12 votes

What are you reading these days? #29

What are you reading currently? Fiction or non-fiction or poetry, any genre, any language! Tell us what you're reading, and talk about it a bit.

Notes

We're coming up on #30! Exciting!

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31 comments

  1. [3]
    CALICO
    (edited )
    Link
    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by the late Douglas Adams. You've heard of it: that wacky, existential, cynical, comedy sci-fi that's got nerds all over the internet talking '42'. It's a...

    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by the late Douglas Adams.

    You've heard of it: that wacky, existential, cynical, comedy sci-fi that's got nerds all over the internet talking '42'.
    It's a radio drama, television show, video game, and a trilogy of novels in five parts.

    The gist of it, stolen from wikipedia.

    The broad narrative of Hitchhiker follows the misadventures of the last surviving man, Arthur Dent, following the demolition of the planet Earth by a Vogon constructor fleet to make way for a hyperspace bypass. Dent is rescued from Earth's destruction by Ford Prefect—a human-like alien writer for the eccentric, electronic travel guide The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy—by hitchhiking onto a passing Vogon spacecraft. Following his rescue, Dent explores the galaxy with Prefect and encounters Trillian, another human who had been taken from Earth (prior to its destruction) by the two-headed President of the Galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox and the depressed Marvin, the Paranoid Android.

    These books are a lot shorter than I remember, though I've mostly been reading epics and tomes for the past decade and a bit. I guess I'm doing this thing where I'm revisiting books I haven't read since the first half of my life; doing some self-examination I suppose.

    I'm also picking up a lot that went over my head before. As a preteen, Hitchhiker's was mostly just a fun, random, comedy. Now that I've lived some life, it often feels more like a collection of parables, vignettes, and insight directly into the authors' mind & worldview. I now can recognize Adams as an Absurdist, and understand on a personal level what that means, exactly.

    In philosophy, "the Absurd" refers to the conflict between the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life and the human inability to find any.

    This is most easily shown through 42.

    For the unfamiliar:

    The Answer, Book 1, **spoilers**

    "You know nothing of future time," pronounced Deep Thought, "and yet in my teeming circuitry I can navigate the infinite delta streams of future probability and see that there must one day come a computer whose merest operational parameters I am not worthy to calculate, but which it will be my fate eventually to design."

    Fook sighed heavily and glanced across to Lunkwill.

    "Can we get on and ask the question?" he said.

    Lunkwill motioned him to wait.

    "What computer is this of which you speak?" he asked.

    "I will speak of it no further in this present time," said Deep Thought. "Now. Ask what else of me you will that I may function. Speak."

    They shrugged at each other. Fook composed himself.

    "O Deep Thought Computer," he said, "the task we have designed you to perform is this. We want you to tell us..." he paused, "...the Answer!"

    "The answer?" said Deep Thought. "The answer to what?"

    "Life!" urged Fook.

    "The Universe!" said Lunkwill.

    "Everything!" they said in chorus.

    Deep Thought paused for a moment's reflection.

    "Tricky," he said finally.

    "But can you do it?"

    Again, a significant pause.

    "Yes," said Deep Thought, "I can do it."

    "There is an answer?" said Fook with breathless excitement.

    "A simple answer?" added Lunkwill.

    "Yes," said Deep Thought. "Life, the Universe, and Everything. There is an answer. But," he added, "I'll have to think about it."

    7.5 Million years later

    "Good morning," said Deep Thought at last.

    "Er... Good morning, O Deep Thought," said Loonquawl nervously, "do you have... er, that is..."

    "An answer for you?" interrupted Deep Thought majestically. "Yes. I have."

    The two men shivered with expectancy. Their waiting had not been in vain.

    "There really is one?" breathed Phouchg.

    "There really is one," confirmed Deep Thought.

    "To Everything? To the great Question of Life, the Universe and Everything?"

    "Yes."

    Both of the men had been trained for this moment, their lives had been a preparation for it, they had been selected at birth as those who would witness the answer, but even so they found themselves gasping and squirming like excited children.

    "And you're ready to give it to us?" urged Loonquawl.

    "I am."

    "Now?"

    "Now," said Deep Thought.

    They both licked their dry lips.

    "Though I don't think," added Deep Thought, "that you're going to like it."

    "Doesn't matter!" said Phouchg. "We must know it! Now!"

    "Now?" inquired Deep Thought.

    "Yes! Now..."

    "Alright," said the computer and settled into silence again.

    The two men fidgeted. The tension was unbearable.

    "You're really not going to like it," observed Deep Thought.

    "Tell us!"

    "Alright," said Deep Thought. "The Answer to the Great Question..."

    "Yes!.."

