What are you reading these days? #6
What are you reading currently? Fiction or non-fiction, any genre, any language! Tell us what you're reading, and talk a bit about it.
Notes: Do any one of you follow any literary magazines? How do you follow fresh pieces of literature, and grab hold of them "fresh out of the oven"?
Watchmen. I saw and didn't really like the movie, so I was hesitant, but this has been great so far (I'm almost done and will probably finish by tomorrow). It's amazing how similar the movie was in terms of the individual scenes and the dialogue, even down to the word, but still managed to miss the point in so many ways. The framing of the panels is something I immediately noticed and appreciated. There seems to be a lot of care put into making sure the speech bubbles don't obstruct the art (which is beautiful by the way) and that the dialogue was framed with the visuals perfectly (like this for example.)
I watched the Director's Cut with my spouse a few weeks ago, and was still more struck by the lavish (possibly even slavish) attention to the visual realization of the graphic storytelling, at the expense of cinematic pacing and accurate plot. The intercuts of "The Black Freighter" storyline in this edit provided better framing for the main plotline.
Casting for resemblance to the comic characters rather than acting ability came at a cost as well, though Jackie Earle Haley left nothing to be desired as Rorschach.
There's an opening here for another "books into movies" thread...
The thing that really makes the writers'/director's/studio's lack of understanding for me is the music. They're the same songs, but they're used completely differently. The comic puts the lyrics of the songs at the end of the pages. It's not meant to be something playing over the scene in your head, it's a closer. And since comics are a purely visual medium, songs can be chosen for their lyrical content and not have to worry about whether or not the song fits with the tone of the scene. The movie just uses the songs over the scenes, regardless of whether or not the tone and pacing of the song makes sense for the scene.
It's so interesting because I loved Watchmen in comic book form and, similar to you, also found the movie lacking. Despite how it was very visually similar to the comic, there were parts that could not be translated into movie form. The supplemental documents between chapters gave a richness to the world that was largely missing from the movie.
Yeah, I know directors really take the brunt of the blame if the movie isn't good, but the Watchmen movie really seems to come down to the writers not understanding the point of the source material, only the plot. I didn't understand the importance of so many of the scenes in the movie like Nite Owl's dream until the graphic novel made the theme of nostalgia so central to its story, something the movie kind of butchers. Not to mention making Rorschach "cool" and stylizing the violence (though I assume that was a studio mandate).
So this might be a dumb question, but what would you say is the point of the comic?
Keep in mind that I just finished the graphic novel recently, so my interpretation of some of these things might be off.
So, the primary point was a criticism of the "realistic" superhero trend. It's a book that shows the disaster that would occur if superheroes actually existed, and basically showed that superheroes are an inherently fascist concept that should be kept unrealistic and idealistic, not brought down to our level. (Spoilers for Watchmen ahead). Rorschach is a complete psychopath, and he's also human. In the book, he attempts an escape by jumping out of a window and breaks his legs. In the movie, he lands perfectly safe and fights 5 guards trying to hold him back. The movie tries to make the superheroes, specifically Rorschach, cool, which misses the entire point of the character.
The theme of nostalgia also plays a big role in the story, with the original Silk Spectre actually reminiscing positively about a time when she almost got raped by The Comedian, and the two Nite-Owls getting together and talking about the good ol' days. This theme is supposed to culminate when Silk Spectre and Nite-Owl have sex after an attempt to recapture their glory days. They're not good people, they're just chasing the high, or trying to feel powerful because they aren't in their ordinary lives. The movie cuts a lot of the scenes that really underline the theme of nostalgia, which actually isn't a bad thing. Nostalgia is important to the story, sure, but it's also a secondary theme, so if you were forced to cut scenes, those would be a good choice. But the dream sequence and sex scene are still there, except now they just stand out as dead weight.
Then there's the ending change. The ending of the comic is Ozymandias creating a false threat, a giant space squid, to unite humanity. This is absurd, and it's absurd intentionally. Moore is criticizing the absurdity of the insanity the Cold War caused, and is using the giant squid to show just how crazy things would have to get to cause world peace. It's showing how the US has used Dr. Manhattan as a weapon in order to basically twist the world's arm into peace, but that won't work. Eventually, once things have gotten bad enough, the Russians would be willing to initiate mutually assured destruction. Moore suggests that what it would truly take is an outside threat of unfathomable power and danger. The movie instead uses Dr. Manhattan as the scapegoat. Blaming Dr. Manhattan, an American weapon that has been used both as a peacekeeping unit and a threat/bargaining tool, not only gets rid of the thematic implications, it also just doesn't make sense on the surface level. There's no way an American tool destroying cities wouldn't immediately initiate World War 3 in the tense, minutes-away-from-war-at-any-time world that's been established by Watchmen.
