Author Topic: Book Thread  (Read 24306 times)

Offline Chanterais

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Book Thread
« on: April 28, 2006, 06:37:07 pm »
I'm starting a bookie thread.  My exams are over next Friday, and after that, I anticipate sinking into the loving embrace of a delicious novel or ten while I eat bon bons in the bath and drink champagne from my high heels.

Carrying on from Henrypie's notes on reading the Forsyte Saga:

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The Forsytes are great.  I really love them.
I don't know if all editions have a family tree as a frontispiece, but mine does, and, while it comes in handy initially, it also reveals some plot turns that I would rather not have known about in advance.  It reminds me a little of when I read War and Peace: years before I read it, I had happened upon just the shortest snippet of the movie version, with Audrey Hepburn, and a major plot element had been revealed in just the seconds I saw.  I was flipping channels, or it was in a documentary or something.  I had forgotten it entirely for years, but then when I got into the book and became attached to the characters whose futures I had inadvertently learned about years before, I had this eerie deja-vu feeling about them.  It actually made the experience all the more poignant.  Kinda made me love them more because I knew something they didn't know.  Sniff.  I can imagine having had an eerie forefeeling with Brokeback Mountain, but in fact I didn't.

Something similar, but inverted: I had seen The Age of Innocence years ago, and liked it tremendously (I'm not safe around movies with hoop skirts and white gloves and fluttering fans), and then a couple of weeks ago I read the Wharton's novel.  Knowing what happens to poor Countess Olenska (In my next life, I'm coming back with the name Countess Olenska) is just heartbreaking.  Even though Wharton describes her as being brown-haired and not especially beautiful, I couldn't help but see a blondely delicate Michelle Pfeiffer in my mind's eye.  I had that awful sense of dread that you describe - of inexorably being pulled towards an end you can't escape from.

Actually, come to think of it, I did have that same sense with Brokeback.  I watched it feeling like I was digging my toes into the ground, trying to stop that awful inevitability.

I've also recently finished Sarah Waters' The Night Watch, which is fabulously delicious, and lesbolicious to boot.  Yum Yum.

Oh, I'm being called to grill the pork chops.  Will be back later.

In the meantime, what is everybody else reading and loving these days?  Recommendations needed.



Offline henrypie

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Re: Book Thread
« Reply #1 on: April 28, 2006, 11:01:15 pm »
Yay!
Thanks for starting this thread, Adriana.

Other books I finished recently are The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and Slaughterhouse-Five, the latter of which was kind of like salt in my Brokeback wound.  Ow, ow.  The former was good but didn't have quite the payoff I had hoped for.  I've also been nibbling at The Woman at the Washington Zoo, a compilation of essays by the late Marjorie Williams.  Also good.  And I reread Pride and Prejudice lately.

I also can't resist petticoats, smelling-salts, dance cards, coaches and six, etc.

Offline Chanterais

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Re: Book Thread
« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2006, 12:17:15 am »
Curious Incident has been on my list for a very long time.  In fact, I own it.

Does that ever happen to you?  Books that you know you should read, that everyone recommends, and that you know you'd probably love, but for some reason, you just can't make the commitment?  It stares balefully at me every time I peruse my bookshelves.  It and Madame Bovary and (oh god, I'm going to be killed here) Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer have all ganged up on me.  For some reason, it never seems to be the right time, or I'm not quite in the right mood to launch in.  Strange, isn't it?

I Wikipedia'd Slaughterhouse-Five, because although I'd heard of it, it's one of thse books that just hasn't come across my radar before.  In the blurb, I came across the quote "Among the things Billy Pilgrim could not change were the past, the present, and the future."   Holy depressing, Batman!  Ennis del Mar much?  Should I put it on the list, or will it make me want to slit my wrists?  I mean, I'm up for some healthy masochism, but a girl can only take so much.  Yea or Nay?

I know, I love rereading Austen.  Even Mansfield Park, with stupid old Fanny Price, who has got to be the lamest character she ever commited to paper, is worth another go round.  I backpacked around Asia for six months a couple of years ago, and I brought with me a Complete Works of Austen. A hefty brick of a book, it was worth its weight: comforting and funny and subtle in all the right ways.  When smiling at strangers in turbans gets to be just too much, Jane is a good friend to have.

