And The Snow Fell Softly On ILB: What Are You Reading Now Winter 2017/18

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The Spy Who Came In from the Cold by le Carre

ice cream social justice (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 21 December 2017 19:09 (four weeks ago) Permalink

In the previous WAYR thread (cited above) James Morrison said regarding my reading Voltaire in Love:

Had Voltaire in Love for ages, never read it--will be interested to hear what you think

I've read about 75% of it now. The first 70 or 80 pages are weak. Names are introduced, connected to perhaps a title or an occupation, they do nothing of note, then are never heard from again. The content is more a series of remarks than any kind of developed thesis or narrative history. It's all quite perfunctory and I almost gave up on it. Luckily, the pace picks up as the book continues, anecdotes appear, then more fully developed stories. Names become recurrent and have characters attached to them. It becomes interesting.

Mitford makes no real attempt to discuss Voltaire's thinking or writing, other than to paint him as extremely witty, while rarely citing any witticisms. His wit is taken as read. In her view he was motivated largely by a desire for fame and he achieved it through a gift for audacity and scandal. She grants him both loyalty and generosity and provides evidence of these traits. He was shrewd with money, which she admires.

I have no great opinion of her insight as a historian, but at least she has elevated her book to the level of pleasant entertainment, after a slow start.

A is for (Aimless), Thursday, 21 December 2017 19:11 (four weeks ago) Permalink

That Le Carré is great, unsurprisingly.

Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 21 December 2017 19:28 (four weeks ago) Permalink

it's what put him on the map, so i expect so; crackling start

ice cream social justice (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 21 December 2017 19:34 (four weeks ago) Permalink

What did people make of the Cat Person phenomenon? I can't think of a piece of literature that has had that much impact (if that's the right word. Presence?), at least not in recent memory; that could just be my particular Twitter echo pod, though.

My bland opinion: I quite liked it, even if it felt zeitgeisty, and by extension, a bit didactic and earnest. I think some have confused 'affectless prose' for the fact that chunks of it simply didn't sing, but that might just be me.

The shard-borne beetle with his drowsy hums (Chinaski), Thursday, 21 December 2017 19:57 (four weeks ago) Permalink

Oops, just seen the thread.

The shard-borne beetle with his drowsy hums (Chinaski), Thursday, 21 December 2017 20:14 (four weeks ago) Permalink

don’t feel i want to add anything to the cat person thread, but i thought it was good, and great that it’s created widespread conversation, tho much of it does seem to be from people who find it difficult to parse (“most men aren’t really like this so what is its status”, or “who is the bad person here?” sort of thing).

finished This Little Art by Kate Briggs, which was rly good. particularly enjoyed the stuff that wasn’t immediately about translation - her approach to Barthes, the description of the relationship and correspondence between André Gide and his translator was incredible. I don’t want to spoil it for those who may read!

obv reading Chateaubriand’s Memoirs.

Going to start on another book i bought but didn’t get round to this year, Pierre Michon’s Winter Mythologies and Abbots translated by Ann Jefferson.

(I’m going to be assiduous in my acknowledgment of translators from now on after reading Briggs)

This translation got a v good review in the NYRB, which was what put me on to it. in fact translation has ended up being a minor leitmotif to the year.

Fizzles, Thursday, 21 December 2017 21:15 (four weeks ago) Permalink

Winter Mythologies is wonderful.

Thnaks for the Mitford info. I see she wrote a number of histories, all of which look POTENTIALLY interesting.

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Thursday, 21 December 2017 22:57 (four weeks ago) Permalink

I'm assisting in a Fantasy course in the coming term and just got my free copies of the books. About to attempt a deep dive into the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which I've never read before (was only an occasional fan of the films).

iCloudius (cryptosicko), Thursday, 21 December 2017 23:47 (four weeks ago) Permalink

(Do you guys know where I was going with the title of this thread?)

Burru Men Meet Burryman ina Wicker Man (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 21 December 2017 23:53 (four weeks ago) Permalink

The Dead?

iCloudius (cryptosicko), Thursday, 21 December 2017 23:56 (four weeks ago) Permalink

Yeah, exactly. Not quite the original language, but a paraphrase that I saw somewhere else.

Burru Men Meet Burryman ina Wicker Man (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 22 December 2017 00:02 (four weeks ago) Permalink

Seems like similar snow falls on the dying James Mason in Odd Man Out.

Burru Men Meet Burryman ina Wicker Man (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 22 December 2017 00:55 (four weeks ago) Permalink

Hi cryptosicko, when you get time, please post book list from Fantasy course here, or here:ThReads Must Roll: the new, improved rolling fantasy, science fiction, speculative fiction &c. thread

dow, Friday, 22 December 2017 02:52 (four weeks ago) Permalink

Snow was general all over Ireland

Steely Rodin (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 24 December 2017 16:43 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Bought the Bag I'm in yesterday since it was cheap in FOPP.
Also the book on Bowie Style cos it was £9.99 if bought with something else in HMV. Of course the 2 are the same company so may have some of the same deals going on. Bank charges have FOPP down as HMV.

& not sure how good the Bowie book is if it has a photo of the Seeds instead of the Nazz who it claims to be.

Think i'm mainly reading linernotes and the latest edition of Flashback! as well as the Bernard Sumner memoir in which he's just got Joy Division going but not yet got Stephen Morris on board.

