ghost of miles

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Rex Stout: A Right To Die

I read a slew of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe novels when I was younger. I saw this one at the library, decided to renew an old friendship, and had an enjoyable time..

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Zadie Smith - NW

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Soderberg: The Andalucian Friend

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A fine novel. I've also seen two film versions.

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I just wrapped up Teju Cole's Every Day is for the Thief. This reads exactly like a memoir of a Nigerian living in the U.S. who comes back to visit Lagos, and is largely very disappointed by what he sees. This is apparently entirely fictional (Cole doesn't have a white mother and apparently never studied to be a psychologist), but it certainly seems informed by trips he would have made back to his home town (Cole was actually born in the U.S. but grew up in Nigeria). So I can't separate the fictional from the autobiographical. It certainly paints a fairly bleak picture of Lagos. I'll try to get around to Open City one of these days.

I've started Garcia Marquez's The General in His Labyrinth. An interesting fictional biography of Simon Bolivar's final months.

After this, Barbara Comyns' Mr. Fox.

And then another sustained push on Proust. I'm currently about halfway through The Captive. Not quite in the home stretch but getting there.

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Read this over the weekend. A relatively short, sociological study - a bit dry but nicely detached; occasionally drifts into academese but is generally easy to follow.

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I finished Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange, but was unable to go on with more Burgess ( had already read about a half dozen of his novels at that point), since Burgess is so acerbic, it's hard to have a steady diet of his work. I expect to return to him.

I then turned to an old favorite, Iris Murdoch, but before I did, I unfortunately read John Bayley's Iris and her Friends, which is misleadingly titled, since it is really about Bayley and his lack of friends. Bayley seems like a totally hapless, yet unpleasant, figure.

I gratefully turned to Murdoch's An Unofficial Rose. Interestingly, this novel and A Clockwork Orange were published in the same year, 1962. Murdoch's novels invariably have some shocking or at least startling scene(s) that yet seem so aesthetically right.

Not to abandon Burgess completely, I decided to read some Conrad to see what lines of influence there might be between Burgess' "Malay Trilogy" and Conrad's An Outcast of the Islands (1896). Well, there may be, perhaps not even intentional, but they are quite different in styles. In some ways, Conrad is shockingly, ludicrously bad, even though I count myself among his readers. Here the purple prose threatens to overwhelm the story; fortunately, it does not. I'm sure quite a few dissertations have been launched on Conrad's use of race, sex, and colonialism. Burgess is far more cynical; it is Malaya seen through a squint. Nevertheless, the themes essentially are the same, taken at different points in time.

(I gave up on trying to post cover pictures, since everything selected was disallowed.)

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I finished Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange, but was unable to go on with more Burgess ( had already read about a half dozen of his novels at that point), since Burgess is so acerbic, it's hard to have a steady diet of his work. I expect to return to him.

I then turned to an old favorite, Iris Murdoch, but before I did, I unfortunately read John Bayley's Iris and her Friends, which is misleadingly titled, since it is really about Bayley and his lack of friends. Bayley seems like a totally hapless, yet unpleasant, figure.

To put Bayley in perspective, try A N Wilson's Iris Murdoch As I Knew Her.

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I finished Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange, but was unable to go on with more Burgess ( had already read about a half dozen of his novels at that point), since Burgess is so acerbic, it's hard to have a steady diet of his work. I expect to return to him.

I then turned to an old favorite, Iris Murdoch, but before I did, I unfortunately read John Bayley's Iris and her Friends, which is misleadingly titled, since it is really about Bayley and his lack of friends. Bayley seems like a totally hapless, yet unpleasant, figure.

To put Bayley in perspective, try A N Wilson's Iris Murdoch As I Knew Her.

Good suggestion. I have already started in on it. I picked up the Wilson book at the same time as the Conradi book, and read the latter first. I'll report back.

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I hadn't read any Stephen King for a while but picked up his recent crime novel Joyland on a whim while on holiday recently. Really enjoyed it; i read a lot of King in my early teens and there's a bit of a 'revisitng an old friend' factor for me. After that i felt like reading more King so i'm currently re-reading 'The Wind Through the Keyhole'.

Background: i read the first three Dark Tower books when i was 13/14 years old, and they were mindblowing at the time. There was so much mystery and so much left up to the imagination about the world that the books largely took place in. Although book 3 ends on a cliffhanger, i pretty much consider them to be a classic trilogy within itself. Book 3, published in 1991 wasn't followed by book 4 until 1997. After that, nothing until the last 3 books were all published in 2003/2004. The last three books are quite controversial among fans of the series for a number of reasons that i won't go in to here, other than to say that for me they just explained too much, made the world they are set in less interesting. I'm at peace with them now but at the time the last three books were a bit of a letdown, probably because i just wasn't 14 years old anymore.