Offline henrypie

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Re: Book Thread
« Reply #3 on: April 29, 2006, 10:53:45 am »
My grandparents gave me a 1906 complete Jane Austen in 10 volumes.  Sits above all the other books, haughty and dusty.  But I take em down and dust them off from time to time.  They're not leatherbound -- just cloth -- but the paper is nice and cottony, and acid-free.  Boo acid!  I've never taken them abroad.

I loved Slaughterhouse-Five and would recommend it, no matter what.  It's a killer but in a lighthanded way -- it'll only kill you if you let it, and I suspect many don't let it.  But I don't know about that.

Speaking of Slaughterhouse-Five, one of my all-time favorite books is Catch-22 (I like hyphens).  Now THAT was a killer, at least at the time.  Gosh, I'd love to write my next essay about the two of them (you know, for the English class I'm not enrolled in).

(Someone snarky and wise once said there's no satisfaction like escaping a book which everyone else is reading.)

Offline isabelle

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Re: Book Thread
« Reply #4 on: April 29, 2006, 11:27:34 am »
I'd recommend "Angela's Ashes" by Frank McCourt, if you like to cry. I loved that book, it haunted me for days/weeks after finishing it. It is about growing up in Ireland from the 1920's onwards. Lots of humour AND emotions.
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Offline delalluvia

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Re: Book Thread
« Reply #5 on: April 29, 2006, 11:57:34 am »
Gosh where to start, I read so much.  SO many books, so little time to read them all.

For real-life drama non-fiction I HIGHLY recommend:

The Perfect Storm - about the Halloween gale and the swordfish boat the 'Andrea Gail'
Into Thin Air - about the 1996 disaster on Mt. Everest when 8 climbers were killed
Isaac's Storm - about Galveston's 1900 hurricane

Other non-fiction I recommend:

The Coming Plague and the Hot Zone - only for those with strong stomachs and interested in such topics as Ebola and the spread of other deadly communicable diseases.  They are the scariest books I've ever read and what's worse, they are true.
Unearthing the Bible and the Jesus Puzzle, the Masks of God series by Joseph Campbell, The Harlot by the Side of the Road - for those interested in religion.

White Mischief
- true crime novel of the Happy Valley murder of Lord Errol

Alexander the Great
- Robin Lane Fox's tour de force about Alexander

The Demon Haunted World - Carl Sagan's book on rationality in a modern world

Ghosts of Vesuvius - amazing amazing read.  The author is a scientist who ties together his study of ancient meteor impacts on the earth, the eruption of the volcano and burying of Pompeii, the catastrophe of the Titanic and the World Trade Center.  Run do not walk to get this book.  If you can make it through the first few chapters on volcanos, then you're on your way.  You won't regret it.

Botany of Desire - a book describing 4 plants that impacted the world.  You'll think twice about McDonald's French fries after this book

Spoiled - will turn you into a vegetarian.

The Naked Olympics - about a typical visit to the ancient Greek Olympics.  You are there.

London, a Biography - about the history of the city of London.

Poetry:

Rengetsu's waka  poetry - She's an 19th century buddhist nun and I love her little book of poetry Lotus Moon.
Residence on Earth  - by Pablo Neruda
Poems of [Anna] Akhmatova - Russian poet
Dorothy Parker - of course
Epigrams of Martial, Pure Pagan and the poetry of Sappho - for those who like ancient Roman/Greek poetry

Fiction:

Lord John Grey and the Delicate Matter
- mystery novel.  Main character is an 18th century gay English nobleman and soldier.  He's a minor character in the Outlander, VERY historical bodice-ripper, novels and the author so liked him, she started a series with him as the main character.  I love this character, he's my hero.  There is only one book so far, but there was a novella 'Lord John and the Succubus' and a short story 'Hellfire Club' with him as the primary character if you can find the anthologies they're in.

Outlander Series - stange mix of time travel/historical drama/bodice-ripper novels, tons of sex, but you'll learn more than you ever wanted to know about the history of Scotland

Smilla's Sense of Snow - mystery novel

The Silver Metal Lover - sci-fi novel about a young woman who falls in love with a robot.  Her best friend is a young gay man who is ultimately her savior.