Stevolende, Sunday, 24 December 2017 18:38 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Enjoying audio version of book recommended by, in no particular order, ilxor mark s and non-ilxor JLG.

Steely Rodin (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 24 December 2017 18:41 (three weeks ago) Permalink

> Of course the 2 are the same company so may have some of the same deals going on

the £2.99 early electronic music comp i bought in fopp last week i saw in hmv yesterday for the same price

koogs, Sunday, 24 December 2017 19:21 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Last night I picked up Moontrap, the last historic novel in a series of three, set in Oregon and clustered around the years 1848-1852, by Don Berry. I read the first two earlier in 2017 and wanted to finish the set before the year ends, just for the tidiness of it.

A is for (Aimless), Sunday, 24 December 2017 19:31 (three weeks ago) Permalink

It was falling softly upon the Bog of Allen

Steely Rodin (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 24 December 2017 23:13 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Aimless, you've read Country of the Pointed Firs, right? Is it good?

dow, Monday, 25 December 2017 00:01 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Nope. Never read it. My mom liked it, though.

A is for (Aimless), Monday, 25 December 2017 00:33 (three weeks ago) Permalink

and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves.

Steely Rodin (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 25 December 2017 01:24 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Country of the pointed firs is v good, kind of creepy

horseshoe, Monday, 25 December 2017 02:08 (three weeks ago) Permalink

damn, mr. joyce, well done, sir

A is for (Aimless), Monday, 25 December 2017 02:17 (three weeks ago) Permalink

"And the snow fell softly on Lil B"

I'm reading The Demolished Man and Deep Learning With Python, but I'm excited about starting Birds, Beasts, and Relatives, which I picked up because it was mentioned in a movie I liked. I also want to read Wind, Sand, and Stars before my vacation is over, because I'm seeking the headspace I think it'll put me in

Dan I., Monday, 25 December 2017 06:44 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Pointed Firs is great!

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Monday, 25 December 2017 09:01 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Gerald Durrell's first stab at this sort of book, My Family and Other Animals was the most enjoyable for me, but Birds, Beasts, and Relatives is fine stuff, too, and I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

A is for (Aimless), Monday, 25 December 2017 18:34 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Aimless, you've read Country of the Pointed Firs, right? Is it good?

― dow, Sunday, December 24, 2017

I can answer: it's terrific. I read in grad school years ago.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 25 December 2017 18:39 (three weeks ago) Permalink

All these endorsements (and now I recall Scott Seward really liked it too, after initially hesitating because of cute title)! Think I'll make it my next early (?) 20th Century mainstream etc. item on the bucket-list-go-round, even though I had almost decided on The Earl of Louisiana--real good too, right? Haven't read much Liebling.

dow, Monday, 25 December 2017 20:52 (three weeks ago) Permalink

My Family and Other Animals is quite a fest, yeah.

dow, Monday, 25 December 2017 20:54 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Ah, maybe I should get that one too and read it first.

Dan I., Monday, 25 December 2017 22:12 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Michon's Winter Mythologies are good so far. They're very short so you want to savour each one. They're also opaque in meaning, so you want to reflect on each one. The first three were commissioned by The Alliance Française of Ireland, and describe brief anecdotal or sacred moments in the early Irish engagement with Christianity. They're also attempts on the part of the people they describe to understand where Grace resides. Patrick, not yet saint, archbishop of Armagh, 'the founder', converts many of the tribal kings with simple 'conjuring tricks' and a well-rehearsed patter:

And perhaps because he is growing old, and his ardor and his malice are becoming blunted, Patrick regrets this facility as he walks along this road. He would like a real miracle to occur, just once, and for once in his lifetime, matter in all its opacity to be converted to Grace before his eyes.

These short texts mix the style of the fable - precise language in short sentences - and mystical texts, in that they stop short of complete meaning, leaving understand and meaning just out of reach. That seems appropriate to the matter of an early uncertain engagement with Christianity. These are not btw Christian apologetics or anything like them. Michon is cynical within the mysticism. His concern is with the *pagans*, and the uncertainty of the Christians, the He manages to 'cinvert' precise detail (I was going to say realism, but it's not that, not really) into intimations of Grace (to rephrase Patrick's desire).

I was reminded of the Kierkegaard line: Mysticism has not the patience to wait for God's revelation. It seems pertinent to each of the three stories, but they *are* patient and precise in their execution. Very good. Moving on to the Vendée stories now.

Fizzles, Tuesday, 26 December 2017 12:20 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Oh and I loved this bit on reading. It's describing Saint Columba of Iona, 'who was still called Columbkill, Columbkill the Wolf':

... this wolf is also a monk in the manner of monks at that time, a manner that is inconceivable to our way of understanding. When he lays down his sword, he rides from monastery to monastery, where he reads: he reads standing up, tensed, moving his lips and frowning, in the violent manner of those times, which we cannot conceive of either. Columbkill the Wolf is a brutal reader.

'inconceivable to our way of understanding' is something that Michon somehow manages to convey throughout this stories. Some job. And that image of the brutal reader, I never would have thought of, but it immediately brought to mind marginal illustrations of monks standing reading at lecterns, and also brought to mind that passage in St Augustine describing Ambrose Bishop of Milan, the first person to read without moving their lips. A tense unnatural (paradoxically) engagement with reading, which when Michon describes it, reflects on the reader themselves, and ties them in a bond of difference.