And that was the end. Until 2012 when The Wind Through the Keyhole came out. It takes place between books 4 and 5 and is largely made up of an extended flashback, with another folktale taking place within the flashback (a story within a story within a story) At the time i did not have high hopes but i couldn't resist the chance to revisit that world. It turned out to be massively enjoyable and really recaptured the feeling of those first three books for me, while at the same time somehow casting the last three books of the series in a new, slightly warmer light. Anyway, really enjoying re-reading it right now.

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I just read Barbara Comyns' Mr. Fox. It was ok, mostly interesting for the various scenes of London during the Blitz. Apparently she really did live through it. It's nice to have a slightly different take from Anthony Powell's. I will say that I liked A Touch of Mistletoe a bit better, which covered more or less the same territory. She does tend to return over and over to the same general tropes (feckless mothers, the impossibility of making a living as an artist in Britain, women pairing up with men only out of economic necessity, and so on). Of course, this is how I feel about Saul Bellow, who was also a great recycler. Apparently, her The Juniper Tree is one of the most different books from all these others, but I won't be reading that until the fall.

I took a peek at Cyrus Colter's City of Light (Thunder Mouth Press). Just terrible. Don't bother.

I should be able to finish up The General in His Labyrinth this weekend. It's definitely worth a look.

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ejp and I differ. I waded through Colter's swamp of words and appreciated the hero's dilemma in City Of Light. On the other hand, apart from Augie March I tried 3-4 times and couldn't take Bellow seriously.

melmoth.jpg

It's sorta hair-raising. I'm still reading the memoirs of the unwilling monk.

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You can't help but bump into Churchill in the UK but strangely I've never read a full bio. There are a fair few and they tend to be very long. This one is a comfortable 400 pages.

The first 100 pages convince me I would not have got on with the bugger in his youth. Not that I'd have ever come close to the rarefied circles he floated in.

Interesting, though. Easy reading.

Edited by A Lark Ascending

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The Cornish Coast Murder (British Crime Library) by John Bude. Nice murder mystery from the "Golden Age" of British mystery, it was published in 1935. The whole series is worth checking out.

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ejp and I differ. I waded through Colter's swamp of words and appreciated the hero's dilemma in City Of Light. On the other hand, apart from Augie March I tried 3-4 times and couldn't take Bellow seriously.

melmoth.jpg

It's sorta hair-raising. I'm still reading the memoirs of the unwilling monk.

I used to consider myself a pretty dedicated Bellow fan and read most everything by him. However, recently, I tried to re-read "Humboldt's Gift," and ran into serious problems getting to the end, although I did. I then took on "Henderson the Rain King," which I read when I was 17 or 18 and thought mighty fine. This time around, I found it appallingly bad. I don't think I got past page 25 or so. Odd though, I still like "Augie," and I'm sure some other of his books would still resonate for me, but I wonder if his reputation is already falling below the horizon.

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ejp and I differ. I waded through Colter's swamp of words and appreciated the hero's dilemma in City Of Light. On the other hand, apart from Augie March I tried 3-4 times and couldn't take Bellow seriously.

melmoth.jpg

It's sorta hair-raising. I'm still reading the memoirs of the unwilling monk.

I used to consider myself a pretty dedicated Bellow fan and read most everything by him. However, recently, I tried to re-read "Humboldt's Gift," and ran into serious problems getting to the end, although I did. I then took on "Henderson the Rain King," which I read when I was 17 or 18 and thought mighty fine. This time around, I found it appallingly bad. I don't think I got past page 25 or so. Odd though, I still like "Augie," and I'm sure some other of his books would still resonate for me, but I wonder if his reputation is already falling below the horizon.

Similar experience here. In the 1960s I avidly read the Bellows as they came out and thought them great, especially Herzog. In recent years, though, I've found them extraordinarily difficult to get into, with Seize the Day as a possible exception.

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I'm not going to change my mind about the Colter. As far as Bellow, I do think he wrote 10 or so books when 3 or 4 would have served just as well. He seemed to be working out the same issues with women (particularly those he was married to) and his family, particularly his uncle. While I read them all, the only two Bellow books that I hung onto are Augie March and The Dean's December.

I just finished Audrey Niffenegger's Her Fearful Symmetry. It's a ghost story. While it is written in a high literary style, it doesn't change the fact that a ghost story probably ought to be scary or at least eerie. I don't think it really succeeded on those terms. It also was very clear what the overall ending was going to be about 75 pages from the end. However, I did like one of the secondary characters/plots about a character with severe OCD who struggles to leave his apartment.

Edited by ejp626

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I finished Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange, but was unable to go on with more Burgess ( had already read about a half dozen of his novels at that point), since Burgess is so acerbic, it's hard to have a steady diet of his work. I expect to return to him.

I then turned to an old favorite, Iris Murdoch, but before I did, I unfortunately read John Bayley's Iris and her Friends, which is misleadingly titled, since it is really about Bayley and his lack of friends. Bayley seems like a totally hapless, yet unpleasant, figure.

