ghost of miles

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I have loved Bend Sinister for years.

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I debated weighing in a day or two ago, but your comments on Bend Sinister really struck a chord. I've disliked every book I've read by Nabokov, including Lolita, some quite strongly indeed. I think you've pointed out several good points about Nabokov -- it's always about how smart he is and he can hardly be bothered to write an interesting plot, let alone meaningful characters. I feel he wants to rub it in our faces how he is writing from Mt. Olympus and we should be grateful that he ever took the time. I suppose this is more than a little ironic, as I often am camped out in the "high art" bleachers, but Nabokov really takes it to extremes. I may eventually get around to reading the rest of his novels, but life is short and I have about 300 novels that are higher in the queue... The truth is I'm no longer very good at reading something when it just feels like an obligation.

I think the difference between "Sebastian Knight" and "Bend SInister" is that the Nabokovian ego is held in check in the former and run amok in the latter. Like you, I normally celebrate this sort of inventiveness, but this time it just did not work for me, the taste was sour. And by all means, weigh in! ^_^

I have loved Bend Sinister for years.

That's cool, would be interested in what you like about it, or how you see the book.

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I'm reading Sketches from a Hunter's Notebook at home (epub file from Gutenberg.org -- these are pretty sweet) and Fathers and Sons on the train. Both are quite good. In particular, coming back to Fathers and Sons is so rewarding now that I am more in line with Turgenev's balanced world view. In my youth, I sympathized too one-sidedly with Bazarov.

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I love Turgenev's writing. Falls in that territory of the mind between Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. Probably natural to side with Bazarov when young. I'm sure Turgenev had an eye on social developments in Russia, quite clearly discerning the rise of revolutionary movements, understanding them yet fearing their consequences. I recall now that my undergraduate Russian teacher, when I asked her if she preferred Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky, responded unequivocally, "Tolstoy." I told her I was an avid Dostoyevskian. She said I would see it differently when I got older, and she was right. "War and Peace" to me has always been a significant event, not just a book. And I now find "Anna Karenina" more profound than when first read it. Plus Tolstoy's novellas and stories. To be fair I haven't read Dostoyevsky in quite a while, so that might nudge the pendulum a bit.

I've been dipping into two books about reading. Generally I prefer reading to talking about reading, in the same way I prefer sex to talking about sex. But sometimes it is helpful to talk.

9780674062221.jpgOB-PB006_bkrvre_DV_20110804171044.jpg

ON REREADING - Patricia Meyer Spacks

THE PLEASURES OF READING IN AN AGE OF DISTRACTION - Alan Jacobs

Of the two, the Spacks strikes me as the more interesting and substantial. I found her discussion of rereading where one's original conception of a book changes completely upon rereading particular relevant in light of my unexpected dislike for Nabokov's "Bend SInister," and EJP626's revised view of Bazarov. Spacks describes a number of such situations in her reading, including "Lucky Jim" (a novel, and protagonist) that never impressed me, but I know had, and has, a cult following. OTOH, some books, including those of Henry James, have risen in her estimation. Actually, the specific ups and downs don't interest her as much as how the rereading process creates these revisions. Not surprisingly, age seems to have a lot to do with it, LOL.

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...Actually, the specific ups and downs don't interest her as much as how the rereading process creates these revisions. Not surprisingly, age seems to have a lot to do with it, LOL.

Absolutely. Right now I am feeling very pressed for time, and I kind of resent long books unless they are truly great. Every long book that I've reread recently I've liked less than the first go-around (Pickwick Papers, Atwood's Cat's Eye, Findley's Headhunter, Rushdie's Midnight's Children). Doesn't mean I dislike them, but they didn't seem as worth it. But I might have a very different relationship with time (and long novels) when I retire, if I ever do...

That's not a problem with short books where I am definitely picking up other things than the first go-around.

I'd say I'd still prefer Dostoevsky over Tolstoy, but I might actually choose Turgenev over both... I'm actually surprised at how quickly Bazarov gets embroiled with Madame Odintsov. Turgenev has a much more tightly plotted book than most the other Russian authors.

