Who's reading what?

Was Albert Camus a better goalkeeper than George Orwell? Have your say here.
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Raisin
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Who's reading what?

Post by Raisin » Mon Nov 24, 2008 11:12 pm

Hi everyone :)

I'm reading Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens at the moment, and I'm really enjoying it. Aiming to finish it in four days to start on Little Dorrit,(I'm enjoying the series). Since I am a bit of a speed reader, I thought it would be really useful to hear what others are reading and form a reading list that should cover me until christmas, rather that reading the same books over and over! Hopefully it is an interesting topic for others as well :)

So what is everyone reading at the moment?

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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by k-j » Tue Nov 25, 2008 12:45 am

Hello. I'm approaching the halfway point of Vanity Fair, which I'm enjoying more than I thought I would but still not really enough, I don't think. It's all very depressing, and not in a good way. I'm also reading Orwell's essays in a mahoosive 1400-page Everyman edition. Every page shows you what a brilliant writer he was - it's so rare to find someone so honest and at the same time so perceptive and cogent. It's also great reading with hindsight his thoughts on capitalism and (his form of) socialism, written at a time when political ideologies and the attendant debats were really alive and meaningful - as they still are today in much of the world. I greatly prefer his non-fiction to his novels.

Read loads of great stuff recently. Keep meaning to post my recommendations. These'll do for now:

The Polyglots - William Gerhardie
Simplicissimus - Johann von Grimmelshausen
Garantua and Pantagruel - Rabelais
Pilgermann - Russell Hoban
Stoner - John Williams
Gil Blas - LeSage
In the Heart of the Heart of the Country - Gass
Vineland - Pynchon
Langrishe, Go Down - Aidan Higgins
The Blue Lantern - Pelevin
Put Out More Flags - Waugh
Augie March - Bellow

I'll do a top 20 at the end of the year.

Not read Chuzzlewit. David Copperfield put me right off Dickens; I hated it! I started Pickwick Papers but gave up after a handful of chapters. Maybe one day I'll try again, but I think Dickens just isn't my thing.
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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by juliadebeauvoir » Tue Nov 25, 2008 6:15 am

I am just finishing up George Orwell's 1984--which I try to do annually. I think it keeps me much more politically sharp than reading the newspaper or TV. An ever present reminder of how media and government control thought.
I am on the last pages of his explanations on Newspeak, which I am enjoying very much.
Raisin, I have a copy of Martin Chuzzlewit but I haven't read him--he's sitting twiddling his thumbs on my bookshelf. I would love to read Orwell's essays--that would be of great interest to me. K.J., please let me know what the title is so I can look it up or is it titled "Everyman's Essay's? I don't mean to be daft--just never encountered his non-fiction stuff before.
I got a big kick out of Vanity Fair. I thought that it was brilliant that it could still be witty and funny two hundred years or so later. But it does have a habit of drawing on a bit. But so did Jane Austen. It took her ten pages to say one thing. Just when you get to the juicy part of lets say, "Pride and Prejudice" she halts the whole thing and says , 'blah, blah, blah, and they liked each other. The End". Very infuriating!

Cheers,
Kim
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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by ray miller » Tue Nov 25, 2008 2:45 pm

I think Dickens is the tops. I'd recommend Dombey and Son. At the present I'm reading The Europeans by Henry James. There's not a great deal of " action" occurs in his novels but I'd say he's one of the acutest observers of relationships, mannerisms and that human psyche thing women are so fond of referring to. Best book ever though is Catch 22. Everything after 1963 is rubbish in my opinion.
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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by k-j » Tue Nov 25, 2008 5:41 pm

Kim, I agree that Vanity Fair has aged beautifully (i.e. not at all). The endless conniving and gossiping is a bit much for me, but is it accurate? Hell yeah!