To put Bayley in perspective, try A N Wilson's Iris Murdoch As I Knew Her.

Good suggestion. I have already started in on it. I picked up the Wilson book at the same time as the Conradi book, and read the latter first. I'll report back.

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Finished A.N. Wilson's Iris Murdoch As I Knew Her then had to take a good shower. In his attempts to drag John Bayley (referred to here as JOB) through the mud (not hard to do), ANW also drags Iris Murdoch (IM) through the mud as well, and in the process bespatters himself also. ANW recalls that he was a model schoolboy, but every great once in a while, he would explode in rage and find himself in serious trouble. This book continues that pattern, a work of rage (or at least spleen). It seems to have been tossed off so quickly that the writing itself is all over the place: part diary, part memoir, part other people's memoirs, none of them brought into a uniform whole. The book is loaded with prurient, juicy anecdotes, which admittedly are amusing to read, but leave a bad feeling. One needs to read the Conradi bio first, which is much better but somewhat too dutiful. Then this waspish work can add that intensely personal angle that Conradi steers away from. I am glad to have read both of them, and the Bayley as well (if only to know the worst). The worst thing that JOB and ANW have done, coming at it form opposite sides, is to badly impair IM's status as a writer. Yes, I still think of Bayley as a nasty little man, a proper "rotter."

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I'm not going to change my mind about the Colter. As far as Bellow, I do think he wrote 10 or so books when 3 or 4 would have served just as well. He seemed to be working out the same issues with women (particularly those he was married to) and his family, particularly his uncle. While I read them all, the only two Bellow books that I hung onto are Augie March and The Dean's December.

I just finished Audrey Niffenegger's Her Fearful Symmetry. It's a ghost story. While it is written in a high literary style, it doesn't change the fact that a ghost story probably ought to be scary or at least eerie. I don't think it really succeeded on those terms. It also was very clear what the overall ending was going to be about 75 pages from the end. However, I did like one of the secondary characters/plots about a character with severe OCD who struggles to leave his apartment.

I think you're right to put your finger on the real issue with Bellow: his obsession with women, often negative, but even when positive somewhat distasteful (his fondness sometimes worse than his enmity). I think this patriarchal attitude has cost him his place in academe. The only Bellow taught in my grad program was "Seize the Day," which I still think is one of his most emotionally powerful. Occasionally, "Herzog" will pop up on a reading list. But "Herzog" and "Mr. Sammler's Planet," also raise the spectre of Bellow's race attitudes, which one could occasionally find at least racially insensitive, if not outright racist. I'm sounding rather PC here, but I just want to point out that if you are not taught at the academic level, your reputation as a writer is likely to decay,even if you do hold a Nobel Prize (no one really cares about that). A lot of the women in my grad program, who are now faculty members, loathed Bellow.

I remember reading (twice) when it came out, "Ravelstein," Bellow's fictional account of his friend and philosopher, Allan Bloom (a rather suspect character himself). Maybe the elegiac tone managed to soften Bellow's usual bitterness. I enjoyed this one.

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I'm not going to change my mind about the Colter. As far as Bellow, I do think he wrote 10 or so books when 3 or 4 would have served just as well. He seemed to be working out the same issues with women (particularly those he was married to) and his family, particularly his uncle. While I read them all, the only two Bellow books that I hung onto are Augie March and The Dean's December.

I just finished Audrey Niffenegger's Her Fearful Symmetry. It's a ghost story. While it is written in a high literary style, it doesn't change the fact that a ghost story probably ought to be scary or at least eerie. I don't think it really succeeded on those terms. It also was very clear what the overall ending was going to be about 75 pages from the end. However, I did like one of the secondary characters/plots about a character with severe OCD who struggles to leave his apartment.

I think you're right to put your finger on the real issue with Bellow: his obsession with women, often negative, but even when positive somewhat distasteful (his fondness sometimes worse than his enmity). I think this patriarchal attitude has cost him his place in academe. The only Bellow taught in my grad program was "Seize the Day," which I still think is one of his most emotionally powerful. Occasionally, "Herzog" will pop up on a reading list. But "Herzog" and "Mr. Sammler's Planet," also raise the spectre of Bellow's race attitudes, which one could occasionally find at least racially insensitive, if not outright racist. I'm sounding rather PC here, but I just want to point out that if you are not taught at the academic level, your reputation as a writer is likely to decay,even if you do hold a Nobel Prize (no one really cares about that). A lot of the women in my grad program, who are now faculty members, loathed Bellow.

I remember reading (twice) when it came out, "Ravelstein," Bellow's fictional account of his friend and philosopher, Allan Bloom (a rather suspect character himself). Maybe the elegiac tone managed to soften Bellow's usual bitterness. I enjoyed this one.

I have to admit, Ravelstein came out after I finished my Bellow-of-the-month "club." I still have yet to read that one. Maybe some day, perhaps after I reread The Dean's December.

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