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Author Topic: The Literary Thread  (Read 14667 times)

Snarky

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The Literary Thread
« on: 24 Nov 2011, 19:01 »
Some people like to read. Some people like to write. This is a thread for people who want to write about what they're reading.

Over the last couple of weeks or so I've read Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, Persuasion by Jane Austen, Snuff by Terry Pratchett, and The Plague Court Murders by Carter Dickson. (Yikes! It does add up, doesn't it?)

I used to think Austen was just chick-lit, but as I've come to understand more about the society the books take place in (where getting married to the right guy was not just a matter of romance, but quite possibly of survival) I've become more appreciative of the real stakes in her books. The only thing I don't quite like about her is that she's so snobby and judgmental of her characters (except for the hero and heroine, for the most part). I've recently been reading a lot of P.G. Wodehouse, who plays similar situations in similar settings for a laugh, but he has a much more generous attitude to and apparent affection for his characters, even when they are idiots, frauds or pompous hypocrites.

Snuff felt to me like standard late-period Pratchett. A bit unfocused, a bit preachy, most of the jokes didn't really connect, but strangely readable nevertheless. The only Pratchett book I've really loved in the last few years was Nation.

I love a good locked-room mystery, and John Dickson Carr/Carter Dickson was the master of them. I've read a lot of his stories, though, and I think I'm getting a bit jaded. Even if I usually can't tell whodunnit or exactly how it was done (his methods of murder often being highly baroque), I have a pretty good idea of where to expect humbug. The Plague Court Murders was an alright entry, even if the supernatural atmosphere fell slightly flat and the eventual solution was a disappointment.

I've just started on Röde Orm (The Long Ships) by Frans Gunnar Bengtsson, having come across Michael Chabon's recommendation of it earlier this year. Oh, and I got the first volume of the Complete Carl Barks' Donald Duck from Fantagraphics, so I'm dipping into that in between. Please buy a copy so Fantagraphics continues to put them out!

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Re: The Literary Thread
« Reply #1 on: 24 Nov 2011, 21:37 »
How did you like Jonathan Strange? That's the only one I read from the bunch you mentioned.

I'm currently reading (and really enjoying) the classic The Good Soldier Švejk - 4 hefty tomes of episodic dark yet humorous misadventures from World War I. Would make an excellent adventure game - even the old illustration look like wonderful material for character sprites:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Good_Soldier_%C5%A0vejk

Overall, I can't say I read fast or that much though, so I'll be on Svejk at least until the New Year probably.
« Last Edit: 24 Nov 2011, 21:40 by Ascovel »

Re: The Literary Thread
« Reply #2 on: 24 Nov 2011, 22:43 »
Uff, I used to read a lot more, but lately I've been a tad preoccupied with other things. Latest stuff I read was 4 parts of the Autodesk Official Training Guide Essentials for 3ds Max and I passed the test but still have the certificate exam next week.

I'm going through Discworld right now though, I've read Guards, guards and now I'm in the middle of Moving pictures. Then I'll take a pause with Prachett and since I got Kindle, there's a lot more to read, next is at least the first book of Game of thrones (need to get ready for next season in April), Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse five and maybe a few shorts of either Conan or Sherlock Holmes novels.

Btw so far the best software for Kindle I found is Calibre, it's great for organizing digital books, downloads various feeds you might want (has a list that you can choose and there's a LOT of it) like National Geo, io9 etc.
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Re: The Literary Thread
« Reply #3 on: 24 Nov 2011, 22:51 »
I also want to start reading Game of Thrones.  But at the moment I'm on The Girl Who Played With Fire, part II of Steig Larsson's Millennium trilogy.  Part one (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) was brilliant, but I'm not enjoying book II so much.  I'm about 5/6ths of the way through, nothing has really happened and there're far too many characters.

Takes me ages to read books though so don't expect much more input from me for a while on this thread. :(

Ali

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Re: The Literary Thread
« Reply #4 on: 24 Nov 2011, 23:02 »
I love Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell!  I've been going through a long-title period:

As part of an attempt to read books written by female women, I also read my first Jane Austen (Mansfield Park) relatively recently. I also read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and the amazingly titled Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead which was bizarre and excellent.

Most recently I finished C. S. Lewis's preachy Jesus-lovin' sci-fi trilogy with That Hideous Strength, and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. To help me sleep, I tried to read Kant's Critique of Pure Reason but it worked and I didn't.

But the biggest recent revelation has been Watchmen and V for Vendetta. I've never read comic books (except Maus) and I was always put off by the idea of superheroes and the notion of saving the world. Moore makes (anti-)heroes work in such interesting and dramatic ways. I am converted (sorry C. S. Lewis).