For those who love ancient Rome and mystery stories, Gordianus the Finder series by Steven Saylor.  There are several authors who do ancient Rome and mysteries, but Saylor I put above all the others.  He's very realistic, very evocative.  I have a sneaky feeling that the author himself is gay, so he always manages to input a little period homoeroticism in his books as well.

More mystery novels, this time in late Soviet era Russia.  Martin Cruz Smith's Investigator Arkady Renko series.  Great read.

And SOOOOOOO many more, I can hardly name them all...

 
« Last Edit: April 29, 2006, 11:59:31 pm by delalluvia »

Offline Chanterais

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Re: Book Thread
« Reply #6 on: April 29, 2006, 02:53:46 pm »
Oooh, oooh, Del, that is a killer list.  I can tell we have a similar taste.  I was just re-reading The Perfect Storm last night as I was going to bed.  I'm staying at my aunt and uncle's cottage up on Lake Huron while I'm studying for my exams, and the wind was blowing furiously off Georgian Bay, hitting the house like a sledgehammer.  The Perfect Storm is just so wonderfully atmospheric - even without the real-life sound effects, it was comforting to be inside and under the duvet while reading about the wild world outside.  I definitely want to read Issac's Storm now.

Agreed, The Coming Plague is an excellent read.  If I'd been inclined towards the sciences, I would have indulged my fantasy of being an epidemiologist.  You know, tracking viruses, following the trail, saving the world.  Only, I wouldn't look very sexy in one of those biohazard suits.  The tailoring is all wrong for me.  The world will have to be saved by someone else.

Did you read Ackroyd's London before you went?  How long were you there for, anyway?

Speaking of Into Thin Air, have you ever read any of Joe Simpson's books?  He's a Brit, and a hell of a mountaineer, and writes some truly magical, fascinating stuff, like Into the Void and This Game of Ghosts.  Highly, highly recommended.

Wasn't Smilla's Sense of Snow fabulous?  In the U.K., it was sold as Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow, which is less alliterative, and much more twee.  I prefer the American title.  Hey, did you ever see the movie of it?  It was a bit so-so, but I loved Julia Ormond as Smilla.  It's such a shame she gave up acting in big movies.  I thought she was starkly, uncompromisingly talented.  Also, she had the most beautiful nose I've ever seen.

Isabelle, I have read Angela's Ashes.  And as I read about all of his gnawing hunger and poverty, I couldn't stop eating.  Literally, I remember sitting at my kitchen table scoffing piece of toast after piece of toast, mesmerised late into the night.  I think I gained 10 lbs courtesey of that book.  Thanks, Frank McCourt, for nothin'.  But you're so right, it's an excellent, teary read.  I'm a sucker for the Irish.

Oh, H'pie, this is a glorious sentance: "Sits above all the other books, haughty and dusty."  I know just what you mean.  Snobby books, queens of the castle.  I like to take down my inherited collection of beautifully-bound Shakespeare, and show it who's boss every now and then.  We can't have books getting too uppity on us.  "Boo acid!"  You crack me up.

No, it's funny.  I'm not taking any classes in English either, and didn't all through university.  The thing is, I adore reading, suck up literature of all sorts, eat books up like they're donuts.  I always did well in my English classes in high school, but I knew that in a really important way, I didn't ever want reading to become work.  I love it for the pure pleasure I get from it, untinged with guilt about having to come up with something earth-shattering to say about it.  I always disliked taking some books apart in class.  Some need years to digest, and you don't have that luxury in school.

Nevermind, we can post our own aimless, happy "essays" on here, as and when we choose.  If we choose.  Yossarian is always welcome here.  If he wants to be here.
« Last Edit: April 29, 2006, 03:11:13 pm by Chanterais »

Offline delalluvia

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Re: Book Thread
« Reply #7 on: April 29, 2006, 03:14:36 pm »
Oooh, oooh, Del, that is a killer list.  I can tell we have a similar taste.

Yep  8) Apparently so.