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I'm embarrassed to say I can't remember who it was here (maybe ejp626?) who got me started on David Brin, but I owe them a thank you. I just finished the Sundiver/Startide Rising/Uplift War books and have Brightness Reef ready to go, after I finish Paolo Bacigalupi's Pump Six and Other Stories, which I refuse to rush. Good stuff.

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I'm embarrassed to say I can't remember who it was here (maybe ejp626?) who got me started on David Brin, but I owe them a thank you. I just finished the Sundiver/Startide Rising/Uplift War books and have Brightness Reef ready to go, after I finish Paolo Bacigalupi's Pump Six and Other Stories, which I refuse to rush. Good stuff.

I doubt it was me. I've read Sundiver, but that's pretty much it. I basically no longer follow SF. The one author I semi-follow is Ian McDonald. I actually had to make an effort to get some of his books as several were never published in North America.

Anyway, I wrapped up Fathers and Sons. It remains such a great book, but this time around I was far more intrigued by the secondary characters, who are quite well-drawn. I didn't dislike Bazarov, but I really wondered what it was that made so many people think he was destined for greatness. He was a stiff-necked truth-teller who wouldn't bow to convention. And that's pretty much it. He wasn't even a particularly good doctor, managing to cut himself pretty badly while doing a pointless autopsy. Obviously that boldness and unconventionality meant a fair bit back then whereas now professional contrarians of all stripes litter our airways and the internet. However, I did grow up in a fairly self-satisfied suburb that went all in for Reagan, and I often got into arguments over religion and such as a teenager, so Bazarov really did strike a chord with me back then. I remember thinking that the great are often ground down, while it is the mediocrities, such as Arkady, that thrive. I don't feel that way at all now, and it is clear in hindsight that isn't even what Turgenev meant to convey. I also did not realize that Pavel was essentially a stand-in for Turgenev, who had a very unhappy love life.

I'm 2/3rds through Tom Stoppard's The Coast of Utopia. It's brilliant stuff, but you need so much additional information to really understand all the side references. I only knew a little bit of this when I saw the plays (it's certainly a case where program notes are essential pre-performance reading). Reading the plays now, I am understanding so much more. It's certainly an open question if the whole trilogy will ever be staged again, though I have a bit of a running bet where they might pop up next. It would probably be Chicago, Toronto or Minneapolis but with Seattle as a dark horse.

Anyway, I am nearly finished with my long journey through Russian literature and its offshoots. Probably one more month. Next I'll be reading Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground and The Dream of a Ridiculous Man, followed by Platonov's Happy Moscow and Soul.

Edited by ejp626

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I'm maybe 20% into the second part of Herzen's My Past and Thoughts (Ends and Beginnings from Oxford Press). It's good but I think Isaiah Berlin blew it up just a bit much (putting it on the same level as War and Peace :huh: ). Herzen himself thought of his memoirs as comparable to David Copperfield. :blink: I would be enjoying it a bit more if my expectations hadn't been raised quite so high...

My Past and Thoughts is very high on my "to read" list, but isn't it so that the importance/relevance of Herzen lays more in the fact he was such an influential Russian thinker of his time? I know many people see him as one of the most important figures in the birth of Russian socialism.

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As for myself, picked up two books to read:

Rob Riemen - Universiteit van het leven (University of life)

Rob Riemen is a Dutch intellectual, humanist and director of the Nexus Institute (www.nexus-instituut.nl/en/home). For this Nexus journal Riemen talked to 19 people from various fields who are all internationally acclaimed (publishers, musicians, writers, philosophers, scientists and one trade union leader (his father)), and all this talks were centered around one question: What has life taught you?

rob-riemen-universiteit-van-het-leven.jp

Andrei Tarkovski - De Verzegelde Tijd

Very insightful book, where Tarkovski explains his visions on cinema/art and how he makes his movies staying true to this vision.