I just started reading the John Carter books!! I really enjoyed the movie when it came out, it was a fun idea but I didn't know it das based off of a book series. Amazon actually had all of them on sale for the Kindle for like 99 cents so I got a copy for myself and my SO. I've been reading it during my lunch break at work.
How are you finding them? I've always been mildly interested in reading those sci-fi books (I do like ye olde science fiction), but never got around to them. What are they like?
Haha well as far as I've read (mind you not a WHOLE lot) they're pretty good so far. It's interesting because I kind of know what's happening because I saw the movie but obviously the book is more detailed. I like the setup, of John Carter's nephew like writing the introduction to his manuscript, and just the whole mystery that it starts off with like who or what the hell is John Carter? But so far they're good and I'd give you a tentative go ahead to at least read the first few chapters lol
The Wee Free Men
Damn, it's been too long since last time I read any Pratchett. He really was a funny guy. This one is about a girl who decides to become a witch, a clan of tiny Scottish fairies (pictsies, because puns is the highest form of art), and a dark fairytale realm about to collide with part of the Discworld. The aspiring witch's younger brother gets kidnapped by the queen of Fairyland, and she has to travel there to get him back, with the help of the pictsies. It's the first in a series of books about the main character, so maybe I'll be reading more Discworld over the coming months.
Just finished reading Seveneves by Neal Stephenson. It's a modern take on the post-apocalyptic scenario. I enjoyed how the story took place over the span of thousands of years, to demonstrate the impact a character's action can make given enough time.
I just finished it as well. It all fit together very well, despite its sudden genre switch to fantasy.
Wasn't aware it was written by a blue origin engineer until the end, but that accounts for how sensible it sounded.
Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. Reading it makes me shudder at the thought of how much damage is done by our (evolutionarily) new habit of sleeping <<8 hours. Also, two points that resonated the most so far:
Read through 30% of the book and #1 on my list of habits to create is giving myself opportunity to sleep at least 8 hours daily.
This book comes up so often that I've came to think I really must read it at some point by now. My sleep is messed up, too (tho I'm slowly fixing it), maybe it helps as motivation to fix that faster?
Sleep is like... work. It's very useful, and unavoidable, but massively inconvenient at the same time (at least for me). No wonder why I hate both. We have lifes so short already, and unless very exceptional circumstances we have to give up two thirds of our days to work and sleep. Wish we could do better. Hopefully mass automation will come and bring UBI and way lower work hours, and not mass enslavement and worldwide genocide and stuff...
The way I feel author tries to approach it is that the quality of the awake time after getting a good night sleep is enough to offset the fact that we're losing 2 hours of life everyday. I don't think there's ever a way to truly verify whether it's 'worth it'; and I also wish I could take that time for myself.. Maybe it's because of my privileged situation that I can sleep 8 hrs and it's of no detriment to my studies that I do it.
Nevertheless, give this book a shot. It's a series of descriptions of different medical studies, so at very least you'll get a good insight in science of sleep.
My current readings are two local literary magazines: Natama and Öykülem. The first is focused on fresh poetry and criticism of it. They require that authors submit a piece of criticism or theory if they want to publish poems. I've read the past two issues, published every three months, and starting from this current issue that I'm going to be reading, I've decided to follow it. They have nice poetry, original and translations, and quite interesting works of theory and criticism. An example is a translation of the "Quantum Mechanics and the Theory of Poetry Translation" by Kruzkov which was a very interesting take on translating poetry. I'm loosely adhering to it in my current translation project of a novel from Italian to Turkish. The magazine also had translations of some poems of Ted Hughes' Crow. Other, original pieces are quite interesting too. The name of the magazine is a word play (and a lovely one, IMO) on the (dated) Turkish word natamam "incomplete" where they removed the last "m" rendering the word itself incomplete.