Fizzles, Tuesday, 26 December 2017 12:29 (three weeks ago) Permalink

mistake, this second set of stories in Winter Mythologies are set in the Causses not Brittany - that’s where the stories in Abbots are set.

all translated by Ann Jefferson, as described in the NYRB article, which prompted me to buy it in the first place:

There is, however, excellent news on the Michon translation front: an exceptional translator has, at last, appeared. Ann Jefferson, a former professor of French at Oxford, has delivered Michon’s two books of short stories, Mythologies d’hiver (1997) and Abbés (2002), in a single slim volume. I read Jefferson’s versions in something close to shock: they feel as Michon feels in French. There is the velocity, the precision, the music, the compression, the singularity, the power.

Fizzles, Tuesday, 26 December 2017 15:37 (three weeks ago) Permalink

foucault lectures, schopenhauer, allen wood on kant, laszlo foldenyi on melancholy, karen armstrong's history of god, books on cognitive therapy, epictetus' discourses, seneca's letters

seneca is pretty cool

j., Tuesday, 26 December 2017 20:17 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Now read the Nine Passages on the Causses by Pierre Michon, and even more impressed by these than the Three Miracles in Ireland. Nine anecdotal, elliptical stories which include matter about the nature of writing, the nature of transmission of belief and understanding.

The first is about a late 19th Century anthropologist who unearths an ossuary in a Causse.

The second is about an ex-bishop who has retired to a Causse as a hermit. He ventures out of his hermitage one day and feels full of energy and pride and life and then as he reflects is not sure whether this has been something which God or Satan has encouraged.

The third is a very simple vignette about a Merovingian episode where a 15-year-old girl, Éminie, daughter of King Clotaire of Paris, who, for pragmatic reasons, gets made Abbess of a distant abbey she will never visit. At the end the story says 'it is said she died of leprosy'.

The next, the fourth, is the story of monks many years later who decide to revive a ruined abbey, but are opposed by the local barons. One of the monks tells another to go and find a name, that will allow them to create a legal fiction in latin to justify their presence in the abbey. The other monk returns with the name of Eminia, as described in the previous story. Just a name in a ledger in a distant monastery, but they concoct a life about her, much as Michon fills these very peripheral barely detailed lives with his own fictions.

One of the monks sees a leper woman and decides to make Eminia a leper. Suddenly that phrase from the previous story 'she is said to have died from leprosy' recurs to you. Is the previous story true? Or has it been tainted by later interpretation? Just because a thing is said to have occurred early doesn't mean it is true. Later interpretation can provider the truth.

The fifth shows the full story of the Vita sancta Enimia (the life of Saint Enimia). This has elements of the first story and many embellishments such that it's not clear whether the person writing this has by god's grace seen a vision of Énimie's actual life, or whether the earlier story has taken on the aspects of later retellings of it. This feels like a profound enactment of how early modern history was created.

The sixth, again many years later, finds monks once again trying to preserve the legal ownership of the abbey. The bishop decides the Vita sancta Enimia into the vernacular Occitane, so that its story (its false story?) may be used as legal evidence for the local barons and as cultural evidence for the storytellers and jongleurs in the streets, creating a saintly myth.

This tale is full of sly allusions to the nature of writing, of doing what Michon himself is doing and what you as a reader are doing. About lies, translation, truth within lies (fiction) and original creation as a writer.

The seventh is about a warlord prince called Seguin. Much of Michon's stories are about the ambiguous qualities of violence.

The eighth, in 1793, is about a innate Republican, who is got drunk on wine by Monarchists and persuaded to march against the Republic.

The ninth is about the father of speleology, who has doubts, but takes a great pleasure in being a scribe of the wonders of the Underworld. He brings back up to the date of the first story.

Together they create a remarkable analysis of belief, knowledge and the transmission of the same, as well as a sly commentary on the sort of writing that Michon is doing. They're really great.

Fizzles, Tuesday, 26 December 2017 21:41 (three weeks ago) Permalink

also sex and desire is an important part of the stories.

Fizzles, Tuesday, 26 December 2017 22:06 (three weeks ago) Permalink

I finished At the Existentialist Cafe. It seems like no one talks about the existentialists that much any more, at least the French ones, so maybe it's a good time to think about them again. Interesting to think about how Beauvoir and Sartre became celebrities by simply trying to articulate and live a thoroughly atheist ethical ontology. Hard to think of anyone who makes philosophy sexy like that these days. Contemporary famous atheists (Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, etc.) seem light-weights by comparison.

o. nate, Wednesday, 27 December 2017 01:19 (three weeks ago) Permalink

I've read Much Ado About Nothing for the first time. Seen the Branagh film a couple of time, but never read the play. Claudio is an asshole. I've also re-read CA Bayly's The Birth of the Modern World for the first time since uni, which I should have done ages ago. A brilliant description of the 19th Century, wish I knew of more books as good as this on other periods. And I've finished the Quran. Which is really really repetitive, but some of the Surahs are very good.