Here's the Orwell volume I'm reading: http://www.amazon.com/Essays-Everymans- ... 50&sr=1-13. Fantastic value; for $23 it will keep you going all year. He wrote a weekly newspaper column from about 1943, and this and his book reviews make for great browsing, for when you have 10 or 15 minutes to read but not long enough to get stuck in. He writes about everything under the sun, really. I also have this selection http://www.amazon.com/Shooting-Elephant ... 088&sr=1-1 which is a brilliant introduction and includes the unmissable "Shooting an Elephant", "My Country Right or Left", "Such, Such Were the Joys", "Books v. Cigarettes" and "In Defence of English Cooking", along with superlative long essays on Dickens and Gulliver's Travels. It seems to be out of print in the US (at least not available new on amazon) so I can send you mine, if you like, and if you don't mind a few haphazard notes on elephants added by my then two-year-old.

Ray, I read The Bostonians last year and quite enjoyed it. I've read The Turn of the Screw and some of his short stories but not any of his other novels. He does have an odd style, though. Have you noticed how his characters don't "add" dialogue, they "subjoin"? And he uses the word "interlocutor" (and even "interlocutress") about five times per page! I like what he was doing, but I reckon he got a bit carried away.

Catch 22 is a brilliant book which I'll never get tired of.
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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by Raisin » Tue Nov 25, 2008 7:10 pm

Thanks for all the input so far :)

Ray, I think you're right that most of the best and greatest pieces of literature or great books were created before 1963 (pretty exact! lol), but not all of the books written after that time are rubbish, surely?

What about "The Time Travellers Wife", or anything by Joanne Harris, "Chocolat", "Five Quarters of the Orange." "Memoirs of a Geisha", "Kite Runner"? The autobiographies by Frank McCourt? And what about Ian McEwan!? "Atonement", "Saturday", "On Chesil Beach?"
I think I have to disagree with you there, but not entirely, just about the books being rubbish after 1963 :)

Great suggestions from everyone, 1984 is just the best! I will be making a note of all these, thanks and keep them coming!

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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by ray miller » Wed Nov 26, 2008 11:13 am

k-j, did he really use "interlocutress"? That is bizarre, do you recall what book that was in? I've noticed the subjoinders myself.
Raisin, ok. rubbish is maybe too strong a word. Dross, then? I was only half serious but now I come to think about it I can't recall an impressive novel in the last 40 to 50 years. If you enjoy reading Dickens you'd most likely be partial to Emile Zola, if you're not already.
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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by k-j » Wed Nov 26, 2008 3:45 pm

It was in The Bostonians. He uses it more than once but here's the one I noted down:

'"What have you got?" Mrs. Farrinder inquired, looking at her interlocutress, up and down, with the eye of business, in which there was a certain chill.'
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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by David » Wed Nov 26, 2008 7:57 pm

Like Ray, I'm a bit sceptical about most modern novels - but not all of 'em. You mention Atonement - I think that might be a masterpiece. I'm enjoying On Chesil Beach at the moment as well. And there are many more. If your 16-year-old self hasn't read One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest or Catch-22 yet - or even V, which is amazing - get cracking!

Anyway, at the moment I've got On Chesil Beach, a collection of Iain M. Banks short stories (sci-fi, after a break of years!) and The Whole Equation by David Thomson downstairs.

Upstais, where I retire at a reasonable hour for a gent of my advancing years (except on Fridays, which is pub night, all being well), I have Rilke's Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus, a book about Rilke, The Speed of Dark by Ian Duhig, and I'm making my way haphazardly through the King James Bible, assisted by the Literary Guide to the Bible.

200 pages a night? Good grief!

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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by Raisin » Wed Nov 26, 2008 10:26 pm

Ray, I get what you mean, I don't think there is anything past the 60's that you can compare to writers like Dickens and Orwell, not at all close :D You're still coming up with some great suggestions, my list is getting better every time I go on the site, so thanks.

David, some nice suggestions from you as well. I am a speedy reader, Harry Potter in 3 and a half hours :lol: Also when I enjoy a book I can't put it down, I tried lugging it around school but it didn't work out very well. You sound like me, about five books being read at the same time, that's the best way to do it :) I have currently got "Martin Chuzzlewit", "A Clockwork Orange", "The Time Travellers wife" and "La Gloire de mon Pere" to help brush up on the french.

k-j also thanks, I've added all of your suggestions to the list as well.