The other magazine, Öykülem is totally new to me. I was checking out magazines in a bookshop and looking at ToCs and stuff, and this one had a critical article of an author I'm interested in, Isahag Uygar Eskiciyan, a contemporary author of short stories, whose work I intended to read later. So, I just bought the magazine and started reading the article. Learned that the author were pseudonymous (and it's quite politically and historically loaded one: the first name is an Armenian name possibly a form of Isaac (see; the second a Turkish name meaning "civilised"; the last name derives from the Turkish word eskici "rag-and-bone man" using the common Armenian last-name suffix -yan, -ian; so overall it includes echoes of modern Turkey's history, religious and political [a counterpoint of church and state-encouraged, or even -imposed, secularism, also the effect of being a minority, both via the first name being a rendition of a religious figure common between the majority religion and minority ones in the minority language, and its combination with a name in the language of the oppressing majority which has implications of the state agenda too, namely state-lead progressivism and even Ataturkism, and then the last name both conveys a very strong aroma of nostalgia, using the eskici figure which is a sorts of a topos of modern Turkish "agony" literature, and is again a depiction of two ethnical and cultural traditions both fusing and clashing, via the common combination of a name of a profession in Turkish and the -yan suffix] and thus is in itself a manifestation, an hermetic poem, if you will). I don't think I liked the article, though I didn't finish reading it yet. A bit of a shallow criticism. TBH, I did not check out the rest of the magazine yet, but I don't have high hopes. The current literary tendencies of younger writers in Turkey is that of a cringy vulgarism that tends to cliches and easy punchlines, and sometimes focuses more on form and sound than actual content. But we'll see. The name of this magazine is a coined word, harmonious with the patterns of neologisms the Turkish language reforms introduced over the time, which means, at least to me, something like "storyverse" (as in universe) or "storification" (as in making into a story).
I just wrapped up The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin, which was a first time read for me. I found I had a rough start with it because it really throws you into its world head first and it's an older novel. I'm still chewing on it a bit, and it gives lots to chew on.
On deck, I've got Ninth Step Station by Malka Older, Fran Wilde, Jacqueline Koyanagi, and Curtis Chen, and Vigilance by Robert Bennett. But I also recently got Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty and Jade City by Fonda Lee, so I may squeeze one of those in.
Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz, and re-reading China Mieville's Kraken.
I'm only about 1/3 of the way through, but so far Being Wrong is an entertaining and enlightening philosophical tour of what constitutes knowledge, how "wrongness" is constituted as morally culpable, the consequences of being wrong, and some amazing historical examples. If you care about acting and thinking well, I highly recommend it.
Kraken is just fun - Mieville has the high-Gothic flourishes of earlier writing under better control, the pacing is a bit tighter, and he's paying as much attention to characterization as scenery. I'm not a deep horror or fantasy reader, but Mieville always manages to bring something new to the old tropes, and he makes what could have been a Lovecraft knockoff into something that shimmers with its own special mysteries.
I'm re-reading Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series this Fall. Most people I know laugh at how comically detailed the books, like describing character clothing and the like, but I genuinely enjoy the story and how massive it all is. While flawed in some ways, I consider them a guilty pleasure I don't have to feel guilty about. They are also less dark than George R.R. Martin's work.
On the non-fiction side, I'm slowly working my way through a business book-
Pitch Anything - a book recommended by an investor, I'm finding it far more useful for focusing the strategy of my company than just for pitching. It goes into detail about the adversarial approach people take in business deals. At first I was pretty disgusted by the idea of using power and leverage so blatantly, but have since embraced the idea of knowing how some people treat business as warfare, which helps me navigate the bullshit, or flat-out avoid working with them.
I'm new to literary theory, but I'd love to learn. Therefore I borrowed a fourth edition Beginning Theory by Peter Barry. Is there anyone else here who's read this book and have any thoughts? And is there something I should think about while learning theory?
I haven't read the book but I've a BA in Italian language and literature. Applying theory as you learn is quite useful. I don't think literary theory is that useful of a tool for casual readers. It's more useful for critics and authors. One thing I learnt rather late was to separate critical reading and reading for enjoyment. If the former totally takes over, the experience of reading itself can be ruined. It was so for me for some time, and it took some time to convince myself not to do that.
Could you elaborate on this a bit? As someone who's been a lifelong casual reader, I would think that the first step to really appreciating literature (or anything really) would be to see why something works the way it does. For instance, I have read many classics, which while I think are good, I can't see what makes them great. Would literary theory (which I didn't know of hitherto) help with that, or have I just not read as mindfully as I should have?
