Author Topic: What book are you reading?  (Read 6016 times)

KyriakosCH

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Re: What book are you reading?
« Reply #20 on: 18 Apr 2020, 16:56 »
Nothing and no one is necessary, believe it or not.
That said, there are ways to salvage even the brazilian adventure and the monotone female type. Maybe a conspiracy.

Re: What book are you reading?
« Reply #21 on: 18 Apr 2020, 17:48 »

After some weeks I finished to read Atlas shrugged, Ayn Rand's most notable novel.

I have to admit that I discovered this novel just because in a website it is tagged with the works of Stanislaw Lem (one of my favourite writers) due the mix of sci-fi and philosophy. So I purchased and then read it.

Well, after the huge reading (about 1500 pages!) here is my impressions:

- sure a great epic and a good writing. The sci-fi element is marginal in the end, the philosophical is very impressive.
- great personality main characters.
- a story so modern that could happen even today.

But in my opinion this great novel also have his cons:
- Ayn Rand didn't talk explicity of capitalism and communism, but her idea of the proletarian system seems superficial and stereotypical. And it's strange considering her high culture.
- it seems more than atheist, I'd say is againist every religion. In particular induism, maybe is a criticism about Gandhi?
- and againist "modern philosopher" that deny the existence of the mind and the matter (nihilist?). But in general, it's like she say: my philosophy is right, all the others are wrong.

Well, these are just my opinions!  :)

_

KyriakosCH

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Re: What book are you reading?
« Reply #22 on: 19 Apr 2020, 02:35 »
^What was your view regarding Foucault's Pendulum, Frighter? (assuming you read it :) ).

The following, in the spoiler, is one of Belbo's writings, and appears in page 209 (of 309) :

Spoiler: ShowHide
"I was with Dr. Dee in the Golden City. We went along narrow and evil-smelling passageways not far from the cemetery of the Jews, and Dee told me to be careful. "If the news of the failed encounter has spread," he said, "the other groups will even now be acting on their own. I fear the Jews; the Jerusalemites have too many agents here in Prague..."
It was evening. The snow glistened, bluish. At the dark entrance to the Jewish quarter clustered the little stands of the Christmas market, and in their midst, decked in red cloth, was the obscene stage of a puppet theater lit by smoky torches. We passed beneath an arch of dressed stone, near a bronze fountain from whose grille long icicles hung, and there another passage opened. On old doors, gilded lion's heads sank their teeth into bronze rings. A slight shudder ran along the walls, inexplicable sounds came from the low roofs, rattlings from the drainpipes. The houses betrayed a ghostly life of their own, a hidden life...An old usurer, wrapped in a worn coat, brushed us in passing, and I thought I heard him murmur, "Beware Athanasius Per-nath..." Dee murmured back, "I fear quite another Athanasius..." And suddenly we were in the Alley of the Goldsmiths.
There, in the gloom of another alley-and the ears I no longer have, at this memory, quiver under my worn cap-a giant loomed up before us, a horrible gray creature with a dull expression, his body sheathed in bronze verdigris, leaning on a gnarled and knobby stick of white wood. The apparition gave off an intense odor of sandalwood. Mortal horror magically coalesced in that being that confronted me, yet I could not take my eyes off the nebulous globe that sat atop his shoulders, and in it discerned, barely, the rapacious face of an Egyptian ibis, and behind that face, more faces, incubi of my imagination and my memory. The outlines of the ghost, in the darkness of that alley, dilated, contracted, as in a slow, nonliving respiration....And-oh, horror!- instead of feet, I saw, as I stared at him, on the snow two shapeless stumps whose flesh, gray and bloodless, was rolled up, as if in concentric swellings.
My voracious memories....
"The golem!" Dee cried, raising both arms to heaven. His black coat with broad sleeves fell to the ground, as if to create a cingulum, an umbilical cord between the aerial position of the hands and the surface, or the depths, of the earth. "Jezebel, Malkuth, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes!" he said. And suddenly the golem dissolved like a sand castle struck by a gust of wind. We were blinded by the particles of its clay body, which tore through the air like atoms, until finally at our feet was a little pile of ashes. Dee bent down, searched in the ashes with his bony fingers, and drew out a scroll, which he hid in his bosom.
From the shadows then rose an old rabbi, with a greasy hat that greatly resembled my cap. "Dr. Dee, I presume," he said.
"Here Comes Everybody," Dee replied humbly. "Rabbi Allevi, what a pleasant surprise..."
The man said, "Did you happen to see a creature roaming these parts?"
"A creature?" Dee said, feigning amazement. "What sort of creature?"
"Come off it, Dee," Rabbi Allevi said. "It was my golem."
"Your golem? I know nothing about a golem."
"Take care, Dr. Dee!" Rabbi Allevi said, livid. "You're playing a dangerous game, you're out of your league."
"I don't know what you're talking about, Rabbi Allevi," said Dee. "We're here to make a few ounces of gold for the emperor. We're not a couple of cheap necromancers."
"Give me back the scroll, at least," Rabbi Allevi begged.
"What scroll?" Dee asked, with diabolical ingenuousness.
"Curse you, Dr. Dee," said the rabbi. "And verily I say unto thee, thou shall not see the dawn of the new century." And he went off into the night, murmuring strange words without consonants. Oh, Language Diabolical and Holy.
Dee was huddled against the damp wall of the alley, his face ashen, his hair bristling on his head. "I know Rabbi Allevi," he said. "I will die on August 5, 1608, of the Gregorian calendar. So now, Kelley, you must help me to carry out my plan. You are the one who will have to bring it to fulfillment. Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchymy. Remember," he said. But I would remember in any case, and William with me. And against me."


