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Thread: The Book Thread

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    The Book Thread

    Since we are constantly talking about books, which makes me happy to be among an interesting and well-read group of people, I thought there might as well be a thread dedicated to book recommendations/reviews.

    Post about a book you're currently reading, an old favorite, a favorite writer, or a read you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy. Anything literature goes.


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    Grand Slam Champion jjnow's Avatar
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    Re: The Book Thread

    I'm currently reading The Constant Gardener by John Le Carré. I want to read the book before I watch the film (which several TATers have told me is great). I'm about midway through and it's been totally engrossing up until this point.

    Favorite author? All-time: James Joyce. Brilliant prose. Dubliners concludes with a short story that is my absolute favorite piece of literature -- "The Dead." The quintessential Modernist text.

    Favorite current author? A British writer named Louis de Bernières. He wrote Corelli's Mandolin which is a phenomenal piece of historical fiction. Pay no attention to the fact that Hollywood ruined it. He also wrote a quasi Latin American Surrealist trilogy which begins with The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts. I just picked up a copy of his latest novel Birds Without Wings. It's another piece of fiction with historical influence that explores the relationship between an Ottoman Muslim and a Greek Christian woman just before the advent of the Great War.

    Worst book? I'll have to think about that.

    jj
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    Re: The Book Thread

    I've just started reading Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49. I bought it at random, but it was really a cop-out from trying on the really long V. or Gravity's Rainbow.

    I was really scared because everyone I know that's read him told me he is ridiculously difficult.

    But I have to say I'm loving it. Yes, the sentences are crazily convoluted, and the whole thing is a little bizarre, but more than anything, it's REALLY
    funny.

    Definitely not for everyone, but so far (given I'm only about 50 pages in), I'd recommend it.


  4. #4

    Re: The Book Thread

    I rarely read a single book at a time. I'm currently reading The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children For Adoption in the Decades Before Roe vs. Wadeby Ann Fessler, a shocking book, to be sure; and Fatherloss: How Sons of All Ages Come to Terms with the Deaths of Their Dads by Neil Chetik, a gift from a dear friend which arrived the other day.

    Favorite author all time: James Baldwin, by a hair over Toni Morrison, probably because he was more profilic in many genres. The best essayist who's ever written in the English language. Another Country, though fiction, is a masterpiece. His complete collection of essays, The Price of the Ticket, is one of my bibles.

    Still, Morrison is my favorite living author. Sure, she can be obtuse and confusing at times, but there is nothing, nothing, nothing like Beloved and Song of Solomon.


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    Grand Slam Champion jjnow's Avatar
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    Re: The Book Thread

    I've never heard of Thomas Pynchon, but he sounds interesting. He's an American author?

    James Baldwin's "Notes of a Native Son" is one of my favorite collection of essays. I also have a copy of Giovanni's Room that I picked up while working at a book store last year but, like most of the 5,000 books I own, I haven't gotten around to reading it yet.

    I have to prepare myself when I read Toni Morrison. I can't have any distractions because I typically end up rereading each chapter anyway. But there really is something rewarding in reading her prose. Moving though Beloved trying to decipher what Sethe means by the "tree" on her back and finally reaching the epiphany is really something amazing. I think I read once that Morrison is a great student of William Faulkner. If so, it makes sense. Absalom, Absalom! was like trying to read with a hangover.

    jj
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    Re: The Book Thread

    Currently reading: The Historian By Elizabeth Kostova. As recommended by TAT's very own Catz. I'm only in chapter 30, but it's an attention getter from the start.
    Brillantly written, mostly in letters. Very easy to read which was surprising to me.
    It's about a mysterious book that appears, a curious daughter and her father's interesting past. Strange documents and disapperances all related to the myth and existance of Dracula.
    It takes place all over Europe, from Amsterdamn to Istanbul and from years of the 1930s, the 50s, and the 70s, which is the "current time" of the story. lt's a pretty good account of European history.

    I'm not the biggest reader, so this is impressive to me. It takes a lot for me to get into a book, a story, even a movie or television show. This definately captures the imagination and you are put in a different world.

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    Re: The Book Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by jjnow View Post
    I've never heard of Thomas Pynchon, but he sounds interesting. He's an American author?

    James Baldwin's "Notes of a Native Son" is one of my favorite collection of essays. I also have a copy of Giovanni's Room that I picked up while working at a book store last year but, like most of the 5,000 books I own, I haven't gotten around to reading it yet.

    I have to prepare myself when I read Toni Morrison. I can't have any distractions because I typically end up rereading each chapter anyway. But there really is something rewarding in reading her prose. Moving though Beloved trying to decipher what Sethe means by the "tree" on her back and finally reaching the epiphany is really something amazing. I think I read once that Morrison is a great student of William Faulkner. If so, it makes sense. Absalom, Absalom! was like trying to read with a hangover.

    jj
    Indeed. As a friend of mine says, Morrison does Faulkner better than Faulkner does himself.