I can't totally refuse that literary theory is totally useless in appreciating or understanding a work of literature, but it's not so useful that a casual reader should go out of their way to study it in depth in order to enjoy literature. Generally the hardest part to decode in a story or poem is the references, and for that, one needs to read a lot and learn a lot. It's the sort of knowledge that piles up. It comes from the literature you read, and also other stuff you learn. An example is the Bible, it's the source of so many obscure references everywhere in almost all of the literature of the world. This sort of knowledge also teaches you some literary theory (not really!) via exposure to different forms of prose and poetry as you read more and more, and become familiar with them and open to new stuff. For example say you're used to a very usual style of writing and picked up a Saramago novel, the huge sentences and paragraphs and in some cases the absence of peron names might be too shocking that it becomes daunting. But with exposure, you get used to it and find ways to deal wiith it. It's quite similar with the classics: they are of a different era, and they are created with different, sometimes obsolete styles both of language and composition. You say you have some exposure, so that's a first step, but in order to really enjoy and appreciate it, reading up a bit about the author and the book might be very useful. Just the wiki page on the both can be more than enough sometimes. Say you read Voyage Around my Room from Xavier de Maistre, from 18th century. The book might be quite cryptic and boring if you don't know that the story is about him being a prisoner in a fort for 40-odd days, and him being an aristocrat. So, context is important, to sum. But also, it's a bit about what you're looking for, and what you're reading. Personally, I'm more fond of the XX century to current literature, and also of ancient literature, rather than classics. It's a bit of a personal taste thing at the end.
Literary theory is most important for contemporary stuff, because it has most influenced the authors of the last 100--150 years, circa; which means effects of such theory is present in authors' works. But still, for a casual reader, studing theory in depth is an overkill. I'd suggest reading a general overview of the evolution of theory and one of the evolution of literature for any serious-casual reader, though. It won't necessarily make you appreciate things more, but it can help understand why certain things are the way they are, which might make for some pleasing experiences while reading. But the entirety of it is way less useful than simply having read a lot. Which is why I'm not continuing my academic career with Literary Studies or Comparative Literature and am instead moving on to Linguistics. Theory has been very useful to the development of literature, and comparative literature might be a good way to gain insight to certain cultural phenomena, but overall these studies are not that much fulfilling intellectually or useful factually, IMHO. Yet as I said a superficial knowledge thereof might enhance your reading experience. What I'd actually suggest is to read some actual criticism instead. It's what theory is used to produce, and can be actually really helpful to really appreciate a work of literature. It ranges from actual adverse criticism to pure analisation, deconstruction, etc. Theory produces the methods and approaches for this. For example, Marxists have provided us with the distinction of the syuzhet and fabula (i.e. the distinction between the actual series of events and the order these are presented in a text), structuralists have produced methods to understand how a text is made up of different components and how meaning is created using these, and deconstructivism is an ecole started by Derrida which I barely understand. Critics use these and other methods and approaches (i.e. the literary theory) to produce their criticism, which is the actual, useful product of theory. Best of criticism articles appear in literary magazines, which are also the best place to follow the freshest of literature given they usually include a mix of criticism, translations and original texts, besides news from the literary world.
Sorry for the bombardment of information, but I hope it's still useful to you! A little tl;dr is: Theory is mildly useful, but reading a lot and reading criticism is way more useful for appreciating literature.
There was an article that got posted to Hacker News a while ago about a book called The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. In the discussions it was fairly well positioned as being the best example of Russian literature, and so I thought I'd give it a chance.
I'm reading a translation and I can certainly see the quality of the prose - it has a very expressive and nuanced style to it, and is very different than anything contemporary that I've read. However, and this is where me and fiction tend to struggle in general, I'm just not 'hooked' by it. I don't care about what's happening and I'm not interested in finding out what happens. I honestly doubt I'll finish it.
At the same time I'm reading Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. That's more for light relief and for just filling in gaps in general knowledge that have built up over the years. It's fun, as intended.
I've had Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now ready to go for a while but can't seem to get motivated to read that for some reason. Not entirely sure why.
I'm a bit sad you're not hooked by The Master and Margarita! It's one of my favourite books. Maybe if you read it as a satire and comedy instead of as a captivating story (although I think it's a great story too)?