Frederik B, Wednesday, 27 December 2017 14:02 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Today Fresh Air replayed the September interview of John Le Carre, on Legacy of Spies and much else related. What a presence. Will download so can catch some more; as I start to absorb what he's saying, he's on to something else, not that he rattles on, there's just a lot to take in, although I'd heard or read some of it.

dow, Friday, 29 December 2017 02:08 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Atlantic Hotel by João Gilberto Noll, after __xyzzzz’s enticing review in the last thread.

spare, attenuated sentences, moving towards ultimate dissolution. the main character, an ex soap-opera star, lacks affect and agency, drifts around brazil on a cold winter wind, accompanied by paranoia, death, mutilation and sex.

^ aims for 2018

Fizzles, Friday, 29 December 2017 13:21 (three weeks ago) Permalink

I'm reading The Demolished Man and Deep Learning With Python, but I'm excited about starting Birds, Beasts, and Relatives, which I picked up because it was mentioned in a movie I liked. I also want to read Wind, Sand, and Stars before my vacation is over, because I'm seeking the headspace I think it'll put me in

I begin to see the pattern.

drifts around brazil on a cold winter wind, accompanied by paranoia, death, mutilation and sex.

^ aims for 2018


Keen, Can We Avoid Another Financial Crisis? No. Next question.

Chavchavadze, Museum of Matches

Sasha Chavchavadze is an artist living in Brooklyn and Cape Cod. She is the descendant of Georgian princes and a Russian grand duke. Her dad was in the CIA and also translated the memoirs of Stalin's daughter, who became a family friend. Chavchavadze's mom had an affair with JFK while he was in office, and Sasha got to ride on Air Force One as a little girl. Her Romanov grandmother had a romance with Nabokov in their student days in Cambridge. The weight of family history is like something out of Garcia Marquez.

Borges, The Book of Sand and Shakespeare's Memory
Shirley, Turn up the Strobe

alimosina, Friday, 29 December 2017 18:21 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Recently started reading Vol. 3 of Knausgaard's My Struggle. It's been over a year since I finished Vol. 2 so I took a bit of a break. I wouldn't say it's exactly gripping so far. The "action" wanders a bit too much for that. But there are frequent moments of brilliance, when Knaugaard seems to open up a wormhole in the space-time continuum and channel directly into the mind of a young boy, enough to keep the reader's interest.

o. nate, Sunday, 31 December 2017 02:41 (two weeks ago) Permalink

Rosamond Lehmann's The Weather in the Streets. It's wild and inventive, and the centre of consciousness is as captivating as Invitation to the Waltz, but it's not gripping me quite in the same way. Something to do with the sprawl of it, I think, and the more episodic 'and then this happened' nature of it - compared to Waltz's relative hermetically sealed narrative. Intrigued by the title as, again, compared to ITTW, there's remarkably little weather in the book. Which may well be the point.

The shard-borne beetle with his drowsy hums (Chinaski), Sunday, 31 December 2017 14:45 (two weeks ago) Permalink

Grand Hotel Abyss > The Existentialist Cafe

I'm almost done with In the Spirit of Jazz: The Otis Ferguson Reader, which I've enjoyed even more than The Film Criticism of Otis Ferguson ... this is the only detailed contemporary criticism I've read of 20s and 30s jazz, and it has put many things in a slightly different perspective for me, especially the transition from sheet music and vaudeville to the phonograph, radio, and film as it affected regional scenes and players.

Brad C., Sunday, 31 December 2017 16:27 (two weeks ago) Permalink


First became aware of Otis Ferguson as a film critic and then as a sort of hipster mentor to some famous literary critic, Alfred Kazin, I think

Dr. Winston ‘Merritone’ Blecch (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 31 December 2017 16:37 (two weeks ago) Permalink

He was constantly quoted by Leslie Halliwell, iirc

Dr. Winston ‘Merritone’ Blecch (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 31 December 2017 16:38 (two weeks ago) Permalink

That's nice, Fizzles! *looks at Lanchester thread* sorry you are reading crap now.

I am ending the year on a couple of memoirs. First up is Simone De Beauvoir's Force of Curcumstance (vol.3 of four), which starts as WWII ends - it ploughs through various intrigues, friendships and relationships and gives an account of the writing around The Second Sex. I started this in September, put it down, now a 1/3 in - reckon I'll finish although who knows when. Its a solid read whenever I pick it up. One of the things I find it amusing (to go back to o. nate's post around At the Existentialist Cafe) as a read on ppl who don't exactly matter to me. Malraux, Koestler, Leiris (whom I sorta want to read but don't think he will be good), Camus (who I think she calls on his bullshit, and is penetrating), Sartre too (can't quite work out how much leeway she is giving him, and how much she leaves out). Its very good on the anit-communist left (Beauvoir and Sartre could not exist within party structures), those old struggles that feel like coming back on the plate again in different forms. I am still thinking a lot of this through. In a similar vein I am finishing Franz Fuhmann's At The Burning Abyss: Experiencing the Georg Trakl Poem which is really good on its subject but also on his relation to it, as much as Nazism and Communism, which Fuhmann more than flirted with at various points - its never simply a confessional, both intellectual biography and crit are interwoven into each other in a way I haven't quite encountered before. I am really interested in reading Heiddeger's book on Holderlin (Fuhmann also draws on Holderlin, Rilke, Goethe and much else in German letters) at some point too - as someone who read and loved the same things as Fuhmann but did not apologise or turn back when those things got ugly.