0317.jpg

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511zd6-Kb-L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Hornby's latest, set in the world of 1960's British television comedy. Immersed in the popular culture of the time, its appeal to those who weren't around then is questionable, with its references to Sabrina, Galton and Simpson, Harold and Marcia, Biba and Kinda Blue. OK, you got one! :lol: Come to think of it, the author was only a small child at the time!

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511zd6-Kb-L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Hornby's latest, set in the world of 1960's British television comedy. Immersed in the popular culture of the time, its appeal to those who weren't around then is questionable, with its references to Sabrina, Galton and Simpson, Harold and Marcia, Biba and Kinda Blue. OK, you got one! :lol: Come to think of it, the author was only a small child at the time!

Have you read this:

517iAYO5YbL.jpg

Combines the era of the Carry On films with the re-emergence of naked capitalistic greed.

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Leeway, on 02 Dec 2014 - 2:33 PM, said:

I love Turgenev's writing. Falls in that territory of the mind between Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. Probably natural to side with Bazarov when young. I'm sure Turgenev had an eye on social developments in Russia, quite clearly discerning the rise of revolutionary movements, understanding them yet fearing their consequences. I recall now that my undergraduate Russian teacher, when I asked her if she preferred Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky, responded unequivocally, "Tolstoy." I told her I was an avid Dostoyevskian. She said I would see it differently when I got older, and she was right. "War and Peace" to me has always been a significant event, not just a book. And I now find "Anna Karenina" more profound than when first read it. Plus Tolstoy's novellas and stories. To be fair I haven't read Dostoyevsky in quite a while, so that might nudge the pendulum a bit.

I've been dipping into two books about reading. Generally I prefer reading to talking about reading, in the same way I prefer sex to talking about sex. But sometimes it is helpful to talk.

9780674062221.jpgOB-PB006_bkrvre_DV_20110804171044.jpg

ON REREADING - Patricia Meyer Spacks

THE PLEASURES OF READING IN AN AGE OF DISTRACTION - Alan Jacobs

Of the two, the Spacks strikes me as the more interesting and substantial. I found her discussion of rereading where one's original conception of a book changes completely upon rereading particular relevant in light of my unexpected dislike for Nabokov's "Bend SInister," and EJP626's revised view of Bazarov. Spacks describes a number of such situations in her reading, including "Lucky Jim" (a novel, and protagonist) that never impressed me, but I know had, and has, a cult following. OTOH, some books, including those of Henry James, have risen in her estimation. Actually, the specific ups and downs don't interest her as much as how the rereading process creates these revisions. Not surprisingly, age seems to have a lot to do with it, LOL.

when I asked my undergraduate Russian lit teacher who he preferred between Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, he said for the Russian people it was an easy choice: Pushkin!

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511zd6-Kb-L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Hornby's latest, set in the world of 1960's British television comedy. Immersed in the popular culture of the time, its appeal to those who weren't around then is questionable, with its references to Sabrina, Galton and Simpson, Harold and Marcia, Biba and Kinda Blue. OK, you got one! :lol: Come to think of it, the author was only a small child at the time!

Have you read this:

517iAYO5YbL.jpg

Combines the era of the Carry On films with the re-emergence of naked capitalistic greed.

My wife has read it and backs your recommendation.

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As far as Herzen goes, he was quite important in pushing for liberal reform and published a newsletter/magazine that was quite influential (though of course banned) in Russia. He may well have helped bring about the Tsar abolishing serfdom on an earlier schedule than he would have otherwise. In later years, particularly after 1848, Herzen became far more skeptical of sweeping political movements and he definitively rejected communism. He hoped for countries to arrive at socialism through a democratic process (perhaps not too different from Orwell's stance several decades later). Turgenev, for his part, thought this just a fantasy that would never come to pass, and he thought Herzen totally romanticized the Russian peasants.

I thought his autobiography was pretty interesting, though I just don't see where or why Isaiah Berlin keeps calling it a masterpiece on par with War and Peace.

