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Somewhat Off-Topic: What have you been reading lately?


misswonderly3
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I am reading THE HIGH WINDOW by RAYMOND CHANDLER for the second time, which is something i do now that i am older. when I was younger, the idea of re-reading something was INSANE.

This will be the third CHANDLER that I have re-read...i recall it as being my favorite of the SINISTER SIX for reasons I cannot now recall.

although it's very good thus far (175 pages or so into it.)

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1 hour ago, LornaHansonForbes said:

I tried to read NOSTROMO.

It EATS.

It is not reader friendly, at least at first. The opening chapters are a mess. You think, what have I missed ; then you realize you haven't missed anything because you've just started reading the damn thing. Early critics jumped all over him for this and characterized the opening as an in medias res, a classical device often seen in the old epics. The reader is flung into the mire with a lot of seemingly impressionistic details that are not immediately graspable, conflicting points of view from characters we don't know yet, and a narrative that jumps back and forth in time confusedly. It takes awhile but suddenly we get a chapter that stops the bleeding, we get to have an extended conversation between two characters in real time, and from that point on the narrative settles into a more conventional, linear form and suddenly the whole thing begins to invite interest. Then out of the blue near the end of the novel we get an unexpected and massive, years long fast forward where one of the characters is jawing at a new visitor to the region and it takes some little time to realize that this is the author's way of filling us in on what has transpired. No problem, Joe, it was just surprising. Much of the drama is contained in long, convoluted conversations, which can be, however, very fascinating. There is an action sequence in middle of the novel which is central to the story and quite riveting. In another scene there is a glaring anomaly. Nostromo approaches a building with lights on in an upper floor and investigating he can only see the shadow of a man who appears to be standing still and thinking. It is later revealed that it is a dead man, hanging from the neck. Conrad must have loved this scene (it is rather a juicy idea) because he milked it to the hilt. I thought it fascinating how he went on and on with this, one would think he was writing for Hollywood. There is a suicide of a character that seems woefully unrealistic but it is almost immediately realized that it was necessary to bolster symbolism. Never mind that such a man would not likely do this. All in all, the characters are so precisely drawn and characterized that although they are quite flesh-and-blood representations, they are additionally heavily symbolized. Now that I have completed the novel and since I have a few days before the discussion, I will now attempt to go back and read those beginning chapters. At least now I know who the characters are and the approximate order of the events. The writing is so richly detailed and inspired and can be all the more savored now that more is known. Besides, thematic issues can be further nailed down by going over this early material and I am looking forward to it. This experience shows how enjoyable the result when there is a hook of a time ahead (motivation) where folks will meet to hash it all out.

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Really though, I usually try not to be critical of something when i was unable to make it all the way through- especiaLly when (you nailed it) it's the first 20 pages, but DANG the first 20 pages of NOSTROMO are BAFFLING...Like, I still remember FRUSTRATEDLY AGONIZING TO GET TO PAGE 20, and I have made it 400 pages into LOOK HOMEWARD ANGEL (on two separate occasions!!!!!!) AND MORE OR LESS skimmed MOBY DICK in its entirety.

BUT NO, NOSTROMO IS A RIDDLE WRAPPED WITHIN AN ENIGMA WRAPPED WITHIN A PUZZLE.

I lashed out at it like someone who couldn't figure out a RUBIK'S CUBE.

I'm the same way with THE CRYING OF LOT 49.

 

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Just finished Jim Thompson's WILD TOWN, and next up on the stack was Charles Williams' A TOUCH OF DEATH. The only other book of William's I've read so far has been HELL HATH NO FURY

 

Williams,+A+Touch+of+Death,+HCC.jpg

Films made from Charles Williams novels 

  • All the Way  The 3rd Voice (1960)
  • Nothing in Her Way  Peau de banane, a.k.a. Banana Peel (1963)
  • The Big Bite  Le Gros coup (1964)
  • Aground  L' Arme à gauche, a.k.a. The Dictator's Guns (1965)
  • The Wrong Venus  Don't Just Stand There! (1968)
  • Dead Calm  The Deep (1970; unfinished); Dead Calm (1989)
  • The Diamond Bikini  Fantasia chez les ploucs, a.k.a. Fantasia Among the Squares (1971)
  • Talk of the Town (uncredited) – The pilot episode of Cannon (1971)
  • The Sailcloth Shroud  The Man Who Would Not Die, a.k.a. Target in the Sun (1975)
  • The Long Saturday Night  Vivement dimanche!, a.k.a. Confidentially Yours (1983)
  • Man on the Run  Mieux vaut courir (1989)
  • Hill Girl  La Fille des collines (1990)
  • Hell Hath No Fury  The Hot Spot (1990)

His other novels in chronological order...