    "Of Life, the Universe and Everything..." said Deep Thought.

    "Yes!.."

    "Is..." said Deep Thought, and paused.

    "Yes!.."

    "Is..."

    "Yes!!!?.."

    "Forty-two," said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm.

    It was a long time before anyone spoke.
    Out of the corner of his eye Phouchg could see the sea of tense expectant faces down in the square outside.

    "We're going to get lynched aren't we?" he whispered.

    "It was a tough assignment," said Deep Thought mildly.

    "Forty-two!" yelled Loonquawl. "Is that all you've got to show for seven and a half million years' work?"

    "I checked it very thoroughly," said the computer, "and that quite definitely is the answer. I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that
    you've never actually known what the question is."

    "But it was the Great Question! The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything!" howled Loonquawl.

    "Yes," said Deep Thought with the air of one who suffers fools gladly, "but what actually is it?"

    A slow stupefied silence crept over the men as they stared at the computer and then at each other.

    "Well, you know, it's just Everything... Everything..." offered Phouchg weakly.

    "Exactly!" said Deep Thought. "So once you do know what the question actually is, you'll know what the answer means."

    "Oh terrific," muttered Phouchg flinging aside his notebook and wiping away a tiny tear.

    "Look, alright, alright," said Loonquawl, "can you just please tell us the Question?"

    "The Ultimate Question?"

    "Yes!"

    "Of Life, the Universe, and Everything?"

    "Yes!"

    Deep Thought pondered this for a moment.

    "Tricky," he said.

    "But can you do it?" cried Loonquawl.

    Deep Thought pondered this for another long moment.

    Finally: "No," he said firmly.

    Both men collapsed on to their chairs in despair.

    "But I'll tell you who can," said Deep Thought.

    They both looked up sharply.

    "Who?" "Tell us!"

    Suddenly Arthur began to feel his apparently non-existent scalp begin to crawl as he found himself moving slowly but inexorably forward towards the console, but it was only a dramatic zoom on the part of whoever had made the recording he assumed.

    "I speak of none other than the computer that is to come after me," intoned Deep Thought, his voice regaining its accustomed declamatory tones. "A computer whose merest operational parameters I am not worthy to calculate—and yet I will design it for you. A computer which can calculate the Question to the Ultimate Answer, a computer of such infinite and subtle complexity that organic life itself shall form part of its operational matrix. And you yourselves shall take on new forms and go down into the computer to navigate its ten-million-year program! Yes! I shall design this computer for you. And I shall name it also unto you. And it shall be called... The Earth."

    Phouchg gaped at Deep Thought.

    "What a dull name," he said.

    When the Earth was destroyed at the beginning of the story, it just so happened to be 5-minutes prior to the completion of this program. And so, the Question is lost, setting up a deal of conflict and strife. That is, until the next book.

    The Question, Book 2, **spoilers** Arthur picked up one of the letter stones from his home-made Scrabble set. It was a T. He sighed and out it down again. The letter he put down next to it was an I. That spelt IT. He tossed another couple of letters next to them. They were an S and an H as it happened. By a curious coincidence the resulting word perfectly expressed the way Arthur was feeling about things just then. He stared at it for a moment. He hadn't done it deliberately, it was just a random chance. His brain got slowly into first gear.

    "Ford," he said suddenly, "look, if that Question is printed in my brain wave patterns but I'm not consciously aware of it it must be somewhere in my unconscious."

    "Yes, I suppose so."

    "There might be a way of bringing that unconscious pattern forward."

    "Oh yes?"

    "Yes, by introducing some random element that can be shaped by that pattern."

    "Like how?"

    "Like by pulling Scrabble letters out of a bag blindfolded."

    Ford leapt to his feet.

    "Brilliant!" he said. He tugged his towel out of his satchel and with a few deft knots transformed it into a bag.

    "Totally mad," he said, "utter nonsense. But we'll do it because it's brilliant nonsense. Come on, come on."

    The sun passed respectfully behind a cloud. A few small sad raindrops fell.
    They piled together all the remaining letters and dropped them into the bag. They shook them up.

    "Right," said Ford, "close your eyes. Pull them out. Come on come on, come on."

    Arthur closed his eyes and plunged his hand into the towelful of stones. He jiggled them about, pulled out four and handed them to Ford. Ford laid them along the ground in the order he got them.

    "W," said Ford, "H, A, T ... What!"

    He blinked.

    "I think it's working!" he said.

    Arthur pushed three more at him.

    "D, O, Y ... Doy. Oh perhaps it isn't working," said Ford.

    "Here's the next three."

    "O, U, G ... Doyoug ... It's not making sense I'm afraid."