Finally, Lazlo Krasznahorkai's War and War has those inflated sentences that anyone acuqinted with Germanic/Eastern Euro fiction would know well. Unfortunately I perceive a lack of control - an overabundance of description, taking 3-5 lines longer to say the thing just because you can, as flatly - whereas someone like Thomas Bernhard never feels this superfluous. Here its just not v cutting or funny, there isn't a lot to say and he's saying it, but I don't have to read it, so I stopped it 20 pages from the end.

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 31 December 2017 17:47 (two weeks ago) Permalink

xpost to Tim. She definitely disowned her books, but according to the Bloodaxe intro, her will, 'written many years after she ceased to be Rosemary Tonks', didn't contain anything refusing future publication. to quote: 'her books didn't even exist for her then'.

it sounds like the family were reluctant to allow the publication of the poems. there's a hint in this intro that there was some resentment that she had destroyed so much valuable art / potential heirlooms. or it may just be that they wanted to honour what they perceived to be her wishes, outside of the will.

Fizzles, Thursday, 4 January 2018 20:20 (two weeks ago) Permalink

I just finished another short novel, The Bread of Those Early Years, Heinrich Böll. It is almost the definition of overwrought. Every page seems heavily labored over and in spite of its desire to seem naturalistic, the artifice is glaring and the characters seem only tenuously human.

The best excuse I can make for Böll is that the book was published in 1955, when both he and his audience had been put through the meat grinder of the Nazi regime, the Allied bombing, the occupation, and the dire refugee aftermath of WWII, so it would be pardonable if their sense of reality and proportionality had become totally deranged in the process.

A is for (Aimless), Friday, 5 January 2018 19:03 (two weeks ago) Permalink

I've only read one Böll but yeah, dude seemed angry as hell.

Daniel_Rf, Saturday, 6 January 2018 12:04 (one week ago) Permalink

The disaster artist. Very entertaining

calstars, Saturday, 6 January 2018 12:10 (one week ago) Permalink

Last night I picked up yet another short novel, A Man's Head, Georges Simenon. It's about the fourth Simenon I've read, but the first one of his Inspector Maigret mysteries. I'm already most of the way through it. His control over his material amounts to complete mastery, but the simplicity of the characters' motives and actions makes it much easier to tell an effortlessly transparent story.

A is for (Aimless), Saturday, 6 January 2018 17:57 (one week ago) Permalink

Just coming to the end of the Bernard Sumner memoir which mainly read in the bog over the Xmas holidays. Quite interesting.
Also got through I swear I was there the thing on the Manchester Sex Pistols gigs.
Now gone back to the Jon Ronson book on public shaming.
Also got a copy of Total Chaos the iggy pop interview about the Stooges history.

Stevolende, Saturday, 6 January 2018 18:40 (one week ago) Permalink

Intriguing/cringe-making to see the St Aubyn books get the 70s rock fast-cutting-trailer treatment:

I love the books, kinda excited to see this but also primed for it being awful.

Chuck_Tatum, Sunday, 7 January 2018 19:11 (one week ago) Permalink

dipping into Donald McKenzie's Making Meaning: Printers of the Mind and Other Essays - a collection of writings and lectures on bibliography. It's full of fascinating nuggets – found this particularly interesting mainly because it's so succinct about an important moment in the history of the book:

Before the ubiquity of newsboys in the 1640's, the only secular mass medium was the stage. Its setting, the playhouse, was the principal secular forum of public debate. The writers who worked in it – Marlowe, Shakespeare, Jonson – were news reporters of their day, analysts of personal and social action for a non-literate audience; their ethical duty as Jonson put it, was to

...speake of the intents,
The councells, actions, orders, and events
Of state, and censure them.

Its modes were oral and visual. The expressive instruments of its art were the voices and gestures of actors whose skilled articulacy in performance – when at its best – transformed the written word into a living experience which the audience thereby made its own. It was of course self-evident that print was not the proper medium for plays...

that from the essay Typography and Meaning which treats the publication of Congreves Works of 1710, as the first time plays, overseen by their writer, had care and attention paid to their printed publication.

Fizzles, Sunday, 7 January 2018 19:24 (one week ago) Permalink

It was of course self-evident that print was not the proper medium for plays...

As is true today. Print is good for the transmission of the script for future productions and it makes a good fallback medium for people without access to a stage production (i.e. most people in most places), but the proper medium for a play is a cast of talented actors, costumed appropriately, in a staged setting, delivering the lines, with music where indicated.

A is for (Aimless), Sunday, 7 January 2018 19:50 (one week ago) Permalink

Finished the Simenon. Now I am reading yet another fairly quick book, a biography of James J. Hill, the railroad magnate who built the Greta Northern RR. It was written by Stewart Holbrook, a mostly overlooked, but very lively and astute author of popular American history. The book was published as part of a series of "brief biographies" and so is only 200 pages. I read 100 pages last night. It is popular narrative history at its finest, streamlined, but lays out everything necessary and drives it home entertainingly.

A is for (Aimless), Tuesday, 9 January 2018 19:04 (one week ago) Permalink

Great Northern

A is for (Aimless), Tuesday, 9 January 2018 19:23 (one week ago) Permalink

It was of course self-evident that print was not the proper medium for plays...

As is true today. Print is good for the transmission of the script for future productions and it makes a good fallback medium for people without access to a stage production (i.e. most people in most places), but the proper medium for a play is a cast of talented actors, costumed appropriately, in a staged setting, delivering the lines, with music where indicated.