Hill Girl (1951; Gold Medal 141)
Big City Girl (1951; Gold Medal 163)
River Girl (a.k.a. The Catfish Tangle) (1951; Gold Medal G207)
Hell Hath No Fury (a.k.a. The Hot Spot) (1953; Gold Medal 286)
Nothing in Her Way (1953; Gold Medal 340)
Go Home, Stranger (1954; Gold Medal 371)
A Touch of Death (a.k.a. Mix Yourself a Redhead; based on 1953 novella And Share Alike) (1954; Gold Medal 434)
Scorpion Reef (a.k.a. Gulf Coast Girl; based on novella Flight to Nowhere) (1955; Macmillan hc [reprint: Dell 898])
The Big Bite (1956; Dell A114)
The Diamond Bikini (1956; Gold Medal s607)
Girl Out Back (a.k.a. Operator; based on 1957 novella titled either Operator or Operation) (1958; Dell B114)
Talk of the Town (a.k.a. Stain of Suspicion; also condensed under that title) (1958; Dell A164)
All the Way (a.k.a. The Concrete Flamingo) (1958; Dell A165)
Man on the Run (a.k.a. Man in Motion) (1958; Gold Medal 822)
Uncle Sagamore and His Girls (1959; Gold Medal s908)
The Sailcloth Shroud (1960; Viking hc [reprint: Dell D410])
Aground (1960; Viking hc)
The Long Saturday Night (a.k.a. Confidentially Yours; Finally, Sunday!) (1962; Gold Medal s1200)
Dead Calm (based on an earlier novella Pacific Honeymoon[15]) (1963; Viking hc)
The Wrong Venus (a.k.a. Don't Just Stand There) (1966; New American Library hc)
And The Deep Blue Sea (1971; Signet pb)
Man on a Leash (1973; Putnam hc)

 

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7 hours ago, LornaHansonForbes said:

I tried to read NOSTROMO.

It EATS.

I'll keep that in mind if I ever get around to reading it. In laffite's original post I skimmed

over the part that said Nostromo is number 47 on the Modern Library's list of American

novels, but how is Nostromo an American novel? I have a Modern Library edition of The

Magnificent Ambersons that has the list of the Hundred Best Novels of the Twentieth

Century where Nostromo is number 46. Whatever. I made it through Molloy, Malone

Dies, and The Unnamable by Beckett, so I can make it through just about anything. The

Penguin Classics edition of Moby Dick has a commentary that is almost as half as long as

the novel itself. Talk about a great white whale. 

 

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14 minutes ago, Vautrin said:

In laffite's original post I skimmed

over the part that said Nostromo is number 47 on the Modern Library's list of American

novels, but how is Nostromo an American novel?

It's not. My mistake. The list is for English-language novels.

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1 hour ago, laffite said:

It's not. My mistake. The list is for English-language novels.

There are a lot of these best of lists out there so it's easy to get confused. The book I have which

has the list is at least fifteen years old so there may have been some changes of position in the

hit parade. 

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1 minute ago, Vautrin said:

There are a lot of these best of lists out there so it's easy to get confused. The book I have which

has the list is at least fifteen years old so there may have been some changes of position in the

hit parade. 

 

See link below:

There is no date but I don't see anyone super recent. Either Vonnegut or Naipaul, perhaps. Appointment in Samara is #22, really? Is it that good? And I might take exception to The Maltese Falcon being on that list at all (but I don't want to argue with anyone about it.)

http://www.modernlibrary.com/top-100/100-best-novels/

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2 hours ago, laffite said:

 

See link below:

There is no date but I don't see anyone super recent. Either Vonnegut or Naipaul, perhaps. Appointment in Samara is #22, really? Is it that good? And I might take exception to The Maltese Falcon being on that list at all (but I don't want to argue with anyone about it.)

http://www.modernlibrary.com/top-100/100-best-novels/

Never read Appointment in Samara, but whenever I've seen the title mentioned it is in a very

laudatory way. Guess there's only one way to find out. I notice that Hammett and Cain made

the list but Chandler didn't. I can't go for that. 

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11 minutes ago, Vautrin said:

Never read Appointment in Samara, but whenever I've seen the title mentioned it is in a very

laudatory way. Guess there's only one way to find out. I notice that Hammett and Cain made

the list but Chandler didn't. I can't go for that. 

I did read it and was not particularly overwhelmed. It just occurs to me that I LISTENED to it, not read it. The book's narrator was so-so. Hmmm, I wonder. There is a lot of casual dialogue (a lot!) and I kept rolling my eyes at the inflections. The narrator was no actor.

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4 hours ago, laffite said:

I did read it and was not particularly overwhelmed. It just occurs to me that I LISTENED to it, not read it. The book's narrator was so-so. Hmmm, I wonder. There is a lot of casual dialogue (a lot!) and I kept rolling my eyes at the inflections. The narrator was no actor.

Interesting. I'll have to take a look at it one of these days when I have some spare time.

Of course lists like this one are somewhat subjective, though there is likely a general

consensus among the list makers. 

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I finished Roland Flamini's EXCELLENT book on Irving Thalberg. Flamini is a great writer and that really makes all the difference.

I am now reading Lorna Luft's book ME & MY SHADOWS about her life as Judy Garland's daughter. She's not a very good writer, but many of her observations and comments are quite interesting. I think I've read everything there is to read on Judy (Gerald Clarke's GET HAPPY is my favorite-Clarke being a great writer) but Luft's boldness calling her Mom "spoiled" and "demanding" helps complete the picture.