    Arthur pulled another two from the bag. Ford put them in place.

    "E, T, doyouget ... Do you get!" shouted Ford, "it is working! This is amazing, it really is working!"

    "More here." Arthur was throwing them out feverishly as fast as he could go.

    "I, F," said Ford, "Y, O, U, ... M, U, L, T, I, P, L, Y, ... What do you get if you multiply, ... S, I, X, ... six, B, Y, by, six by ... what do you get if you multiply six by ... N, I, N, E, ... six by nine ..." He paused. "Come on, where's the next one?"

    "Er, that's the lot," said Arthur, "that's all there were."

    He sat back, nonplussed.

    He rooted around again in the knotted up towel but there were no more letters.

    "You mean that's it?" said Ford.

    "That's it."

    "Six by nine. Forty-two."

    "That's it. That's all there is."

    Not only did we go great lengths to make sense of the Universe, but it turns out the Ultimate Question is trivial and its Answer is nonsense.
    That's the fundamental nature of the universe.

    As a kid this was something I looked at like, 'lol, yeah ok whatever'. But now I'm in a place in my life where it makes a perfect kind of sense that nothing makes sense.

    Something else I didn't really pick up on was Adams' contempt for God. I vaguely knew he was an atheist, but as with his absurdism it's something I only understand now that I'm older. Reading more about him—now that modern marvels such as Wikipedia exist—I know that he described himself as a radical-atheist. I'd suggest the word misotheist, or maltheist instead. Adam's seemed to have thought of God—were he to exist—to be malevonent, deceptive, and/or incompetent.

    Two excerpts follow:

    Garden of Eden, Book 2, not really spoilers "Alright, look at it this way ..."

    "Sounds good so far."

    "It's there for us to eat. Either it's good or it's bad, either they want to feed us or to poison us. If it's poisonous and we don't eat it they'll just attack us some other way. If we don't eat, we lose out either way."

    "I like the way you're thinking," said Ford, "Now eat one."

    Hesitantly, Arthur picked up one of those things that looked like pears.

    "I always thought that about the Garden of Eden story," said Ford.

    "Eh?"

    "Garden of Eden. Tree. Apple. That bit, remember?"

    "Yes of course I do."

    "Your God person puts an apple tree in the middle of a garden and says do what you like guys, oh, but don't eat the apple. Surprise surprise, they eat it and he leaps out from behind a bush shouting `Gotcha'. It wouldn't have made any difference if they hadn't eaten it."

    "Why not?"

    "Because if you're dealing with somebody who has the sort of mentality which likes leaving hats on the pavement with bricks under them you know perfectly well they won't give up. They'll get you in the end."

    "What are you talking about?"

    "Never mind, eat the fruit."

    "You know, this place almost looks like the Garden of Eden."

    "Eat the fruit."

    "Sounds quite like it too."

    Arthur took a bite from the thing which looked like a pear.

    "It's a pear," he said.

    That's a pretty well example of the deus deceptor of René Descartes' Cartesianism.

    God's Final Message to His Creation, Book 4, **spoilers** Some way ahead of them an awkward low shape was heaving itself wretchedly along the ground, stumbling painfully slowly, halflimping, half-crawling.

    It was moving so slowly that before too long they caught the creature up and could see that it was made of worn, scarred and twisted metal.

    It groaned at them as they approached it, collapsing in the hot dry dust.

    "So much time," it groaned, "oh so much time. And pain as well, so much of that, and so much time to suffer it in too. One or the other on its own I could probably manage. It's the two together that really get me down. Oh hello, you again."

    "Marvin?" said Arthur sharply, crouching down beside it. "Is that you?"

    "You were always one," groaned the aged husk of the robot, "for the super-intelligent question, weren't you?"

    "What is it?" whispered Fenchurch in alarm, crouching behind Arthur, and grasping on to his arm. "He's sort of an old friend," said Arthur. "I ..."

    "Friend!" croaked the robot pathetically. The word died away in a kind of crackle and flakes of rust fell out of its mouth.

    "You'll have to excuse me while I try and remember what the word means. My memory banks are not what they were you know, and any word which falls into disuse for a few zillion years has to get shifted down into auxiliary memory back-up. Ah, here it comes."

    The robot's battered head snapped up a bit as if in thought.

    "Hmm," he said, "what a curious concept."

    He thought a little longer.

    "No," he said at last, "don't think I ever came across one of those. Sorry, can't help you there."

    He scraped a knee along pathetically in the dust, and then tried to twist himself up on his misshapen elbows.

    "Is there any last service you would like me to perform for you perhaps?" he asked in a kind of hollow rattle. "A piece of paper that perhaps you would like me to pick up for you? Or maybe you would like me," he continued, "to open a door?"