― A is for (Aimless), Sunday, 7 January 2018 19:50 (three days ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

i generally prefer reading plays to seeing them. i know this is daft, and i have seen some great plays. i'm wondering now in fact if this only goes for 16th/17th century – maybe it's the need to pay attention to the language a bit more.

but i don't think it's true either. printed plays are now well-presented, well actually the passage continues with the full reasoning:

It was of course self-evident that print was not the proper medium for plays; most reached the printing house in a fortuitous and often surreptitious manner; and because the London book trade lacked any kind of literary idealism that acknowledged the popular drama as commanding typographic respect, few plays showed any intelligent and sustained editing for press. Later in the century we have only the ossified typography of a trade largely indifferent to the quite specific requirements, in book design, of dramatic text.

the point that is latent in those observations is that this sort of thing can be done better or worse. there is a difference between the prompt book of the stage and a repository of the play for reading and posterity.

the importance of Congreve's Works for McKenzie, was that he 'saw this edition through the press himself, working in the closest possible collaboration with his bookseller and friend Jacob Tonson and with Tonson's printer John Watts'.

Congreve revised the quarto texts, suppressed their indecent expressions, and adopted neoclassical scene division and character groupings.

While i was writing this, and without wishing to muddle the argument, I was wondering about the representation of song lyrics in printed form. There was probably a time when they commanded the same 'lack of respect' as described above.

For a while with CDs and on back/liner notes/gatefold of some LPs became repositories for lyrics. Now we have Genius and various lyrics sites that feed off each other. At the literary end, Dylan will be published carefully in book form, treating lyrics as lyrics as respected poetry (i say that without prejudice).

As most people will know, my own favourite is The Fall. The biggest library yet printed collection of their lyrics has done an excellent job in preserving the collage and pictorial manner of Smith's lyrical approach – as these creative and scrap-book methods dictate the form of his lyrics as much, say, as the sonnet form dictates the shape and cadences of its content.

Fizzles, Wednesday, 10 January 2018 21:06 (one week ago) Permalink

(personally i tend to dislike pomposity about lyrics, something which the printed form exacerbates - to stress again, there are song lyrics that i would have above poetry, even if its a single shouted line from a jungle track, but that i prefer them in context, which may be another version of the argument that Aimless is making)

Fizzles, Wednesday, 10 January 2018 21:10 (one week ago) Permalink

reading the periodic table by primo levi, somehow for the first time. everyone always said it was incredible and for some reason this meant i read other things ahead of it.

it's incredible.

Fizzles, Wednesday, 10 January 2018 21:58 (one week ago) Permalink

When you live where i live, reading plays is the only wAy you will get to experience almost any of them

The Periodic table is, indeed, wonderful

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Wednesday, 10 January 2018 23:05 (one week ago) Permalink

yes - and of course plays, even ones we like or that are well liked, are not performed constantly. there are some nice phrases in this excerpt from the same essay:

My point then is that the form of Congreve's quartos, in striking contrast to the Works, is a direct expression of historical conditions quite unrelated to authorial intention and insensitive to the problems of mediating a theatrical experience in book form. Was there a moment in history when Congreve and Tonson, two inteligent, sensitive and original men, decided to make their pages speak, to edit and design their plays in a way which gave typography a voice in the hand-held theatre of the book?

Fizzles, Thursday, 11 January 2018 07:03 (one week ago) Permalink

also re-reading bluets by maggie nelson.

also, translation q. in atlantic hotel the translator refers to the narrator’s “ball cap”. is this a common US way of referring to (i assume) a baseball cap? it seemed odd.

Fizzles, Thursday, 11 January 2018 08:03 (one week ago) Permalink

Total Chaos the jeff Gold edited book based around an interview with Iggy pop about the history of teh Stooges and showing a stack of memorabilia.
Good find for £5 in the Rough Trade Boxing Day sale. Do wish i had more money that day though. probably would have grabbed another couple of books.

Also back reading Under The hoodoo Moon by Dr JOhn on buses etc. He's just been shot in the hand.

& Detroit 67 : the Year That Changed Soul by Stuart Cosgrove which I just started as my toilet book. Seems interesting so far.

Stevolende, Thursday, 11 January 2018 10:29 (one week ago) Permalink

My copy of Detroit 67 is off to the charity shop this weekend - I look forward to hearing what you think of that one (the material is v interesting!).

Tim, Thursday, 11 January 2018 12:20 (one week ago) Permalink

xp, I've heard/seen US ref to ball caps, and seems right because of general association: worn by fans of baseball, football, basketball, soccer, beer, other. Also goes with ball cup, caps on ball/bald heads, re tendency of younger (young and early middle-aged) men to shave heads.

dow, Thursday, 11 January 2018 16:43 (one week ago) Permalink

thanks dow.

Fizzles, Thursday, 11 January 2018 17:07 (one week ago) Permalink

Having finished with James J. Hill, I have embarked upon Women at the Pump, a fairly standard-issue Knut Hamsun novel, wherein we become deeply familiar with the quotidian doings of a particular set of Norwegian villagers.