I wrapped up Stoppard's The Coast of Utopia trilogy on these figures (primarily Bakunin, Herzen and Turgenev) and really enjoyed it. I had the privilege of seeing it on stage in Berkeley, but I think I'd go again if another company decided to tackle it. I'll probably blog about this next week.

I'm about halfway through a recent Canadian novel -- The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O'Neill. It's sort of a mirror into a lower class neighbourhood populated by artistic types. The setting is not dissimilar to the ones Barbara Comyns wrote about or Tess Slesinger's The Unpossessed or some of the novels set in Greenwich Village in the 70s or the Lower East Side in the 80s and very early 90s. I believe this novel is set in the very early 90s (before the 1995 Referendum) but I am not entirely sure. It's one of those novels where the characters are interesting, but I'd want to stay 100 feet away from any one of them in real life.

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Still reading Bone Clocks.

Liking it better than Cloud Atlas.

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Still reading Bone Clocks.

Liking it better than Cloud Atlas.

That's interesting. I enjoyed Cloud Atlas, but I just see Bone Clocks as too much of the same again. I don't plan on reading it.

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Leeway, on 02 Dec 2014 - 2:33 PM, said:

I love Turgenev's writing. Falls in that territory of the mind between Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. Probably natural to side with Bazarov when young. I'm sure Turgenev had an eye on social developments in Russia, quite clearly discerning the rise of revolutionary movements, understanding them yet fearing their consequences. I recall now that my undergraduate Russian teacher, when I asked her if she preferred Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky, responded unequivocally, "Tolstoy." I told her I was an avid Dostoyevskian. She said I would see it differently when I got older, and she was right. "War and Peace" to me has always been a significant event, not just a book. And I now find "Anna Karenina" more profound than when first read it. Plus Tolstoy's novellas and stories. To be fair I haven't read Dostoyevsky in quite a while, so that might nudge the pendulum a bit.

I've been dipping into two books about reading. Generally I prefer reading to talking about reading, in the same way I prefer sex to talking about sex. But sometimes it is helpful to talk.

9780674062221.jpgOB-PB006_bkrvre_DV_20110804171044.jpg

ON REREADING - Patricia Meyer Spacks

THE PLEASURES OF READING IN AN AGE OF DISTRACTION - Alan Jacobs

Of the two, the Spacks strikes me as the more interesting and substantial. I found her discussion of rereading where one's original conception of a book changes completely upon rereading particular relevant in light of my unexpected dislike for Nabokov's "Bend SInister," and EJP626's revised view of Bazarov. Spacks describes a number of such situations in her reading, including "Lucky Jim" (a novel, and protagonist) that never impressed me, but I know had, and has, a cult following. OTOH, some books, including those of Henry James, have risen in her estimation. Actually, the specific ups and downs don't interest her as much as how the rereading process creates these revisions. Not surprisingly, age seems to have a lot to do with it, LOL.

when I asked my undergraduate Russian lit teacher who he preferred between Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, he said for the Russian people it was an easy choice: Pushkin!

I can totally believe that! But I think after Pushkin, it is Tolstoy. Lord knows I met met enough real, putative and claimed descendants of the novelist (my wife is Russian). Funny that, but none that claimed to be descended from Fyodor D. ^_^

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Up above us on the famed Org Board, lists of Best Jazz of 2014 are busily being compiled. Despite all evidence to the contrary, I thought it might be fun to do the same for books, Best Book(s) of 2014. The book need not be published in 2014, only read during this year. In my case, the general level of books I read this year were rather uniformly high. Yet, somewhat to my surprise, only a few books rose above the merely very good and registered a strong impact. Like a Pierre Bezuhof, I seek enlightenment where I may, but only a small coterie of books might be said to deliver on that promise.