    His head scratched round in its rusty neck bearings and seemed to scan the distant horizon.

    "Don't seem to be any doors around at present," he said, "but I'm sure that if we waited long enough, someone would build one. And then," he said slowly twisting his head around to see Arthur again, "I could open it for you. I'm quite used to waiting you know."

    "Arthur," hissed Fenchurch in his ear sharply, "you never told me of this. What have you done to this poor creature?"

    "Nothing," insisted Arthur sadly, "he's always like this ..."

    "Ha!" snapped Marvin. "Ha!" he repeated. "What do you know of always? You say `always' to me, who, because of the silly little errands your organic lifeforms keep on sending me through time on, am now thirty-seven times older than the Universe itself? Pick your words with a little more care," he coughed, "and tact."

    He rasped his way through a coughing fit and resumed.

    "Leave me," he said, "go on ahead, leave me to struggle painfully on my way. My time at last has nearly come. My race is nearly run. I fully expect," he said, feebly waving them on with a broken finger, "to come in last. It would be fitting. Here I am, brain the size ..."

    Between them they picked him up despite his feeble protests and insults. The metal was so hot it nearly blistered their fingers, but he weighed surprisingly little, and hung limply between their arms.

    They carried him with them along the path that ran along the left of the Great Red Plain of Rars toward the encircling mountains of Quentulus Quazgar.

    Arthur attempted to explain to Fenchurch, but was too often interrupted by Marvin's dolorous cybernetic ravings.
    They tried to see if they could get him some spare parts at one of the booths, but Marvin would have none of it.

    "I'm all spare parts," he droned.

    "Let me be!" he groaned.

    "Every part of me," he moaned, "has been replaced at least fifty times ... except ..." He seemed almost imperceptibly to brighten for a moment. His head bobbed between them with the effort of memory. "Do you remember, the first time you ever met me," he said at last to Arthur. "I had been given the intellect-stretching task of taking you up to the bridge? I mentioned to you that I had this terrible pain in all the diodes down my left side? That I had asked for them to be replaced but they never were?"

    He left a longish pause before he continued. They carried him on between them, under the baking sun that hardly ever seemed to move, let alone set.

    "See if you can guess," said Marvin, when he judged that the pause had become embarrassing enough, "which parts of me were never replaced? Go on, see if you can guess.

    "Ouch," he added, "ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch."

    At last they reached the last of the little booths, set down Marvin between them and rested in the shade. Fenchurch bought some cufflinks for Russell, cufflinks that had set in them little polished pebbles which had been picked up from the Quentulus Quazgar Mountains, directly underneath the letters of fire in which was written God's Final Message to His Creation.

    Arthur flipped through a little rack of devotional tracts on the counter, little meditations on the meaning of the Message.

    "Ready?" he said to Fenchurch, who nodded.

    They heaved up Marvin between them.

    They rounded the foot of the Quentulus Quazgar Mountains, and there was the Message written in blazing letters along the crest of the Mountain. There was a little observation vantage point with a rail built along the top of a large rock facing it, from which you could get a good view. It had a little pay-telescope for looking at the letters in detail, but no one would ever use it because the letters burned with the divine brilliance of the heavens and would, if seen through a telescope, have severely damaged the retina and optic nerve.

    They gazed at God's Final Message in wonderment, and were slowly and ineffably filled with a great sense of peace, and of final and complete understanding.

    Fenchurch sighed. "Yes," she said, "that was it."

    They had been staring at it for fully ten minutes before they became aware that Marvin, hanging between their shoulders, was in difficulties. The robot could no longer lift his head, had not read the message. They lifted his head, but he complained that his vision circuits had almost gone.

    They found a coin and helped him to the telescope. He complained and insulted them, but they helped him look at each individual letter in turn, The first letter was a "w", the second an "e". Then there was a gap. An "a" followed, then a "p", an "o" and an "l".

    Marvin paused for a rest.

    After a few moments they resumed and let him see the "o", the "g", the "i", the "s" and the "e".

    The next two words were "for" and "the". The last one was a long one, and Marvin needed another rest before he could tackle it.

    It started with an "i", then "n" then a "c". Next came an "o" and an "n", followed by a "v", an "e", another "n" and an "i".

    After a final pause, Marvin gathered his strength for the last stretch.

    He read the "e", the "n", the "c" and at last the final "e", and staggered back into their arms.

    "I think," he murmured at last, from deep within his corroding rattling thorax, "I feel good about it."

    The lights went out in his eyes for absolutely the very last time ever.

    If you've not read through the series before, that won't have had the same weight it would to it otherwise.