I'm really struggling to find an 'in' with it. I can't relate to any part of it and so it's just 'some things happening' rather than anything coherent or interesting. I also don't think I have a thorough enough understanding of the context it. It's weird now I think about it out loud, but even though I'm reading a translation which I understand, I still like I'm somehow insulated from what's happening by a sort of language barrier. Maybe it's a cultural barrier of some sort? It feels like being on holiday - whilst you can easily get by you can't necessarily understand a lot of what's going on around you. Why are people sitting here at this time of day? Why are people dressed this way?
I'm somehow removed from it.
I see what you mean. Have you gotten to the Jesus-subplot yet? I think it's absolutely brilliant. But don't read things you don't enjoy, you can use your time better =)
Yeah, being hooked in is really important. There are stuff that'll never get you hooked in but are still worth reading (for me, I hated reading Kafka every time, but after having finished, it was nice to have read them). It depends on whether you want or think it's worth it to put the effort in. Also, sometimes, a book that absolutely doesn't hook you in today might become a very captivating read some time later. I recall reading one by Tabucchi 4-5 yrs ago, hated it then and dropped after a few pages, but a couple years later when I re-read it for a lesson, I loved the book and he became one of my favourite authors.
Hm. I'm still reading the same books I was reading last time.
Do you think these are too frequent? I thought of making this a monthly feature and asked for feedback a couple posts ago, but I received none, for or against.
I don't care.
Mostly, I'm disappointed that I'm a slower reader than I used to be. I used to be able to read one or two books every week. These days, it can take me weeks to finish one book. Admittedly, I've changed how I use my time: I spend a lot of time on the internet these days, where I didn't do this a decade or more ago. If I was reading now instead of browsing Tildes, I'd get a lot more reading done! And there are other reasons I don't spend as much time reading as I used to.
I tend to spend too much time online, too. I sometimes schedule no-computer days (sometimes weeks) in my agenda, somehow the pleasure of ticking that bullet point often succeeds at compelling me to do things and not kill my time browsing hedonistically... Thanks for the feedback, BTW.
I like having it bi-weekly. Even when I'm not on a reading jag, I like seeing what others are up to and finding some inspiration in their choices.
Thanks for the feedback!
Just finished the first book in The Book of Dust, the sequel series to His Dark Materials, called La Belle Sauvage. It was definitely enjoyable, and I loved getting some more exploration in Lyra's world, though it definitely felt like a lot of setup. Which is sort of fine, assuming the follow through is worth it. I really enjoy Pullman's exploration of Dust, and it's enjoyable reading a book where at least the protagonists make mostly rational decisions.
I just finished Howard's End, and I'm glad I read it. Trying to get through A Passage to India at university left me thinking I couldn't stand Forster, but I finally got over myself and gave this one a try. The Edwardian era is interesting to me, with all the social change beginning in England. I appreciated the female main characters who insist on valuing relationships more than money and social rank, despite heavy opposition.
Now I've started Tara Westover's Educated: A Memoir. Haven't got far yet but I can see this is going to be excellent. Young woman raised in a Mormon/home-schooled/prepper family goes on to earn a doctorate from Cambridge. She's a wonderful writer.
This short but amazing autobiography.
After listening to this fun episode.
Been reading The Idea Factory about Bell Labs and its role in fostering America's generation of innovations. I also got two books from Stripe Press, The Dream Machine and Stubborn Attachments. The first one is about J.C.R. Licklider and his quest for an interactive computer as a DARPA program manager, and the second makes the moral case for economic growth. Hoping they're good!
Various books I've read this year are listed here, but it doesn't include my full reading list (yet).
Thanks for sharing! Your website looks really cool BTW!
I finished Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck recently. I really enjoyed it and felt a sense of heartbreak and, weirdly, relief with the ending.
I'm onto The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas now. I don't think I'm really far enough in to say much about it yet, but it's been taking me a while to get into. The book is about a 16 year old black girl who witnesses a police officer shooting her childhood friend. I don't know if it's just because I'm old now, but the dialogue between the high schoolers is taking extra effort for me to decipher. I have heard wonderful things about this book, though, so I do think it will be worth the effort.
Manuals in GNU/Linux terminal .
I'm reading neuromancer, because I've always enjoyed the cyberpunk genre of movies and games. So far it's pretty great.
11.22.63! Really great. Makes me hopeful that when I'm in my mid 60s I'll also be able to produce the goods.