    Giovanni's Room is a long essay about love passing itself off as a novel. It's a great read and an excellent essay, mind you, but it doesn't feel like fiction to me at all.

    Notes was the first collection of his I read. It's included in Price.


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    Re: The Book Thread

    Pynchon is American, and he's sort of known as a very difficult intellectual writer. There's also a big deal because he leads an extremely private life, people don't even know what he looks like. He won a bunch of awards, including the National Book Award for Gravity's Rainbow, and he was unanimously recommended for the Pulitzer, but the board denied it because it was "unreadable," "complex," and "at times, obscene." He's supposedly come up several times for the Nobel Prize.

    So, I was expecting something really out there, and was actually surprised this novel is about everyday people (although odd ones). It's about a woman who is named the executor of her real estate developer ex-boyfriend's will, and goes to the South Cali town he helped built to execute it and gets engulfed in some sort of underground secret society. I'm still sorting through it. Written and set in the 60s.

    I have to, shamefully, admit I've only read excerpts of Joyce, but Pynchon is often compared to him. Mostly because of the use of run-on sentences.

    Do you remember the first "Dakota Fanning Show" skit SNL did? It's somewhere in the Random thread. "Dakota" talks about Pynchon and a review of him by Michiko Kakutani of NYT there



    Faulkner. Not for me As I Lie Dying was the least fun I've had reading a book that I could still say is good. Very interesting but just not my style. "My mother is a fish" was a pretty good chapter though.


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    Re: The Book Thread

    I'm presently reading and really should have finished this ages ago but I've been extremely busy and have not has as much time as I would love to read but I recommend "Fumbling Toward Divinity (The Adoption Scriptures)" by our very own Craig Hickman.

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    Re: The Book Thread

    Just finished "The Kite Runner" which I absolutely loved.

    About to start "In Cold Blood" by Truman Capote.

    jj I think our reading tastes are very similar - I have read all Le Carre's novels and love them all. Likewise with Louis de Bernières.

    But haven't tackled Joyce yet - on my list.

    And Jeanne I loved the Historian too.

    I think my favourite book of all time is the Lord of the Rings trilogy. There is a new Tolkien book out - haven't got it yet - his son finished a book that he hadn't completed before he died.

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    Re: The Book Thread

    In Cold Blood is great, morct. So well written and disturbing.


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    Re: The Book Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by mmmm8 View Post
    In Cold Blood is great, morct. So well written and disturbing.
    I'm looking forward to it mmmm8, will probably start it tonight.

    I read Henry James "The Golden Bowl" recently also. He's some writer.

    Found it hard going but enjoyed it.

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    Re: The Book Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by mmmm8 View Post
    Pynchon is American, and he's sort of known as a very difficult intellectual writer. There's also a big deal because he leads an extremely private life, people don't even know what he looks like. He won a bunch of awards, including the National Book Award for Gravity's Rainbow, and he was unanimously recommended for the Pulitzer, but the board denied it because it was "unreadable," "complex," and "at times, obscene." He's supposedly come up several times for the Nobel Prize.
    "Mason & Dixon" was a great book if you develop a taste for Pynchon, M8. But like Gravity's Rainbow, it's complex and requires a lot of attention.
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    Re: The Book Thread

    Just started "The Grand Surprise: The Journals of Leo Lerman", which was very favorably reviewed in this past Sunday's NY Times Review of Books. Haven't gotten through enough of it yet to discuss it. Prior to this, I've just finished "You Don't Love Me Yet", by Jonathan Lethem. Well done story about an installation artist who hangs posters all over LA with a phone number for people to call to leave their "complaints", and the musician who takes the job answering the calls.

    Lethem's a really enjoyable wirter, and he lightens up a bit here. His best novel "The Fortress Of Solitude" is outstanding.

    I tend to enjoy writers who know how to work with words. That construct sentences that convey meaning and create clear imagery.

    My favorite current author is Michael Chabon, who won me over with his first novel "The Mysteries Of Pittsburgh" some years back. His "The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier & Clay" won the Pultizer a few years ago. And if you saw the movie "Wonder Boys", it is based on another novel of his. I don't think any present author makes better use of the English language than Chabon. Other favorites are Lethem, Tom Robbins, Alice Walker and David Foster Wallace.

    And while he gets respect from every corner of the literary world it seems, I never quite understood why Steinbeck is considered so great. It must be me, but I have labored my way unpleasantly through anything of his I have ever had to read.
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    Re: The Book Thread

    I liked East of Eden, but everything else of Steinbeck's I can't deal with. The Pearl was pure torture and it wasn't even long


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