    I think these books are filled with a lot of intelligence and wisdom and philosophy in-between all the Kill-O-Zap guns and Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters. They reflect a man who struggled to find meaning in the life and universe, but wore a smile along the way.

    If you like Stephen Fry, or Doctor Who, then Douglas Adams ought to be right up your alley as well.

    5 votes
    1. thundergolfer
      Link Parent
      Just read The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe last week. I'm loving the series. I'm so impressed that his absurdism is consistently funny. I imagined that it might get tired and start...

      Just read The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe last week. I'm loving the series.

      I'm so impressed that his absurdism is consistently funny. I imagined that it might get tired and start feeling arbitrary.

      1 vote
    2. acdw
      Link Parent
      Hitchhiker's Guide is a seminal book of my life. You know he also wrote episodes for Doctor Who? I thought that was really funny when I found out, and it makes a lot of sense. I used to read the...

      Hitchhiker's Guide is a seminal book of my life. You know he also wrote episodes for Doctor Who? I thought that was really funny when I found out, and it makes a lot of sense. I used to read the Guide books every year in high school, but it's been quite a while since I've read them now. I think it might be time to pick them up again.

  2. 45930
    Link
    I recently read "The Sound and the Fury" as well as "Not Without Laughter". It was coincidence that I read them back to back, but they are highly related novels. They both portray the south or...

    I recently read "The Sound and the Fury" as well as "Not Without Laughter". It was coincidence that I read them back to back, but they are highly related novels. They both portray the south or near-south, about 2 generations post-slavery, and explore the themes of society moving into the 20th century. I quite liked both novels, but ended up preferring "Not Without Laughter" as it is just a more palatable and relatable read. I do think it was worth reading both though, for the opportunity to see both the "white" and the "black" perspective.

    I also just finished "Cannery Row". I enjoyed it the least out of any Steinbeck I've read so far, although it had its moments. It felt to me far too positive and lackadaisical, like there's no such thing as consequence. What I've come to expect from Steinbeck is "good" characters getting fucked over, but what "Cannery Row" delivered was "bad" characters getting away with anything.

    As a rest from drab 20th century novels, I'm reading the first book in the "Mistborn" series now. I was a big fan of the Stormlight Archives, and this seems to be nearly as good. I'm enjoying it so far.

    5 votes
  3. [3]
    acdw
    Link
    I finished the 13th Continuum series, which was pretty good. The second book lagged, and I think the conclusion could've been more satisfying, but overall it was pretty good. After that, I hit a...

    I finished the 13th Continuum series, which was pretty good. The second book lagged, and I think the conclusion could've been more satisfying, but overall it was pretty good.

    After that, I hit a real streak of juvenile titles: I read Smile!, Sisters, and Ghosts, all by Raina Telgemeier, an Eisner-award-winning graphic novelist. The first two are memoirs, and the last is a novel about two sisters who move to a new town full of ghosts. They were all really good, and quick reads -- I read them in an afternoon.

    Then I read a book called Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling, which is about a girl with no arms as she moves to Arizona and finds out about her past. I thought the ending was going to be more intense than it was, but it was an enjoyable novel that I thought dealt with the lived experience of being disabled well. Of course, I'm not disabled, so I don't know if it did or not, not really. But I enjoyed the book.

    Now, I'm trying to read some essays on lyric poetry, from The Radiant Lyre (ed. David Baker and Ann Townsend), a book I got in college for a poetry class and probably read one essay from. So far it's slow going. But the discussion is really interesting!

    4 votes
    1. [2]
      kfwyre
      Link Parent
      While I thought the main mystery of Insigificant Events was a little contrived, I liked that it didn't fall into the trope of making the book all about the main character's disability. It's there,...

      While I thought the main mystery of Insigificant Events was a little contrived, I liked that it didn't fall into the trope of making the book all about the main character's disability. It's there, but it's not the only texture for her character.

      A while back I came across a version of the Bechdel Test for disability called the the Tyrion Test.

      The three components are:

      1. At least one character with disabilities is involved in significant plot developments not centered on their disabilities,
      2. Disabilities are depicted realistically, neither less nor more severe than they would be in real life, and
      3. Disabled characters are givers as well as receivers … supportive of other characters, not just supported by them.

      Insignificant Events definitely checks 1 and 3 (I especially liked how Aven was a leader for her friend with Tourette's). I can't really say whether it adequately meets 2, but I'll give it the benefit of the doubt.

      I haven't read it yet, but there's a sequel: Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus. All of my teacher peers who read it felt that it was actually better than the first.

      1 vote
      1. acdw
        Link Parent
        That Tyrion Test is really neat, thanks for sharing! I'd agree with your take on its application as well, though I think Insignificant Events matches 2 as well -- though I, too, can't really speak...