Unfortunately, the more I read - and now only 100 pages from the end - the less I like this book. It seems ridiculous at times, and that piece is a good example of that. "Athanaseus Pernath" is a figure in Meyrink's novel "The Golem". The whole passage in Foucault's Pendulum seems to me very silly and lowly.

Anyway, one doesn't abandon a book merely 100 pages from the end, so I will read on  (nod)
« Last Edit: 19 Apr 2020, 02:37 by KyriakosCH »

Re: What book are you reading?
« Reply #23 on: 19 Apr 2020, 11:40 »
Speaking of Meyrink, I just finished reading Walpurgis Night. I thought it was quite good and I like what I've read of the author so far (The Golem, and some short stories).

KyriakosCH

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Re: What book are you reading?
« Reply #24 on: 20 Apr 2020, 00:29 »
^I only read the Golem, cause afaik his other works aren't translated to Greek. I was looking for some of the short stories, but a few of those German authors really are obscure here & The Golem is the one thing you can find (albeit in a rather bad translation).

Still better than Grillparzer, who as far as I know just isn't translated. I read one of his stories in English, cause Kafka was very interested in it.
 At least a few of Robert Walzer's works are.

Now 80 pages from the end of Foucault's Pendulum. Reading with no joy, just boredom and disbelief  :-\

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Re: What book are you reading?
« Reply #25 on: 20 Apr 2020, 04:30 »
Reading with no joy, just boredom and disbelief  :-\

My own opinion which you can read now or after you're done, or not all all...
Spoiler: ShowHide
As I said, I read it... I didn't like it. I didn't see the point. Maybe it's something about character arcs and social commentary that gets people fired up about this book. Or maybe it's just people wanting to seem superior to others who "didn't get it", but I thought the book was incredibly boring. It's admirable to include arcs and subtext and such in a book, but the main thing is the story and I would even rather read a "gasp" Dan Brown worldwide ancient conspiracy story than read Foucault's Pendulum again. For me it was pretentious bullshit.

KyriakosCH

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Re: What book are you reading?
« Reply #26 on: 20 Apr 2020, 11:23 »
Reading with no joy, just boredom and disbelief  :-\

My own opinion which you can read now or after you're done, or not all all...
Spoiler: ShowHide
As I said, I read it... I didn't like it. I didn't see the point. Maybe it's something about character arcs and social commentary that gets people fired up about this book. Or maybe it's just people wanting to seem superior to others who "didn't get it", but I thought the book was incredibly boring. It's admirable to include arcs and subtext and such in a book, but the main thing is the story and I would even rather read a "gasp" Dan Brown worldwide ancient conspiracy story than read Foucault's Pendulum again. For me it was pretentious bullshit.


Thanks. I don't think there is any insightful social commentary either - things said better elsewhere. As for the arcs... now, 55 pages from the end, I still see something boring. I think I was very misled by a synopsis I read years ago, which made it sound interesting. The characters aren't interesting, and contrary to views expressed about low art in the book, they aren't compensated for that by being "real" either.