A is for (Aimless), Thursday, 11 January 2018 17:35 (one week ago) Permalink

finally read As I Lay Dying (never assigned any Faulkner in high school), loved it, now reading Anna Kavan's Julia and the Bazooka, a collection of her final short stories published shortly before her death in 1968. Really remarkable- excited to read her novel Sleep Has His House next.

flappy bird, Thursday, 11 January 2018 18:46 (one week ago) Permalink

Just finishing The Master and Margarita, expect to be done by mid-next week at my current pace. Thoughts between War & Peace and Anna Karenina for my next book? I know I want to read more Tolstoy but not sure which.

Mordy, Thursday, 11 January 2018 18:53 (one week ago) Permalink

I assume Anna Karenina is funnier than War and Peace

The Bridge of Ban Louis J (silby), Thursday, 11 January 2018 19:09 (one week ago) Permalink

not sure it’s funnier but it’s definitely better.

Fizzles, Thursday, 11 January 2018 20:46 (one week ago) Permalink

The usual complaint about War and Peace is that it takes a large schematic diagram to keep track all the characters, who often appear under several different names (patronymics, diminutives, honorifics, etc.), in ways that make sense to Russians, but which tend to baffle non-Russians. That, plus it's really long.

A is for (Aimless), Friday, 12 January 2018 01:40 (one week ago) Permalink

the length doesn't put me off as long as it pays off

Mordy, Friday, 12 January 2018 01:47 (one week ago) Permalink

War and Peace is on another level, but it has it's own kind of problems. It becomes increasingly essayistic as it develops, and I think a lot of people would say it just loses it's plot. Anna Karenina has one of the most famous endings ever. I don't think anyone remembers exactly how War and Peace ends. Still, I like essayistic novels, and as I said, the whole thing is just on another level.

Frederik B, Friday, 12 January 2018 01:52 (one week ago) Permalink

^ all fair and good comments. i *really* struggles to maintain interest with war and peace, mainly for the reasons both Fred B and Aimless describe.

(sure i’ve told the story about living in a berlin squat with about 20 mills and boon and war and peace and only cracking after about 12 of the mills and boon)

Fizzles, Friday, 12 January 2018 06:24 (one week ago) Permalink

Finished a collection of Osip Mandelstam's Prose: The Collected Critical Prose and Letters. I had read much of his best prose before (his piece on Dante, Fourth Prose, Journey to Armenia), and its some of my favourite writing from the 30s. It was good to read some of the smaller, earlier pieces on figures he loved, such as Villon. And to look at the things he cared about: there is a mostly terrific piece on Soviet poetic culture, where everyone is writing poetry but no one reads any. It often lapses into the cranky but its good to give it a once over. The lasting discovery was a five page piece on Darwin and the letters written at various times to his wife (some of which were written in a prison camp).

xyzzzz__, Friday, 12 January 2018 22:23 (one week ago) Permalink

Dubravka Ugresic - The Ministry of Pain. This is really good, an account of an academic in exile (fleeing from the Yugoslav civil war) in Amsterdam, teaching at the Slavonic Language school. It might sound dry but she is good on trasmitting a disconnection from the environment and people, its ups and downs. Only a 1/3 of the way through.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 12 January 2018 22:28 (one week ago) Permalink

I enjoyed War and Peace, but took a long, long break in the middle---wasn't tired of it, just a lot of other things going on---so didn't mind paging back and forth to refresh memory, as I might have if trying to plow straight through. Got eyes on this prize as I work my way back through the current bucket list, if I ever get out of the early 20th Century alive---here's my local library's listing:
Call Numbers: AF TOL 208
The death of Ivan Ilyich and other stories / Leo Tolstoy ; translated from the Russian by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky ; with an introduction by Richard Pevear.
by Tolstoy, Leo, - 2009. - Copies: 1 of 1 available
"This book is a new translation of Tolstoy's most important short fiction. Here are eleven stories from the mature author, some autobiographical, others moral parables, and all imaginative, transcendent, and evocatively drawn. They include The Prisoner of the Caucasus, inspired by Tolstoy's experiences as a soldier in the Chechen War, and one of only two of his works that Tolstoy himself considered "good art"; Hadji Murat, the novella Harold Bloom called "the best story in the world," featuring the real-life war hero Hadji Murat, a Chechen rebel who ravaged his Russian occupiers only to defect to the Russian side after a falling-out with his own commander; The Devil, a tale of sexual obsession based on Tolstoy's relationship with a married peasant woman on his estate in the years before his marriage; and the celebrated The Death of Ivan Ilyich, an intense and moving examination of death and the possibilities of redemption."--BOOK JACKET.

dow, Friday, 12 January 2018 23:55 (one week ago) Permalink

death of ivan ilyich is why i want to read more tolstoy. i read it many years ago and it has stayed w/ me since. as much as any literature can it i think changed how i look at the world.

Mordy, Saturday, 13 January 2018 04:45 (six days ago) Permalink

Still, I like essayistic novels, and as I said, the whole thing is just on another level.

A lot of my fave epic 19th century novels have a strong vibe of "THIS MY BLOG" about them. Les Miserables, for one.

Daniel_Rf, Saturday, 13 January 2018 08:34 (six days ago) Permalink

Many were originally printed as serials in magazines.

A is for (Aimless), Saturday, 13 January 2018 16:07 (six days ago) Permalink

According to someone like Bakhtin, the blending of genre is the whole point of the novelistic style, from Rabelais onwards. It feels so much grander in War & Peace, though.