        That Tyrion Test is really neat, thanks for sharing! I'd agree with your take on its application as well, though I think Insignificant Events matches 2 as well -- though I, too, can't really speak from experience.

        That's also good to know about the sequel! I think Insignificant might be the author's first novel, so it'd make sense she'd improve with the next offering. I'll definitely have to check it out!

        1 vote
  4. [4]
    iiv
    Link
    Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco. It's a thriller set in the eighties, three overly educated publishers interested in free masons, knight templars and medieval and renaissance history get tired...

    Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco. It's a thriller set in the eighties, three overly educated publishers interested in free masons, knight templars and medieval and renaissance history get tired of manuscripts littered by ridiculous conspiracy theories. Half mockingly, and half seriously they start developing their own theory, equally ridiculous but historically plausible. Of course, this spirals out of control. Other themes include Kabbalah, iterations, symbolism and bravery. Also, what defines reality? It's basically the Da Vinci Code written by an intellectual. If you have read anything by Eco you know what I'm talking about. I can promise you that you will learn quite a bit about Jewish beliefs, Christianity, conspiracies and associative thinking. I highly recommend it!

    4 votes
    1. [3]
      acdw
      Link Parent
      Oh this sounds cool. Does their conspiracy theory end up being true? Or is that a spoiler of the book?

      Oh this sounds cool. Does their conspiracy theory end up being true? Or is that a spoiler of the book?

      1. [2]
        iiv
        Link Parent
        It's very cool! Your question is phrased in such a way that any way I answer it will be a spoiler:) But yes, it turns out to be true, and it's not a massive spoiler.

        It's very cool! Your question is phrased in such a way that any way I answer it will be a spoiler:) But yes, it turns out to be true, and it's not a massive spoiler.

        1 vote
        1. acdw
          Link Parent
          Sounds awesome; I'll have to check it out :)

          Sounds awesome; I'll have to check it out :)

  5. tomf
    Link
    I finished off the Game of Thrones series. I'm completely neutral on the books. There are some storylines I really liked, but I didn't feel like I left with anything I didn't go in with. It was...

    I finished off the Game of Thrones series. I'm completely neutral on the books. There are some storylines I really liked, but I didn't feel like I left with anything I didn't go in with. It was interesting to see how the series added some unnecessarily brutal scenes with Joff and Reek. In this regard, the books are better.

    I re-read Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men. If you liked the movie, you'll like the book. It's got to be one of the most faithful adaptations going.

    I've been working through Max Allan Collins' Nathan Heller series. I really liked the first bunch of them, but with Flying Blind and Majic Man, I'm kind of getting tired of the series. Majick Man is alright, but I think I'm ready to move on. I LOVED every second of his Quarry series.

    I need a good spy novel. I read The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintrye a while back and liked it, even though it read like a dossier or briefing. I'm hoping to find something along these lines.

    3 votes
  6. [5]
    liquidbible
    Link
    I'm about to finish Name of the Wind. I'd been holding off since the 3rd book isn't released yet but I was pressured by my SO. I really glad I started it. Such a good book.

    I'm about to finish Name of the Wind. I'd been holding off since the 3rd book isn't released yet but I was pressured by my SO. I really glad I started it. Such a good book.

    3 votes
    1. [4]
      acdw
      Link Parent
      Sounds neat -- what's it about? If you don't mind saying so. I can look it up if you do!

      Sounds neat -- what's it about? If you don't mind saying so. I can look it up if you do!

      1 vote
      1. [3]
        Sill
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        The Kingkiller Chronicle (NotW is the first of three) involves a story within a story, recounted by an unreliable narrator, where storytelling is a mechanic of the world. Superficially it is a...

        The Kingkiller Chronicle (NotW is the first of three) involves a story within a story, recounted by an unreliable narrator, where storytelling is a mechanic of the world.

        Superficially it is a fantasy story with a lot of attention paid to detail/world-building, a system of magic that resembles engineering (e.g., what is the efficiency of linking the heat in a clay vase to a fireplace), and a flawed hero.

        The story switches between the legendary protagonist-turned-rural innkeeper in a world on the brink of a collapse he caused, and his recollections of how he screwed up, despite good intentions.

        Major themes of the book are appreciating something vs wanted to possess it, and folly/hubris being the flipside of genius.

        Less superficially, it is a love-letter to writing. There's homage payed to old fantasy and creation myths, and slipping into iambic pentameter (for probably the most complained about section), but while I enjoyed it/thought the prose was good, that isn't unique or important.