Re: The Literary Thread
« Reply #5 on: 25 Nov 2011, 00:29 »
But the biggest recent revelation has been Watchmen and V for Vendetta. I've never read comic books (except Maus) and I was always put off by the idea of superheroes and the notion of saving the world. Moore makes (anti-)heroes work in such interesting and dramatic ways. I am converted (sorry C. S. Lewis).
The next step is Sandman series then. A mix of everything...well not that much superheroes but it has everything from drama, Shakespeare, several mythologies and lots of smart dialog courtesy of mr. Gaiman at his finest.
« Last Edit: 25 Nov 2011, 00:32 by anian »
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LUniqueDan

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Re: The Literary Thread
« Reply #6 on: 25 Nov 2011, 00:38 »
Good thread Snarky!

I'm late on my casual reading pattern : One Sherlock Holmes non-canonical rip-off and one Cyperpunk/post-cyberpunk novel every Summer, but I still need to finish reading more serious stuff for my works.
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Snarky

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Re: The Literary Thread
« Reply #7 on: 25 Nov 2011, 09:33 »
How did you like Jonathan Strange? That's the only one I read from the bunch you mentioned.

I liked it OK. I enjoyed the female POV on a male-dominated society, with the guys portrayed as oblivious to women, more interested in going off on adventures that eventually start to seem pretty childish. I think I would have liked it more if the characters weren't quite so outré; like with Austen (who's obviously a model), I felt like Clarke didn't have a lot of sympathy or affection for most of them.

I'm going through Discworld right now though, I've read Guards, guards and now I'm in the middle of Moving pictures. Then I'll take a pause with Prachett

It's probably best to do no more than a couple at a time, or you risk burnout. Same thing with P.G. Wodehouse: very funny stuff, but if you read five in a row you'll start to feel you've read the same book five times.

As part of an attempt to read books written by female women, I also read my first Jane Austen (Mansfield Park) relatively recently. I also read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and the amazingly titled Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead which was bizarre and excellent.

Edit: I missed this at first. Yeah, I'm the same. My parents were visiting recently, and my mother pointed out that I have quite few books by female authors; and most of those are mysteries (Daphne du Maurier, Ngaio Marsh, Donna Tartt, Tana French, ...). I thought I might give Marilynne Robinson a try.

Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead sounds like something J.G. Ballard might have written, from the Amazon summary. Thanks for the tip!

Most recently I finished C. S. Lewis's preachy Jesus-lovin' sci-fi trilogy with That Hideous Strength

Man, I'm not sure I could even finish Out of the Silent Planet (last thing I remember, the main character was walking over a Martian mountain range or something). Really did not like that one.

Quote
But the biggest recent revelation has been Watchmen and V for Vendetta. I've never read comic books (except Maus) and I was always put off by the idea of superheroes and the notion of saving the world. Moore makes (anti-)heroes work in such interesting and dramatic ways. I am converted (sorry C. S. Lewis).

There's a lot more to comics than superheroes, though you seem to have started with the ultimate superhero deconstruction. If you enjoy Moore, you should also try his Miracleman, Swamp Thing, From Hell and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, though the first two are (atypical!) superheroes. And yes, Neil Gaiman, who continued and further developed Moore's ambitious style. (Did anyone see him on The Simpsons last week? I thought the way they used him was very funny.) I would particularly recommend Mr. Punch (The Comical Tragedy or Tragical Comedy of...), which has some of that Maus-like sense of retelling a family tragedy (though on a much smaller scale), and really shows off Gaiman's skill at telling adult stories from children's perspectives.

For further non-superhero comics, I would particularly recommend the books by Jacques Tardi currently being published by Fantagraphics. He's probably most famous for The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec, a series of ironically over-the-top pulp stories (mummies! reawakened dinosaurs! monsters! demonic cults! psychic powers! mad scientists!) set in belle époque Paris.

Ed Brubaker is probably the best currently active writer of the noir genre, and his Criminal series tells self-contained stories in each volume (though with overlapping casts). If you enjoy stories of low-lives and other desperate or sad people making bad decisions for love, lust, greed or naiveté, it's an absolute must.

Jason is a Norwegian cartoonist (living in France), who draws droll, understated stories focusing on characters and relationships, even when they involve time machines, space travel or werewolves, and even though all characters are drawn as (very angular and blank-faced) Disney-style "funny animals." All his books are published in English by Fantagraphics, and I would start with Hey, Wait! and The Last Musketeer, or maybe Tell Me Something.

For modern American indie-comics, Blankets by Craig Thompson might be a good entry point, as a very personal coming-of-age, coming-to-terms-with-religious-upbringing, and falling-in-love story, told simply and well. (His new book Habibi is recently out, too; has anyone read it?)