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I was just re-reading The Perfect Storm last night as I was going to bed.  I'm staying at my aunt and uncle's cottage up on Lake Huron while I'm studying for my exams, and the wind was blowing furiously off Georgian Bay, hitting the house like a sledgehammer.
   :o

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The Perfect Storm is just so wonderfully atmospheric - even without the real-life sound effects, it was comforting to be inside and under the duvet while reading about the wild world outside.

Absolutely.  The movie was so-so.  They did exactly the opposite of what the book did.  Junger could only speculate on what happened on the boat that day, so his stories were about the people around those 'Andrea Gail's' fishermen.  The movie focused on fictionalizing what might have happened on board.  Made the story more hokey IMO.

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I definitely want to read Issac's Storm now.

Good read.

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Agreed, The Coming Plague is an excellent read.  If I'd been inclined towards the sciences, I've always had fantasies about being an epidemiologist.  You know, tracking viruses, following the trail.

Me too.  Or forensics.  But I'm too much of a coward at heart to be one of those plague trackers.  I mean, talk about bravery.  I think The Coming Plague mentioned one scientist whose courage failed him on the hunt for Ebola/Marburg and he got off the plane before it even left the States.

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Only, I wouldn't look very sexy in one of those biohazard suits.  The tailoring is all wrong for me.

 :laugh:

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Did you read Ackroyd's London before you went?  How long were you there for, anyway?

Ten days.  Love love love love the city.  Want to move there.  I went in September of '05, my best friend bought me the book for my birthday in October.  It was a great memory jogger and I learned a lot of little things that just tickled me.

From Shakespeare in Love, Viola is on stage as Juliet, the other theater owner says to the Geoffrey Rush character, "We're going to end up in the clink."  An anachronism, or so I thought.

Geoffrey Rush's character replies, "See you in jail."

From Ackroyds' book:  "There were seven prisons in the area by the 17th century (it's most famous, the Clink, literally gave its name to other institutions)..." 

And many many other such tidbits.

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Speaking of Into Thin Air, have you ever read any of Joe Simpson's books?  He's a Brit, and a hell of a mountaineer, and writes some truly magical, fascinating stuff, like Into the Void and This Game of Ghosts.  Highly, highly recommended.

No I haven't!  Will have to check them out!

Quote
Wasn't Smilla's Sense of Snow fabulous?  In the U.K., it was sold as Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow, which is less alliterative, and much more twee.  I prefer the American title.  Hey, did you ever see the movie of it?  It was a bit so-so, but I loved Julia Ormond as Smilla.  It's such a shame she gave up acting in big movies.  I thought she was starkly, uncomprimisingly talented.  Also, she had the most beautiful nose I've ever seen.

The book is unbelieveably good.  I've read it many times and even now, when I pick it up after months have gone by, I can't put it down.  I wanted to name one of my cats Benja and when I write, I always name a male character Fojl.  I agree, the American title had better alliteration.  I quote this book to my friends.  I very much identify with Smilla - sadly - and she is another character that is just alive.  The movie was well casted, but underwhelming.  It needed to be much longer than it was to capture the essence of the book and locales.  Julie was perfect as Smilla, IMO.

Can't recommend the book enough. 
« Last Edit: April 29, 2006, 11:45:25 pm by delalluvia »

Offline henrypie

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Re: Book Thread
« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2006, 01:01:26 am »
Speaking of London,
I was in London for an academic year, experiencing depression.  The second apartment I lived in -- after I moved from a nicer one to save money -- was truly squalid: no heat; little furniture; fleas; a human poo right in front of the door downstairs one day.  But only just that once.  And of course I'm not sure it was a human poo.  But I'm kinda sure.