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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by juliadebeauvoir » Thu Nov 27, 2008 7:21 am

Everything after 1963 is rubbish in my opinion.
I really agree with this statement. I have been collecting antiquarian books for the last fifteen years and rarely do I collect anything past the sixties. There are a few exceptions like "Bridges Over Madison County", or anything by Phillip Roth.

I have read some recent novels (unusual for me) that I thought could be classics in the next fifty years: Memoirs of a Geisha, The Time Travelers Wife (Romance and Science Fiction--yeah!), The Secret of Bees and White Oleander. Sorry, I have never read, nor do I have a desire to read "Harry Potter" but my teenage son has all the books memorized. I find new novels do not have the same richness as something written by Oliver Goldsmith, Austen, or Richard Sheridan. Anyone ever read his play, "The Rivals"? I love the part of the maid hiding the "bad" books for her mistress.

Sorry K.J.--I loathe Henry James. I do like his best buddy Edith Wharton, though. Age of Innocence gets read every few years. I think her voice is one of the strongest and clearest in the Victorian and post Victorian era.

Cheers,
Kim
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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by Elphin » Thu Nov 27, 2008 8:08 pm

Everything after 1963 is rubbish in my opinion

"What a load of tosh" I would say in a friendly having a pint with my mates kind of way. I am looking at my bookshelf and seeing John Irving -would recommend Until I Find You from very recent years - Roddy Doyle, Thomas Kennealy, Sebastian Barry (A Long Long Way is a fantastic story set in the First War), Gabriel Garcia Marquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude), Neal Stephenson Baroque Trilogy, Barry Unsworth (Sacred Hunger and Stone Virgin and Losing Nelson) as well as Ian McEwan, Paulo Coelho, Annie Proulx and so on.

Anyway pre 1963 and not mentioned that I would recommend

Joseph Conrad - Heart of Darkness and Nostromo
Frederic Manning - Her Privates We. Not sure how well known this one is but if you want a WW1 perspective this is it.
John Fante - Brotherhood of the Grape. Set in California, he apparently influenced Bukowski.
Steinbeck - anything.

and I like to promote some Scottish authors and books that I think travel well

Neil Gunn - Silver Darlings. Pre 1963
James Hogg - The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner. Very Pre 1963
James Robertson - Joseph Knight and The Last Testament of Gideon Mack. Post 1963.

I have to confess I am put off Dickens and Hardy as they are too "English" for me - I dont mean that in any nationalistic way they just dont create any feelings of empathy as I read. I think they they represent a different cultural tradition. I'll finish on that - it would make a great essay question. Discuss.

elph

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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by juliadebeauvoir » Thu Nov 27, 2008 8:20 pm

It is probably tosh. :lol:
I must be prejudice--so I will try to reform and read some of what you mentioned. I was born in '66...what do I know anyway?

Cheers,
Kim
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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by Raisin » Thu Nov 27, 2008 8:41 pm

Thanks for loads of recommendations from everyone, hope it's useful to others :) Steinbeck I love though we spent three months analysing Of Mice and Men so it killed it a bit for me, though I still read it from time to time. Elph, I know what you mean with Dickens and Hardy, I still want to finish Martin Chuzzlewit though, nearly finished and still two days to go :D

I feel very limited in my reading now, so much to read and so little time! Still writing my list though.

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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by k-j » Thu Nov 27, 2008 9:19 pm

Elph - Justified Sinner is a good 'un. You list some great post-'63 writers: Latin American lit especially has boomed since then. Surprised to see Coelho in there though. I started reading one of his, I don't remember which off hand, that my mum brought with her when she visited, but my god I thought it was utter shite! A hackneyed follow-your-dreams, motivational message tacked onto a groaning skeleton of mawkish cliches and prose at once cloying and stilted.

n.b. I've been tracking my reading over the last two years in a spreadsheet, so I can see practically at a glance that during that time I've rated the 155 books I've read from before 1963 an average of 6.94 out of 10, and the 82 books from 1963 or after an average of only 6.5 out of 10.

So it's official, nothing good has been written since 1963.
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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by David » Thu Nov 27, 2008 9:21 pm

Woah, it's that whole spreadsheet idea that's bothering me. And I like spreadsheets.

How did you rate High Fidelity, k-j?