        Various characters and groups within the story are trying to wrest away control over how various stories--including the main one-- are told. This is because storytelling is a subtle form of magic within the universe.

        For me, the reason the author did that is because "storytelling" is magic within our lives as well. The mental schema and stories that we tell about ourselves shape us in subtle and powerful ways. A friend of the protagonist aggressively tries to control the way his story is recounted because he wants him to get past his depression: (paraphrased) "focus on the happy/empowering stuff, don't talk about the music".

        It's a series that rewards you for paying attention to small things. The first time I read it I didn't appreciate it as much as I came to. If you don't get this component of what the story is doing you can finish book #2 feeling underwhelmed by the amount of plot that happened.

        It also has a great audiobook, and arguably was written to be read out loud.

        There is a lot of resemblance to the college experience in the book. I think I've heard the first book called "Student Loan Simulator"? The second book is a semester abroad, an exposure to foreign ways of thinking and being, an intro sociology class trying to get you to be less ethnocentric.

        An example, not very spoilery In the second book, the protagonist has been warned about not changing names. He receives a sword that has been passed down for hundreds of generations, and, not understanding the warnings, changes the name on a whim:

        "I drew it from its sheath. The faint ring of leather and metal seemed to whisper of its name: Saicere [...] I slid it back into its sheath and the sound was different. It sounded like the breaking of a line. It said Caesura."

        The outcome of this hasn't been written yet, but in another way it has. The author borrowed a poetry term, "caesura", that is an onomatopoeia for the sound a sword makes when it slides in a sheath. By changing the name of the sword, the protagonist rewrote its story to be used to "break a (royal) line" in a series called Kingkiller. From there, you can speculate about who that king was based on other bits...

        1 vote
        1. [2]
          acdw
          Link Parent
          This sounds amazing, thanks for the write-up! Sounds similar to A Wizard of Earthsea, at least with the naming and the power of names/words. And I loved Wizard, so I'll definitely check this book out.

          This sounds amazing, thanks for the write-up! Sounds similar to A Wizard of Earthsea, at least with the naming and the power of names/words. And I loved Wizard, so I'll definitely check this book out.

          1 vote
          1. Sill
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            Hope you enjoy it! I'll have to add A Wizard of Earthsea to my list. I wasn't thinking of it, but Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven has a lot of the metafiction aspects.

            Hope you enjoy it!

            I'll have to add A Wizard of Earthsea to my list. I wasn't thinking of it, but Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven has a lot of the metafiction aspects.

            1 vote
  7. Staross
    Link
    L'Éducation sentimentale by Gustave Flaubert. It's a story of a young, naive man trying to establish himself in Paris around the second French revolution (1848). It's quite funny, full of...

    L'Éducation sentimentale by Gustave Flaubert. It's a story of a young, naive man trying to establish himself in Paris around the second French revolution (1848). It's quite funny, full of historical details and very well written (Flaubert is one of the most famous French writer). The social milieu (bourgeois/aristocrat) the action takes place in isn't my favorite, but it's still quite entertaining. and I feel somewhat getting educated while reading it.

    3 votes
  8. moocow1452
    Link
    Finished up Marvels, and goddamn would that be an incredible Disney+ premise for the MCU, for a boots on the ground look at the Avengers, the shenanigans they get up to, Jameson Alex Jonesing it...

    Finished up Marvels, and goddamn would that be an incredible Disney+ premise for the MCU, for a boots on the ground look at the Avengers, the shenanigans they get up to, Jameson Alex Jonesing it up about Captain Marvel not really being part of the Avengers, or Sam Wilson not being the best choice for the New Captain America. Give me all of that.

    Started on Kingdom Come since the artist was the same, and it hasn't really caught me yet, but I'm sure it will come soon enough.

    3 votes
  9. [6]
    JakeTheDog
    Link
    I finished Crime and Punishment. God was that ever a good story. It was an unusual experience to read something that is constantly depressing and dark and yet so engaging. Like the cliche of not...

    I finished Crime and Punishment. God was that ever a good story. It was an unusual experience to read something that is constantly depressing and dark and yet so engaging. Like the cliche of not being able to turn away from a car accident. I particularly enjoyed how raw and real the psychology of the characters was, at least in my perception. I feel like a learned a little bit more about people by reading it.

    Next up is The Brothers Karamazov. I'm going to keep reading Dostoevsky until I can't take anymore.

    3 votes
    1. [5]
      acdw
      Link Parent
      I don't think I've ever read any Russian literature (unless you count Nabokov, which I don't really). What's so engaging about it? If you don't mind shedding some more light. Is it just the depth...