First, the best of the rest:

Anthony Burgess - The Malayan Trilogy & A Clockwork Orange

Isak Denison - Seven Gothic Tales

Muriel Spark - Loitering With Intent and Aiding and Abetting

Henry James - The Awkward Age

My Book of theYear:

Phil Klay - Redeployment - 12 fictional stories of US soldiers at war in the Middle East and in a peace that looks much like war back home. From the Aeneid, "I sing of arms and the man," to Tolstoy's "War and Peace," to Hemingway's "Men at War," soldiers and their battles, both external and internal, have been the subject of some of the greatest fiction. Klay's book is worthy of the tradition. These stories are powerful, compelling, deeply affecting. They join Tim O'Brien's Vietnam fiction as the best contemporary war fiction.

I'd also Kevin Powers' "Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting," a collection of poems that also examine contemporary warfare, and the decayed peace that seems its concomitant. Best Poem: "Improvised Explosive Device."

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Still reading Bone Clocks.

Liking it better than Cloud Atlas.

That's interesting. I enjoyed Cloud Atlas, but I just see Bone Clocks as too much of the same again. I don't plan on reading it.

I thought Bone Clocks was flawed. Some of the narratives worked very well indeed but some overstayed their welcome. Overall very readable but the denouement left me cold.

Having read all Mitchell's books it's not up there with Ghostwritten, Cloud Atlas, or Jacob de Zoet

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Five highlights of the year

Ros Barber - The Marlowe Papers. Read of the year. Out-Mantels Mantel

Neil Gaiman - American Gods. Surprise preconceptions-buster of the year

Jonatham Swift - Gullivers Travels. Laugh out loud funny apart from many other attributes

Jerome Ferrari - Where I left my soul. Disturbing but brilliant

Dona Tartt - The Goldfinch. Just a damn good page-turner despite some obvious flaws

and the book I'm most looking forward to starting over the festive break - Paul Kingsnorth 'The Wake'. Brilliantly original historical storyline with linguistic invention

Edited by mjazzg

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A new one in my pantheon of 20th century English novelists. This, her first novel, is a beautifully written satirically comic murder mystery. Her life sounds interesting - I shall be looking out a biography in due course.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penelope_Fitzgerald

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9780007555642.jpg

A new one in my pantheon of 20th century English novelists. This, her first novel, is a beautifully written satirically comic murder mystery. Her life sounds interesting - I shall be looking out a biography in due course.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penelope_Fitzgerald

I can recommend her The Book Shop. I read that Hermione Lee has completed a biography of Fitzgerald, and that it is quite fine. Fitzgerald didn't start writing until her mid-40s believe.

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It's pretty rare for me to read a book in the year it comes out, but The Girl Who Was Saturday Night was published earlier in the year. It's good, but nowhere in my top 10 for the year.

Probably the best book I read for the first time was Dostoevsky's Demons, followed by Tom Stoppard's The Coast of Utopia Trilogy, while the best I reread was Turgenev's Fathers and Sons. I'll have to go back through my reading list to see what else I tackled. The main things were novels by Molly Keane and Barbara Comyns and finally making it through Proust. I also liked Hotel Savoy by Joseph Roth quite a bit (it would be in top 5), but I can't recall if I read this in 2013 or 2014.

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9780007555642.jpg

A new one in my pantheon of 20th century English novelists. This, her first novel, is a beautifully written satirically comic murder mystery. Her life sounds interesting - I shall be looking out a biography in due course.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penelope_Fitzgerald

I can recommend her The Book Shop. I read that Hermione Lee has completed a biography of Fitzgerald, and that it is quite fine. Fitzgerald didn't start writing until her mid-40s believe.

Nice to get your comments, Leeway. Got The Bookshop from Manchester University library this morning and am ready to go. Will probably have to buy Lee's biog, as neither the university or public libraries have it. According to Wikipedia, Fitzgerald published her first book at the age of 58!

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Richard Ford's THE SPORTSWRITER, Ingrid Monson's FREEDOM SOUNDS, Harry Shapiro's WAITING FOR THE MAN: THE STORY OF DRUGS AND POPULAR MUSIC, Rob Sheffield's LOVE IS A MIX TAPE, and Sam Tanenhaus' WHITTAKER CHAMBERS.

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