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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by k-j » Thu Nov 27, 2008 9:29 pm

David wrote:Woah, it's that whole spreadsheet idea that's bothering me. And I like spreadsheets.

How did you rate High Fidelity, k-j?
Ha ha. Not read any Hornby, but I know what you're saying. I just like statistics, always have done.
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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by Elphin » Thu Nov 27, 2008 9:40 pm

k-j

Well maybe on reflection not Coelho - I remember enjoying the Alchemist though.

Of the last two years, which author is on average the highest rated in your spreadsheet?

Never read Hornby - again there is a perceived cultural gap on my part.

Here's another one for Raisin - Sophies World by Jostein Garder. It was my introduction to Philosophy!!

elph

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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by Raisin » Thu Nov 27, 2008 9:46 pm

Thanks very much Elph :)

k-j, isn't that just personal opinion though? It's good that you can trace back your opinions of books so you don't have to read them again (pretty official with the spreadsheet!) but wouldn't you say Atonement was a great book? That was 2001 but set in the 1930's and I thought the author did it brilliantly.

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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by k-j » Thu Nov 27, 2008 9:58 pm

Elphin wrote:Of the last two years, which author is on average the highest rated in your spreadsheet?
There have only been a handful of authors of whose books I've read more than one or two in the last couple of years. You'd need a much larger dataset to make that into a meaningful stat. The authors I've read most of in that time, though, are Conrad and Waugh.
Raisin wrote:k-j, isn't that just personal opinion though? It's good that you can trace back your opinions of books so you don't have to read them again (pretty official with the spreadsheet!) but wouldn't you say Atonement was a great book? That was 2001 but set in the 1930's and I thought the author did it brilliantly.
'Course it's just opinion, I was being silly. There's been loads of great writing since 1963. Here are my top-rated (9 or 10/10) reads from '63 onwards:

V. - Pynchon
The Unconsoled - Ishiguro
Riddley Walker - Russell Hoban
Gravity's Rainbow - Pynchon
The Clown - Heinrich Böll
Grass for my Pillow - Saiichi Maruya
Days Between Stations - Steve Erickson
The Savage Detectives - Bolaño
The Joke - Kundera
Perfect Tense - Michael Bracewell
White Noise - DeLillo
The Blue Lantern - Victor Pelevin
Stoner - John Williams

I've not read Atonement, or anything else by McEwan, and I'm a little worried now that it won't live up to the hype. Everyone seems to be raving about it.
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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by David » Thu Nov 27, 2008 10:02 pm

I don't read much modern fiction, but I'm trying to put that right - slightly. However, I read Atonement on holiday, a few years ago. I think it's a great book.

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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by Elphin » Thu Nov 27, 2008 10:06 pm

What is it with V?

I read it on holiday this year - correction, I failed to read it. How do you need to approach it?

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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by Raisin » Thu Nov 27, 2008 10:09 pm

k-j, sorry I'm rubbish at telling what's what when something is written on the computer screen because you can't hear the tone of voice :) You listed some great ones there. Atonement I would recommend, though it is easy to feel doubtful after all the raving over the film. Ian McEwan is great, I met him ages ago when I was about 12 (I didn't know it was him then) and probably talked loads of rubbish, but he was very nice considering he could have gone off to listen to some adult conversation :lol:
Thanks for those suggestions, again, if you have any more, let me know! :D
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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by k-j » Thu Nov 27, 2008 10:20 pm

Elphin wrote:What is it with V?

I read it on holiday this year - correction, I failed to read it. How do you need to approach it?
All I can suggest is to read it slowly and at length, i.e. for three hours at a time. Pynchon moves so fast that you lose him completely if you pick him up and put him down. You've got to wallow in it.

Some people like to make notes as they go along - map out the character relationships as memory-joggers - but I'd rather not worry about that stuff. I prefer to just immerse myself in the whirling, kaleidoscopic world with which P fills his pages, and enjoy the wild, detached feeling it leaves me with at the end, as the fragments I've picked up unconsciously gradually fall into some kind of order, and beautiful patterns emerge.
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Re: Who's reading what?

Post by Raisin » Thu Nov 27, 2008 10:23 pm

I thought of another author! Terry Pratchett, he is a genius.

:)
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