The part about books: the only thing I liked about this apartment was that in the kitchen there was a cupboard crammed with books.  The previous tenant had left them.  During the winter I got the flu -- of course I got the flu.  So for a week I was so feverish and achy and miserable that I skipped all my classes and didn't leave the house, but I read and read of the books of the magic cupboard, huddled by the space heater in the kitchen.  I read five books in five days and they were:

1984 (Orwell)
A Thousand Acres (Smiley)
Moo (Smiley)
Breathing Lessons (Tyler)
A Patchwork Planet (Tyler)

Other cupboard books I remember were Couples (Updike) and a dated, sexist nonfiction book about sex, which I remember reading at the laundromat while waiting for my bedding to dry at high temperature, which I had hoped would take care of the fleas but no, they were in between the floorboards; they were everywhere; I had to drag in an exterminator.  And a book of stories by Katherine Ann Porter which I left on a train.  I read so many other books in London, not necessarily cupboard books.  The World According to Garp and A Widow for One Year, The Handmaid's Tale, West with the Night and Out of Africa, Rabbit, Run, The Corner, Wicked Women, Horse Heaven.

Moo is such a delight.  Speaking of Updike, I also recommend In the Beauty of the Lilies

1984 wasn't such a good book for me to read then.  I was totally creeped out by scary futuristic London and how it didn't seem all that different from the London I was in.

Sebastian Junger was on the Colbert Report the other night and he is HOT.  Movie star hot.

Offline Chanterais

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Re: Book Thread
« Reply #9 on: April 30, 2006, 01:20:41 am »
Del: (Or Ms Rain or Dela, or Lluvypie, or whatever.  I haven't yet found a diminutive that feels right for you.  What should I go with?  Can you think of one that you like?)

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I think The Coming Plague mentioned one scientist whose courage failed him on the hunt for Ebola/Marburg and he got off the plane before it even left the States.

Ah yes, that would be me.  I remember flying home to London during the height of the SARS scare in Toronto, and the woman next to me sneezed and coughed the entire time.  It took all of my self control not to shriek "Get off this plane you disease riddled old hag!  A curse on you and your festering pestilential germs!".  I didn't.  I was very nice, and offered her kleenex.  But I wanted to smother her with my mini pillow.  I would make a terrible epidemiologist.

Well, when you move to London, you know where my house is.  Cross the Abbey road crosswalk so you're facing the studio, and turn left.  Keep walking for about thirty seconds, and you'll be there.  Number 24.  Watch out for the cat, she bites.

Oh, you're so right about the casting of Smilla's Sense of Snow.  Gabriel Byrne, Jim Broadbent, Julia Ormond, and wasn't Tom Wilkinson in it too?  Shame it wasn't all it could be.

I forgot to write before about how much I loved Robin Lane Fox's book on Alexander.  It makes me laugh because every weekend in the Financial Times in the U.K., he has a column on.......gardening.  It's so great.  This erudite, tweed-wearing old fellow happily nattering on about aphids and bindweed, and debating the merits of Rosa Rugosa and Rosa Rugosa Alba.  Long live the English eccentric.

Henrypie:

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Speaking of London,
I was in London for an academic year, experiencing depression.  The second apartment I lived in -- after I moved from a nicer one to save money -- was truly squalid: no heat; little furniture; fleas; a human poo right in front of the door downstairs one day.  But only just that once.  And of course I'm not sure it was a human poo.  But I'm kinda sure.

Oh yay.  Depression in London.  Been there, done that.  No fecal matter on my doorstep, though.  That really takes the biscuit.  Nice that you had a slight margin of doubt about its provenance, anyway.  What part of London were you based in?  Where I grew up in St. John's Wood, there was a red-faced old codger across the street who used to get out his chalk and circle any doggie turdlets that were left abandoned on the pavement.  Boy, he would just get hopping mad.  Hey, they weren't my turdlets.  Sidewalk sausages are a strong argument for cats, I feel.

That's not a bad collection of books to be holed up with, though.  Speaking of Smiley, have you ever read her All True Travels and Adventures of Lydie Newton?  I took the year off from school in 2003 to teach English in Honduras, and it was the only goddamn book in Tegucigalpa that I could find that wasn't in Spanish.  Well, there was that and Tom Clancy's Clear and Present Danger, and I'm not too proud to admit that I devoured that, too.  But the Smiley's a goodie.  I wept.  Oh, how I wept.  Generally, books don't make me cry, but I howled over Lydie Newton.

I've never read any Updike.  Philistine, aren't I?  Should I start with In The Beauty of the Lilies?
« Last Edit: April 30, 2006, 02:16:58 am by Chanterais »