      I don't think I've ever read any Russian literature (unless you count Nabokov, which I don't really). What's so engaging about it? If you don't mind shedding some more light. Is it just the depth of the characterization? Would you recommend starting with something like Crime and Punishment, or would you start with something lighter?

      1. [4]
        JakeTheDog
        Link Parent
        I haven't either, this is my first one. So I can't offer any advice there. But, it's his most famous and of moderate length so that helps. TBH, I actually couldn't get into it after the first...

        I haven't either, this is my first one. So I can't offer any advice there. But, it's his most famous and of moderate length so that helps. TBH, I actually couldn't get into it after the first attempt (just one chapter, and it was forced), but I gave it another try after a few months.

        Regarding the engagement. Dostoevsky did a great job making the characters feel real in the sense that they were not exceptional—just regular Joe's and Jane's off the street. So this realism allowed an easy connection, IMO. There is also the likeability of the main characters, they're characters that anyone would want to be friends with. So again, another level of connection. At no point in the story did I think something was unrealistic. Lastly, and most significant, there is a sort of initial "climax" of the story in very early on when the crime occurs, and the majority of the book is spent on the punishment aspect, which is a slow and steady plot with some abrupt turns (but no twists per se).

        Perhaps a good way to put it is that Dostoevsky really makes you attached to the main character by showing his good values (because though he commits a heinous crime, hes is not evil or necessarily the bad guy) and then puts you in a state of constant tension and internal conflict about how to judge the main character in different scenarios over a very long time (most of the book). And the realism really made me care about what happens because it's relatable to real life.

        I'm not the best literary analyst so I hope that is a satisfactory answer!

        1 vote
        1. [3]
          acdw
          Link Parent
          That's perfect analysis, thanks! It sounds really interesting -- I like stories about flawed, real people, and this sounds right up my alley. I'll reserve it from the library!

          That's perfect analysis, thanks! It sounds really interesting -- I like stories about flawed, real people, and this sounds right up my alley. I'll reserve it from the library!

          1. [2]
            JakeTheDog
            Link Parent
            If you have any such suggestions I would love to hear it! In general, with movies, I like when the story ends without a happy ending, namely bittersweet endings. I suppose I like tragedies.

            If you have any such suggestions I would love to hear it! In general, with movies, I like when the story ends without a happy ending, namely bittersweet endings. I suppose I like tragedies.

            1 vote
            1. acdw
              Link Parent
              Haha, my sister told me once that she hated watching movies with me because I liked unhappy endings, so I know what you mean. I'll see what I can think of and either comment here or message you...

              Haha, my sister told me once that she hated watching movies with me because I liked unhappy endings, so I know what you mean. I'll see what I can think of and either comment here or message you about it.

              1 vote
  10. [3]
    kfwyre
    Link
    I'm in the middle of Michelle Obama's Becoming. I was initially intimidated by its length, but I'm about halfway through and it's gone a lot quicker than I expected. It's an effortless read,...

    I'm in the middle of Michelle Obama's Becoming. I was initially intimidated by its length, but I'm about halfway through and it's gone a lot quicker than I expected. It's an effortless read, carried by her articulate and thoughtful voice. It's been great learning about her life before she was the First Lady, as I didn't really know her full story.

    3 votes
    1. [2]
      acdw
      Link Parent
      That sounds really interesting -- have you read Barack Obama's books? I've heard they're quite good as well. I'm not usually that into (auto)biographies, but maybe I'll check Michelle Obama's out.

      That sounds really interesting -- have you read Barack Obama's books? I've heard they're quite good as well. I'm not usually that into (auto)biographies, but maybe I'll check Michelle Obama's out.

      1 vote
      1. kfwyre
        Link Parent
        I've only read The Audacity of Hope. It's been so long since I read it (2008) that I can't really say much about it other than I liked it at the time.

        I've only read The Audacity of Hope. It's been so long since I read it (2008) that I can't really say much about it other than I liked it at the time.

        1 vote
  11. [3]
    Seven
    Link
    Right now I'm reading How To by Randall Munroe, the guy who makes XKCD. It's super funny, entertaining as all heck, and has that classic XKCD humor. It's also pretty informative, and I find myself...

    Right now I'm reading How To by Randall Munroe, the guy who makes XKCD. It's super funny, entertaining as all heck, and has that classic XKCD humor. It's also pretty informative, and I find myself learning a lot about all different areas of science and engineering. Overall, if you like XKCD, you'll like How To as well.

    3 votes
    1. [2]
      acdw
      Link Parent
      I love XKCD, and I really liked Munroe's What if series as well. I've been meaning to check out his other books; thanks for the recommendation!

      I love XKCD, and I really liked Munroe's What if series as well. I've been meaning to check out his other books; thanks for the recommendation!

      1 vote