Frederik B, Saturday, 13 January 2018 16:21 (six days ago) Permalink

also reading Death Watch by john dickson carr as my bedtime read. got to do something about my jdc problem. total marshmallow comfort reading by this stage.

Fizzles, Saturday, 13 January 2018 16:28 (six days ago) Permalink

I just got to the famous scene of Bergotte's death in Proust's La Prisonnière. I think this was the last passage in the 7 volumes that I knew anything about ahead of time, just from its being often quoted alongside the Vermeer painting. I'm beginning to feel like I may actually finish this thing pretty soon, 16 years after starting Swann's Way for the first time.

I'd like to check out this book when it comes out, about the multiple women on whom Proust modelled the Duchess de Guermantes.

jmm, Saturday, 13 January 2018 17:36 (six days ago) Permalink

A lot of my fave epic 19th century novels have a strong vibe of "THIS MY BLOG" about them. Les Miserables, for one.

Moby Dick is like that too, with all the digressions on whaling.

o. nate, Sunday, 14 January 2018 00:51 (five days ago) Permalink

Many many xp: Ugresic's essays are really great, too

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Sunday, 14 January 2018 00:54 (five days ago) Permalink

mrs. chachi found my copy of Aubrey's Brief Lives under a couch and I started reading it and now I'm all engrossed remembering how much I fucking love old weird English books. I read far more 20/21c lit than I ever figured I would back when I was in college going nuts about old books & the ancient world & all that but when I pick up one of these I'm just transported into wondering what different me I'd be if I'd become the professor I'd intended to become.

she carries a torch. two torches, actually (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Sunday, 14 January 2018 01:39 (five days ago) Permalink

I need to check Aubrey. Moby Dick sometimes makes me picture a Dark Ages scholar, reveling in his knowledge, also Scrooge McDuck, diving and sailing through his secret sea of doubloons (bank vault).

dow, Sunday, 14 January 2018 03:40 (five days ago) Permalink

Brief Lives is extremely entertaining.

Fizzles, Sunday, 14 January 2018 08:10 (five days ago) Permalink

I read Moby Dick for the first time like 2-3 years ago and it legitimately blew me away. Was expecting something more staid but it was such an unusual, multifaceted, kinda post-modern thing before... that was a thing. I think about it a lot and want to read it again soon. If that’s The Great American Novel I’m OK with it.

Currently reading Tarkovsky’s Sculpting in Time. Maybe 50 pages in, whiffs of (and I probably/absolutely brought this to it myself) “Wise Artist Man Delivering Now Tired ‘Truths‘“ at first, but I quickly got over that. It’s insightful and deeply (life or death) considered and I don’t know why I expected less. Excited for the rest.

circa1916, Sunday, 14 January 2018 09:01 (five days ago) Permalink

I'd like to check out this book when it comes out, about the multiple women on whom Proust modelled the Duchess de Guermantes.

Nice (and that's not just the results of the google image search).

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 14 January 2018 11:27 (five days ago) Permalink

finished m&m last night and started w&p. i was delighted to find that they immediately addressed my question from i know like dick-all about napoleon but unfortunately not thoroughly enough for my tastes :/

Mordy, Sunday, 14 January 2018 17:31 (five days ago) Permalink

Kawabata, snow country. A slow burn

June Pointer’s Valentine’s Day Secret Admirer Note Author (calstars), Sunday, 14 January 2018 21:11 (five days ago) Permalink

I'm past the halfway mark with The Women at the Pump by Hamsun. It's OK, but flawed.

The conceit Hamsun is apparently playing with is casting the entire book as a distillation of all the petty gossip a small fishing-and-market town can generate. The narrator is a hybrid between the omniscient voice and the gleeful voice of a village gossip. The characters are unfailingly petty, jealous, vengeful, lusty, obtuse, proud, and scheming. Much is made of questioning who is the real father of half the children in town. No one is noble, but no one is monstrous, either. They are just unredeemed little souls.

The biggest problem this presents is that, while attempting to make fun of this cavalcade of veniality, Hamsun mostly succeeds in the tittering, smirking variety of humor. He doesn't allow the butts of his humor enough humanity. Or, at least, not so far. Maybe at the end he'll swerve into pathos or allow someone a moment of triumph not connected to mean-spiritedness or blind self-love and empty ambition.

A is for (Aimless), Tuesday, 16 January 2018 19:28 (three days ago) Permalink

I finished Book 3 of Knausgaard's My Struggle. This is the one about his boyhood - basically grade school - unlike the first two it doesn't jump around in time that much, apart from a few interjections from the author writing in the "present". It's quite a feat the way he dredges up his childhood memories in this - and not just the facts of what happened - he somehow manages to convey the texture and emotional contours of these events from a child's perspective. Reading the book I often flashed back to events from my own childhood that I hadn't thought about in ages. On the one hand, you could fairly say that not much happens in the book, on the other hand, these are the kind of events that burn deep into your psyche.

I also finished Lucretius's On The Nature of Things, although I skipped some sections if the going got a bit too heavy. It's amazing how wrong he was about nearly everything, from a modern scientific perspective, yet in a way he was right about the big picture: the world is just the unfolding of impersonal mechanistic processes without intervention of the gods. It also sheds some light on life in ancient Roman times, indirectly through examples he gives and evidence he produces to support his theories.

o. nate, Friday, 19 January 2018 02:16 (nine hours ago) Permalink

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