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Re: What book are you reading?
« Reply #27 on: 20 Apr 2020, 13:24 »
My recollection is that it's a tongue-in-cheek depiction of life in academia in the seventies–eighties, probably somewhat autobiographically inspired, wrapped up in a spoof conspiracy thriller. The complaint that it is ridiculous in parts therefore seems to miss the point.

Mandle

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Re: What book are you reading?
« Reply #28 on: 20 Apr 2020, 14:12 »
My recollection is that it's a tongue-in-cheek depiction of life in academia in the seventies–eighties, probably somewhat autobiographically inspired, wrapped up in a spoof conspiracy thriller. The complaint that it is ridiculous in parts therefore seems to miss the point.

And that's all great things to put in a book behind the main story, but for me story comes first and I just found it muddled and boring. You can say "missed the point" but that's like someone just not getting a joke.

KyriakosCH

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Re: What book are you reading?
« Reply #29 on: 20 Apr 2020, 14:37 »
^Indeed. I was just surprised that so famous a book is basically low art. I am also surprised that there are people who think Eco has non-trivial similarities with Borges.
At least Borges was an actually important writer.

Edit: I once had reflected that, of the important writers, Borges may be the least lyrical.
Even so, Eco is about as lyrical as a potato...
« Last Edit: 20 Apr 2020, 14:51 by KyriakosCH »

Mandle

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Re: What book are you reading?
« Reply #30 on: 20 Apr 2020, 15:15 »
^Indeed. I was just surprised that so famous a book is basically low art.

I have to comment here that I don't ever really consider something "high-art" or "low-art". For me, it's more about how much enjoyment I get out of it.

I love the Sex Pistols. I love Stephen King (especially the cocaine-fueled novels like Tommyknockers). I love Dan Brown-esque schlock page-turners. I have little patience for "high-art" works, except when they are just really really actually good like "Of Mice And Men" and "Something Wicked This Way Comes".

If it's good for me and I like it then I will eat it up. If I feel like I need to have read somebody's thesis on it to understand it then nice to have never met it and goodbye.

Probably the best book I was ever forced to read in high-school was The Great Gatsby. My classmates thought it was just homework to read a few pages each night, but I stayed up until like 3AM and read the whole book because I was that engaged with the story. Then we were forced to write essays about how the color yellow in the book represented corruption, and how the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg referred to T.S.Elliot's poem, and my own eyes started to glaze over and I kind of made a pact with myself that it's story first and subtext in there if anyone wants to find it, but don't push it as the main agenda.

Story!
« Last Edit: 20 Apr 2020, 15:28 by Mandle »

KyriakosCH

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Re: What book are you reading?
« Reply #31 on: 20 Apr 2020, 15:34 »
:)

In my view, for something to be "high art" it has to be at least enjoyable. Art has to at least make you feel or think. I mean... composing some cryptographical series of passages may be "intelligent", but it isn't art in the first place - neither is mentioning a thousand writers, as Eco did in Foucault's pendulum*. So yes, instead of "low art" I could have just said "non-art", but in a sense everything is art so it wouldn't really help much.

*he seems to me to stay in the surface, perpetually. Impressive that he read all that, but then again he never appears to mention anything of importance for any of the authors there. Eg for Athanaseus Kirchnerr, I got as much info from his wiki page as I did from Foucault's Pendulum, and the same - apparently - for (eg) Cagliostro.

Art should at least make you feel. A mocking presentation of academia (even assuming this is what the book was about) is not art, imo.
« Last Edit: 20 Apr 2020, 15:38 by KyriakosCH »

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Re: What book are you reading?
« Reply #32 on: 20 Apr 2020, 15:40 »
And that's all great things to put in a book behind the main story, but for me story comes first and I just found it muddled and boring. You can say "missed the point" but that's like someone just not getting a joke.

I think it's fine not to like it because you didn't find the story or storytelling gripping (though of course, there are many great novels that tell stories that might seem trivial or boring just in terms of plot), as long as we're not trying to force it to be something it was never meant to be and then judging it for not meeting those expectations.

For example, I didn't particularly enjoy Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveler, which has a good deal in common with Foucault's Pendulum, but it would be pretty misguided to complain about the lack of resolution or coherence between the chapters, or that it didn't match some particular tone I had arbitrarily decided it should aim for.

That's what I find so exasperating about Kyriakos' criticisms. And yes, as far as I can tell, he literally does not get the joke.

I was just surprised that so famous a book is basically low art.