And as a final recommendation, the Cities of the Fantastic by François Schuiten and Benoït Peeters (in English from NBM; maybe start with Brüsel) are like strange dreams from Jules Verne's subconscious, a world where respectable Victorian science and progress are set against inexplicable phenomena and human sensuality. The drawings in particular are superb.
« Last Edit: 06 Oct 2014, 21:20 by Snarky »

Re: The Literary Thread
« Reply #8 on: 25 Nov 2011, 12:28 »
I am currently reading a book with novels and theater pieces of Anton Chéjov. To be more concrete, I am reading for the second time the whole book (+- 1,300 pages). Chejov novels are sad and tender at the same time. 'Tis one of my favourite authors.

« Last Edit: 06 Oct 2014, 21:21 by Snarky »

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Re: The Literary Thread
« Reply #9 on: 25 Nov 2011, 18:34 »
What a really good idea for a thread!

Sadly i'm between books at the moment although I can chomp through a whole series at a time when I do get going. I tend to read sci-fi/fantasy stuff - too many to list but i'm partway through Peter F Hamilton's The Night's Dawn Trilogy after thoroughly enjoying his Commonwealth Saga books - and i'm partial to a bit of Pratchett myself. I think I read as far as Wyrd Sisters but we have a few of the other books i've yet to get to.

The last book I read was the first Sherlock Holmes story A Study in Scarlet which I bought as part of The Complete Sherlock Holmes on my new Kindle just recently. It was my first experience of Holmes/Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and I really enjoyed it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the BBC mini-series Sherlock which is what prompted me to try the books (that and a bit of Kindle-fever which has subsided since I lent it to my Dad), and it was interesting to see the differences. The writing still felt quite modern and relevant. It did go off on a strange tangent in the middle with the back story but it was satisfying to see it all tied back together at the end, even if it did end a bit quickly. Looking forward to reading the rest when I get my Kindle back.

I recently picked up another book in a series I enjoy which is Lost City by Clive Cussler from his Numa Files adventures with Kurt Austin as the main character. They're silly adventure stories really, quite cliché, but I quite enjoy them as a bit of light reading. I've read almost all the Numa files - just 4 to go after this one - so will probably try his Dirk Pitt novels after this.

I'm bookmarking this to come back to when i'm actually reading something decent!

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Re: The Literary Thread
« Reply #10 on: 25 Nov 2011, 18:42 »
I've been reading a lot of classic horror (Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Algernon Blackwood, Arthur Machen, etc), Harlan Ellison's The Beast that Shouted Love at the Heart of the World, and Alex Cox's 10,000 Ways to Die, a retrospective of the Spaghetti Western.
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Re: The Literary Thread
« Reply #11 on: 26 Nov 2011, 11:22 »
I am currently reading a book with novels and theater pieces of Anton Chéjov. To be more concrete, I am reading for the second time the whole book (+- 1,300 pages). Chejov novels are sad and tender at the same time. 'Tis one of my favourite authors.

I've only read one collection by Chekhov, and I don't remember a single story from it, so I guess it didn't make much of an impression. I've never been much for the Russian authors; I've given Tolstoy a try a couple of times, and had a go at Dostoevsky once, but I don't think it's for me. I found The Gulag Archipelago fascinating, though.

If you were to pick one favorite Chekhov story, which one would you recommend?

(BTW, are you Spanish or Portuguese? The spelling of Chekhov appears to be Spanish, but "novel" for what the English call a short story or novella seems like something a Portuguese person might write.)
« Last Edit: 06 Oct 2014, 21:22 by Snarky »

Ali

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Re: The Literary Thread
« Reply #12 on: 26 Nov 2011, 13:20 »
Thanks for the graphic novel suggestions Snarky. Regarding Russian literature, have you tried any of Gogol's short stories?

The Nose and The Diary of a Madman are both quite funny stories of madness and bureaucracy. The Overcoat is a tragi-comic satire.

He has a very different style and tone to Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy (also, I just remembered that I also read Tolstoy's novella The Kreutzer Sonata last week).

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Re: The Literary Thread
« Reply #13 on: 26 Nov 2011, 14:20 »
(also, I just remembered that I also read Tolstoy's novella The Kreutzer Sonata last week).

You accidentally just picked up and read a book by Tolstoy last week and wouldn't even remember about it, if not this thread? :o

Ali

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Re: The Literary Thread
« Reply #14 on: 26 Nov 2011, 14:30 »
Yes, but it's very short and I've been quite busy!

Re: The Literary Thread
« Reply #15 on: 30 Nov 2011, 13:17 »
I am currently reading a book with novels and theater pieces of Anton Chéjov. To be more concrete, I am reading for the second time the whole book (+- 1,300 pages). Chejov novels are sad and tender at the same time. 'Tis one of my favourite authors.

