

https://www.warhistoryonline.com/war...berg-raid.html

Briefly, 800 bombers set off in an armada 70 miles long on an almost cloudless, moonlight night with strong winds to fly in a (dead) straight line into the heart of Germany.

Guess how many were blown off course? how much damage Nuremberg suffered? (hint: hardly any), how many RAF lives were lost? (hint: more than in the whole Battle of Britain).

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Old 31st August 2015, 03:29 AM   #193
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Terry Pratchett's final Discworld novel The Shepherd's Crown. Good so far. Interesting symbolism in his killing off
Granny Weatherwax
or perhaps I'm reading too much into the story.
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As human right is always something given, it always in reality reduces to the right which men give, "concede," to each other. If the right to existence is conceded to new-born children, then they have the right; if it is not conceded to them, as was the case among the Spartans and ancient Romans, then they do not have it. For only society can give or concede it to them; they themselves cannot take it, or give it to themselves.
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Old 1st September 2015, 09:25 PM   #194
Nonpareil
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Originally Posted by catsmate View Post
Terry Pratchett's final Discworld novel The Shepherd's Crown. Good so far. Interesting symbolism in his killing off
Granny Weatherwax
or perhaps I'm reading too much into the story.
I started this today.

I knew it was coming. I mean, it was obvious for the entirety of the Tiffany Aching series that she was intended to be Granny's successor, and the dedication (To Esmerelda Weatherwax) was a major tip-off.

Still broke my damn heart.

Granny was - and still is - my favorite character from any work of fiction, ever. Most of the rest of them are likewise Pratchett creations, but Granny tops the list. There is no other character who has influenced my own writing anywhere near as much as she has. She's wonderfully written and incredibly deep, but in an entirely unique way; she isn't so much a dynamic character as a static one who just happens to be so fully fleshed out that Pratchett can, and does, spend entire books showing us new aspects to her or casting the known ones in a new light that makes them fascinating all over again.

She's also my mother's favorite character, since I introduced her to the Witches saga a while ago and have been leading her through them - and the Tiffany Aching series - ever since. We ordered The Shepherd's Crown the day that it became available, and it finally arrived today.

Both of us just put the book down after her death and walked away. It's not that it was bad - far from it. It was incredibly well-done, moving, and... basically the kind of real emotional weight that you would expect from Pratchett.

But if there's ever been a need for a moment of silence for the death of a fictional character, it's for Esme Weatherwax.

The insight it gives into Terry's thought process as he wrote what he knew was going to be his last Discworld novel - his last novel, in fact, period - is heartbreaking enough on its own. But that isn't the main reason.

Pratchett brought Granny to life in a way that few characters in all of fiction have ever been. She was compelling, interesting, and genuinely someone that the reader cared about and wanted to see win in the end.

It's a mark of Terry Pratchett's mastery of his craft when I say that I felt genuine grief at her death.

Rest in peace, Esme, and rest in peace, Sir Terry. You both left your respective worlds a better place, and they are the lesser for your passing.
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Old 2nd September 2015, 04:09 AM   #195
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I agree completely.

ETA: it seems that Jonathan Jones' rather patronising piece in the Guardian has attracted some pushback, here and here for example.
I don't think I've ever seen such unanimity in a comments section before.
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As human right is always something given, it always in reality reduces to the right which men give, "concede," to each other. If the right to existence is conceded to new-born children, then they have the right; if it is not conceded to them, as was the case among the Spartans and ancient Romans, then they do not have it. For only society can give or concede it to them; they themselves cannot take it, or give it to themselves.

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Old 4th September 2015, 02:14 PM   #196
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Frank Dikötter's Mao's Great Famine.

I knew the Great Leap Forward resulted in some bad stuff, but this is just downright grotesque. Damn well summed up by Li Fuchun, when he realised that in the middle of the famine, 100 billion Yuan had been spent building grand hotels, theatres, and the like to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the proclamation of the People's Republic:
Quote:
People cannot eat their fill and we are still building skyscrapers - how can we communists have the heart to do that! Does it still look like communism?! Is it not empty talk when we go on all day long about the interests of the masses?
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Old 6th September 2015, 07:06 PM   #197
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Just finished Stephen King's monster Under the Dome. I understand the TV series was just cancelled even though I have not seen it. If it followed the book closely, I can see why.

It's not uninteresting, but it just goes on forever. 1200+ pages. I haven't read an SK book in a while, but I find a few tropes that bug me.

He doesn't write people, he writes characters. They don't talk or act like real people do. The evil ones are irredeemably evil, the good ones just the opposite.

Getting spoilery here, so,
All the crap about the corrupt city councilman was not necessary, and it all could have taken place in another book without the sci-fi element. I for one would have liked to see more of the global impact, and the struggle for survival, than seeing if someone is concerned whether she can publish her little newspaper or not.

The ending was apocalyptic, but killing several "good" characters (including kids and a dog) right near the end really sucked.
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Old 6th September 2015, 08:55 PM   #198
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The Nazi Dictatorship - Ian Kershaw

It's quite dry, but does a fantastic job of presenting a synthesis of the various issues of interpreting the Third Reich. The chapter, "Hitler and the Holocaust" is particularly great and shows at the same time what an incredibly complex cluster of events it was, how hard it is to say who was directly responsible in many cases, and that the answer to the Führer Order conundrum appears to be "well yeah, no, sorta kinda", but also how many of those directly involved were not that antisemitic and more of a bunch of 'petty-bourgouis bureaucrats'. Still, Kershaw does seem to present it as more of a bottom-up event than I had thought; I'd believed it was meticulously planned by Himmler/Heydrich earlier and to a greater extent that seems to be the case.
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Old 7th September 2015, 04:43 AM   #199
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The Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards. A fascinating study of that organisation, it's founding and early members.
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As human right is always something given, it always in reality reduces to the right which men give, "concede," to each other. If the right to existence is conceded to new-born children, then they have the right; if it is not conceded to them, as was the case among the Spartans and ancient Romans, then they do not have it. For only society can give or concede it to them; they themselves cannot take it, or give it to themselves.
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Old 7th September 2015, 01:13 PM   #200
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Originally Posted by sackett View Post
Fortress by the late Ian Hogg, 1975. No matter how much else I read in mil. hist. and related topics, I always learn things from Hogg. And he wrote wittily and well.
A (the?) History Channel talking head who really knew his stuff.

Four Thousand Years Ago: A World Panorama Of Life In The Second Millennium B. C. by Geoffrey Bibby. An attempt to create a holistic look at the Late Stone Age, Bronze Age and Early Iron Age by cutting the second millennium BCE into 70-year "lifetimes." It's an older Pop History about an era we know little about for sure, and knew even less about it in 1961. He's clear about what he inferred (AKA: made up based on what little we know), and uses realish people like Abraham and Tut's wife (no, they never meet!) as characters. There are also profuse apologies for neglecting areas that had not been researched yet, like China and South America. All in all, an interesting and entertaining overview.

http://www.amazon.com/Four-Thousand-.../dp/1258183110

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