Luft points out that "Baby" was the money earner for her entire family as a 5 year old. If Baby wanted something, she had a temper tantrum and her parents/grandparents capitulated. Baby grew up being "served" and I can see how that could have effected her expectations as an adult. Also, Luft points out Judy was put "on pills" as early as 16 years old, and by adulthood couldn't change-routinely taking them during pregnancies!

Also kind of fun is hearing about their neighbors, the Bogarts and growing up in Hollywood as children of movie stars. Luft is a talented singer, I've seen her credited on several albums from the 80's, but I think my interest in the book will peter out once the focus goes from her childhood to her own career.

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Lorna's book was the basis for the 2001 mini-series with an outstanding Judy Davis as Garland, Tammy Blanchard as young Judy, Hugh Laurie as Vincente Minnelli, Victor Garber as Sid Luft and Allison Pill as the young Lorna. From what I understand, there's a new one by Lorna, a retrospective of her mother's career. Not sure how much is Lorna and how much is ghost-written or at least ghost-researched, but seeing as how Lorna wasn't around for so much of it, one wonders.

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[a significant, nay, practically the whole of it, portion of this post has been deleted by me]

"Action is consolatory. It is the enemy of thought and the friend of flattering illusions. Only in the conduct of our action can we fine the sense of mastery over the fates."   --from Nostromo

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14 hours ago, DougieB said:

Lorna's book was the basis for the 2001 mini-series with an outstanding Judy Davis as Garland, Tammy Blanchard as young Judy, Hugh Laurie as Vincente Minnelli, Victor Garber as Sid Luft and Allison Pill as the young Lorna. 

I had sold the set designer a vintage 50's couch used in that production. It was a sectional with a built in hidden compartment-I assumed to hold booze bottles.

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I have read much of: Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany, 1975, Bantam Books

I have come to wound the autumnal city.

So ends and begins what I feel is the most accessible enigmatic book ever written. It is easy for many to dismiss it as science fiction but the simple truth is that it must be shoved into a genre because the mind rebels at the suggestion that such people and such a place could be real.

It begins poetically. Plain words covey vivid thoughts. It descends into crude and lurid acts. It rises to the innate fear of loss of sense of self. 

It is not that I have no past. Rather, it continually fragments on the terrible and vivid ephemera of now.

Much has been written about this novel and many reviewers have analyzed it. They point out that it is a circular text and has many points where loops may enter or leave. They mention the literary devices of unreliable narrator, multistable perception and distortion of social constructs. They bemoan how difficult it is to review a book when characterization and plot are secondary to the experience of reading it.

I'm trying to construct a complicitous illusion in lingual catalysis, a crystalline and conscientious alkahest. You listen to that too carefully and you'll figure out what it means. Then the words will die on you and you won't understand any more.

It is in basic form the simple story of a schizophrenic amnesiac visiting a city which has become invisible to the rest of the world because radio and television do not work there. He, those he meets and the city itself drift in hopes of finding a mythical stability. They do not find it.

I believe this must be read several times in a person's life because it is the text equivalent of an optical illusion and the slightest shift in perception reveals entirely different meanings. It is physically the same ink on the same paper between the same covers but it bears only a vague similarity to the book I read ten years ago.

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Been thinking of rereading Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman, been my favorite of his for a long time. Quick read, fun, that ol' Gaiman charm and Anansi stories sprinkled throughout. If this ever gets made into a series, it would be perfect for a mini-series.

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On 7/14/2019 at 8:37 PM, laffite said:

I did read it and was not particularly overwhelmed. It just occurs to me that I LISTENED to it, not read it. The book's narrator was so-so. Hmmm, I wonder. There is a lot of casual dialogue (a lot!) and I kept rolling my eyes at the inflections. The narrator was no actor.

must've been a LIBRAVOX recording. they always mean well, BUT OH MY GOD ARE THEY BORING.

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42 minutes ago, LornaHansonForbes said:

must've been a LIBRAVOX recording. they always mean well, BUT OH MY GOD ARE THEY BORING.

It might have been. For those who don't know, Libravox recordings are done by volunteers and are free on youtube. They can be erratic in quality. There was an EMMA which was pretty good, done by a young lady who nevertheless read a little bit too fast. Youtube has a speed setting and depending on the original speed, 75% may or not be ok. Sometimes it sounds like the reader is either tipsy or producing a bubbly talking-under-water effect. Unless you're reading 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea these effects are totally unacceptable. :lol:

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10 minutes ago, laffite said:

It might have been. For those who don't know, Libravox recordings are done by volunteers and are free on youtube. They can be erratic in quality. There was an EMMA which was pretty good, done by a young lady who nevertheless read a little bit too fast. Youtube has a speed setting and depending on the original speed, 75% may or not be ok. Sometimes it sounds like the reader is either tipsy or producing a bubbly talking-under-water effect. Unless you're reading 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea these effects are totally unacceptable. :lol:

That (the speed setting) is a pretty good idea...(Maybe set it low and pretend it's The Devil reading an audiobook of LITTLE WOMEN...)

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