What is this obsession with "high art" and "low art"? Eco is pretty square in the middle of postmodernism, rejecting those distinctions. Doesn't the whole concept of writing a conspiracy thriller brimming over with literary theory make that obvious?

it's story first and subtext in there if anyone wants to find it, but don't push it as the main agenda.

Story!

I'd only object that not all books have to be the same. You can have some where story is paramount, others where the characters, atmosphere, beauty of language, ideas, message, comedy, symbolism or subtext are the selling points. All can be great in their own way.

KyriakosCH

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Re: What book are you reading?
« Reply #33 on: 20 Apr 2020, 15:44 »
Well, it would be good to not assume to know the other person. But if that fails, you can always imagine that Foucault's Pendulum is so famous because hordes of people "got the joke" :P

"Postmodernism" doesn't have much to do with why Eco's book may leave a bad impression. Let's not revert all the way back to one of Christian Andersen's stories...

« Last Edit: 20 Apr 2020, 15:46 by KyriakosCH »

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Re: What book are you reading?
« Reply #34 on: 20 Apr 2020, 18:01 »
Well, it would be good to not assume to know the other person.

I just know what you post, dude.

But if that fails, you can always imagine that Foucault's Pendulum is so famous because hordes of people "got the joke" :P

Well, yes. Anthony Burgess, for example: "For while it is not a novel in the strict sense of the word, it is a truly formidable gathering of information delivered playfully by a master manipulating his own invention – in effect, a long, erudite joke."

Perhaps it'd be more interesting to hear your theory of why the novel was so popular and critically acclaimed.

"Postmodernism" doesn't have much to do with why Eco's book may leave a bad impression. Let's not revert all the way back to one of Christian Andersen's stories...

HC Andersen? What are you talking about?

Your main complaints as far as I can make them out is that the book is "lowly" and "silly," plays intellectual games and drops too many gratuitous references to other books. And you don't think that has anything to do with postmodernist style? (Or modernist, if you prefer, since many of these tendencies span both movements.)

KyriakosCH

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Re: What book are you reading?
« Reply #35 on: 20 Apr 2020, 22:27 »
I don't think further arguing will be productive. Hopefully other books can be reported upon.

KyriakosCH

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Re: What book are you reading?
« Reply #36 on: 21 Apr 2020, 04:58 »
Late period De Maupassant is always good. Here is a very short, but imo powerful story: http://www.online-literature.com/maupassant/251/
« Last Edit: 21 Apr 2020, 06:15 by KyriakosCH »

Mandle

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Re: What book are you reading?
« Reply #37 on: 21 Apr 2020, 10:34 »
Re-reading The Mothman Prophesies by John Keel... Not a great work of literature by any means but one of the most disturbing books I have ever read.

I believe in science and have little faith in happenings and explanations for them that veer away from what is known by science.

But this book still freaks me out and I love it. It's either the story of the author going slowly insane and imagining what he witnessed, or the story of the author being driven insane by what he witnessed.

Either way, by the end of the book he is out of his mind and even admits so.

If it wasn't for the fact that other credible people also witnessed a lot of the stuff he did then it would be easy to write off.

Lovely escape into weirdness no matter what level it is taken on.

KyriakosCH

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Re: What book are you reading?
« Reply #38 on: 22 Apr 2020, 00:31 »
^I recall that the movie, with Richard Geere, was interesting - but I saw it many many years ago...

PS: Just when I thought Foucault's Pendulum couldn't get any worse, Cthulhu is mentioned.

 (roll)

Imo this is worse than the various other Mickey Mouse references (literally Mickey Mouse, in this case), cause the self-indulgence is over 9000.
I think that some books haven't been written up to now not because no one could write them, but because the idea to write them would make any actual writer cringe.

edit2: Thank heavens, it is finished now.
« Last Edit: 22 Apr 2020, 06:16 by KyriakosCH »

Mandle

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Re: What book are you reading?
« Reply #39 on: 22 Apr 2020, 22:32 »
^I recall that the movie, with Richard Geere, was interesting

Yeah, I also like the movie a lot. I gotta respect that the screenwriter could adapt a book that is basically just a jumble of anecdotes, historical stories, witness interviews, and personal experiences of the author, into an actual movie with a through-story and still keep the feel of the original book. Of course this also means that many things happen in the movie that do not happen in the book, or at least do not happen personally to the author, but these things do have a similar feel to things that happen in the book, but condensed or dramatized.