I've only read one collection by Chekhov, and I don't remember a single story from it, so I guess it didn't make much of an impression. I've never been much for the Russian authors; I've given Tolstoy a try a couple of times, and had a go at Dostoevsky once, but I don't think it's for me. I found The Gulag Archipelago fascinating, though.

If you were to pick one favorite Chekhov story, which one would you recommend?

(BTW, are you Spanish or Portuguese? The spelling of Chekhov appears to be Spanish, but "novel" for what the English call a short story or novella seems like something a Portuguese person might write.)

I am a spanish speaker so forgive my mistakes. :(

Yes, here short stories are called nouvelles, but I wasn't sure how it is translated into english. I would sugest you Ward No. 6, which I believe is one of the most known novellas of his. I mean, I was locked up in a mental ward about three times so I can relate to it.

 :o

Anyways, I can't take my eyes off the book by now. After it, I am about to pick up Martin Amis or Julian Barnes.

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Re: The Literary Thread
« Reply #16 on: 18 Dec 2011, 22:24 »
Recently read The secret history by Donna Tartt, which was very good but a bit long - not really tedious, but unnecessarily long, simply.

Then read some old English classics, including several Lovecraft stories. I think they're generally amusing, if a bit repetitious.

Recently started on Norwegian Wood, and found it entertaining in the beginning, but then it started to feel unrefined, and the dialogues would sometimes just go on forever without any substance. I look forward reading his other works, like 1q84 and the wind-up bird chronicles.

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Re: The Literary Thread
« Reply #17 on: 18 Dec 2011, 23:06 »
Thanks for the graphic novel suggestions Snarky. Regarding Russian literature, have you tried any of Gogol's short stories?

The Nose and The Diary of a Madman are both quite funny stories of madness and bureaucracy. The Overcoat is a tragi-comic satire.

He has a very different style and tone to Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy (also, I just remembered that I also read Tolstoy's novella The Kreutzer Sonata last week).

I read Gogol's The Nose some years ago, it came on a small collection of short stories written by Chamisso, Hoffman, Andersen and Gogol himself. I remember it being a bit unsettling, with the main characters not able to fit in their societies, misfits like.
On a similar note, if one wants to feel quite uncomfortable and even "dazed", he should try Heartsnatcher by Boris Vian, I still remember many passages of the book and never quite forgotten how its words were so morbid.

But that was when I was looking to be surprised by literature, even if it hurt. Right now I prefer "soft" reading as I am tired of all the atrocities that real life delivers. So, I'm trying to finish Book 5 from The Wheel of Time (fantastic work!) and ready to star the first from Game of Thrones.
That's it, great thread!
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Re: The Literary Thread
« Reply #18 on: 19 Dec 2011, 12:19 »
@Andail.  I read the Secret History a couple or so years ago.  It's up there among my favourite books.  It's true Tartt does waffle on about irrelevent details, but somehow I wouldn't have it any other way. The story was fantastic.  Have you read The Little Friend as well?  That's good too (although I still need to finish it).

Re: The Literary Thread
« Reply #19 on: 19 Dec 2011, 17:01 »
Thanks for the graphic novel suggestions Snarky. Regarding Russian literature, have you tried any of Gogol's short stories?

The Nose and The Diary of a Madman are both quite funny stories of madness and bureaucracy. The Overcoat is a tragi-comic satire.

He has a very different style and tone to Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy (also, I just remembered that I also read Tolstoy's novella The Kreutzer Sonata last week).

I read Gogol's The Nose some years ago, it came on a small collection of short stories written by Chamisso, Hoffman, Andersen and Gogol himself. I remember it being a bit unsettling, with the main characters not able to fit in their societies, misfits like.
On a similar note, if one wants to feel quite uncomfortable and even "dazed", he should try Heartsnatcher by Boris Vian, I still remember many passages of the book and never quite forgotten how its words were so morbid.

But that was when I was looking to be surprised by literature, even if it hurt. Right now I prefer "soft" reading as I am tired of all the atrocities that real life delivers. So, I'm trying to finish Book 5 from The Wheel of Time (fantastic work!) and ready to star the first from Game of Thrones.
That's it, great thread!

I remember a while back I read a volume of nouvelles, novels and theater pieces of Gógol. I liked VI, which also has two movies, an old one and a recent one. Gógol is generally playful in his style but he also has some spooky sides, like the cited VI.

I finished re-reading my Chekhov book. I am now reading Yellow Dog, of Martin Amis. I only read "Night Train" of his and I liked it. Yellow Dog is a fun, and quite disturbing, black humor novel.