Author Topic: The Literature thread  (Read 3137 times)

Offline EOJ

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The Literature thread
« on: August 13, 2010, 04:52:24 PM »
Discuss what works of literature (fiction or non-fiction) you've been reading lately.
« Last Edit: September 07, 2010, 05:32:24 PM by EOJ »
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Offline EOJ

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Re: The Literature thread
« Reply #1 on: August 13, 2010, 05:03:06 PM »
I'll go first.

I've been reading a lot of books this summer. Ones I've recently completed:

-During the Rains & Flowers in the Shade by Nagai Kafu
Two short, somewhat similar novels collected in one. Absolutely the most poignant, psychologically complex accounts of the life of Japanese geishas and cafe waitresses during the first part of the 20th century you'll ever find. Kafu is the best Japanese writer you've never heard of. I really recommend this book.

-Rivalry: A Geisha's Tale by Nagai Kafu
Somewhat similar to the works described above, and while it's longer and a bit more developed, I didn't find it quite as compelling as "During the Rains" or "Flowers in the Shade." Still a great read, and recommended.

-The Pendragon Legend by Antal Szerb
Antal Szerb is one of my favorite writers, and the absolute best Hungarian writer. It's a shame so few in the West outside of Hungary have read his works. "Journey by Moonlight" is probably his best work, but I really enjoyed his first book, "The Pendragon Legend." It's sort of an adventure/mystery/ghost story/romance tale that is hard to pin down to one specific genre. Szerb has such a brilliant sense of humor the entire work is a pleasure from start to finish. Note I read the 1963 translation by Lili Hal?py, rather than the newer one by Len Rix. We were robbed of more works by Szerb due to the fact he was killed in a Nazi concentration camp during WWII, when he was in his 40s.

Currently I'm reading After the Banquet by Yukio Mishima, but I'm only halfway through. So far so good.
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Offline Danza

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Re: The Literature/Fiction thread
« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2010, 01:35:31 AM »
Nice idea for a thread!

I recently finished "Wind up Bird Chronicle" by Haruki Murakami. I found it to be quite an engaging post-modern fictional novel. The tension in some scenes is quite intense and it takes some really odd (and typically post-modern) turns throughout. I think it is a really good read and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it, although I rate Kafka on the Shore a little higher.

Before that was The Outsider by Camus. A classic to be sure and highly recommended!

I have chosen something lighter this time and I am working through Neuromancer by William Gibson for the first time.

Offline Square King

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Re: The Literature/Fiction thread
« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2010, 09:35:44 AM »
I have chosen something lighter this time and I am working through Neuromancer by William Gibson for the first time.

Great read! Just finished it a few months ago.

I've just started The Fountainhead. The only other Rand I've read so far is Anthem, so we'll see how this pans out.

Offline cstarflare

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Re: The Literature/Fiction thread
« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2010, 10:42:57 AM »
Reading Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. I've actually been reading it a long time. Don't know why, it's pretty short.

Next on my list is Richard Price's Bloodbrothers.

Offline Danza

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Re: The Literature/Fiction thread
« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2010, 02:56:28 PM »
I have chosen something lighter this time and I am working through Neuromancer by William Gibson for the first time.

Great read! Just finished it a few months ago.

I've just started The Fountainhead. The only other Rand I've read so far is Anthem, so we'll see how this pans out.

I'm loving Neuromancer so far. Awesome feel and setting about the book. Can't believe I haven't read it sooner. You can see how much influence it has given modern movies and such!

As for Rand, I think The Fountainhead is her best.

Offline brentsg

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Re: The Literature/Fiction thread
« Reply #6 on: August 17, 2010, 07:10:02 PM »
I decided to see if I can read through Stephen King's entire Dark Tower series.

I'm working on Drawing of the Three at the moment.   :righton:

Offline Joe T.

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Re: The Literature/Fiction thread
« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2010, 07:28:11 PM »
I didn't mind the Fountainhead, although I can't say I subscribe to Rand's way of thinking on a number of issues (but that's for another topic entirely).

Over the summer I kind of got into a lot of post-modernist type reading.  I read Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace which I think to this day was the most enjoyable book I've ever read.  Also read Broom of the System by Wallace. 

Prior to that I read Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, which is another I'd highly recommend.  The next thing I'll likely read is Civilwarland in Bad Decline by George Saunders.

Everything else I've read recently has been hard science and non fiction.

Offline Danza

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Re: The Literature/Fiction thread
« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2010, 09:44:59 PM »
Infinite Jest is a fantastic book!

I really like Pynchon as well. Gravity's Rainbow and V. are two of my favourites.

Offline gsl

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Re: The Literature/Fiction thread
« Reply #9 on: August 20, 2010, 12:51:33 PM »
Quote from: Danza
I'm loving Neuromancer so far. Awesome feel and setting about the book. Can't believe I haven't read it sooner. You can see how much influence it has given modern movies and such!

As for Rand, I think The Fountainhead is her best.
Neuromancer is probably my hands-down favorite book.  I muddled through it once in the eighth grade (and only understood about half of it) and then revisited it in the later part of high school, and that was all she wrote.  It's one of the handful that I revisit on a yearly basis.

I wish I could say the same for The Fountainhead.  It's the only Rand book I've read, and definitely the last.  The Objectivist philosophy she gave birth to is pretty monstrous at its core, and practically impossible for those not living in some sort of intellectual ivory tower, i.e. real people.  But I've had disagreements with authors before over their politics and whatnot and still come out enjoying the book, and that's what would have happened if Rand hadn't made Howard Roark into a preachy author surrogate.  My head hurt halfway through the book due to the number of times Rand (via Roark) beat me over the head with the theme that the mediocre will constantly keep the great enslaved etc. etc.  I also just couldn't take to the characters of either Roark or Dominique--it's like they were both so far removed from real people that I just stopped viewing them as anything other than empty vessels for the philosophies they lived, rather than real characters.  I suppose the one blessing was that Rand is a fairly competent writer from a technical perspective, and that the book was relatively brief.

If you enjoyed The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore, I suggest giving Murakami's Sputnik Sweetheart a shot.  Actually, I'd recommend any other Murakami except for South of the Border, West of the Sun, which is really just a bad rehash of Norwegian Wood with some of the ideas that would be later put to better use in Sputnik Sweetheart.  If you can find his first two novels in English, the so-called 'Rat tetralogy' is really great as well.

So I'm currently getting back into reading after a couple of years at a job which left me little time to do so at work (following a gig as an evening hotel desk clerk, where I had large amounts of time to tear through books and put off homework, etc.) and little energy for anything more than a vegetative state when I got home.  It's amazing how difficult it is to pick the hobby back up when you've been out of it for a while.  Anyways, I'm venturing through the first book--Software--in Rudy Rucker's collected Ware Tetralogy, and I'm really puzzled that he managed to fly under my radar for so long.  I've been a big fan of Gibson and Stephenson for a long time, and have even dabbled in Bruce Sterling when he can behave himself, so I'm not really sure how I missed this for so long.  Rucker's writing is great--it's got the 'damn the torpedoes' approach to SF that the cyberpunk movement kicked off, with a good amount of PKD/Robert Anton Wilson weirdness/paranoia to boot.  Good stuff.

Offline EOJ

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Re: The Literature thread
« Reply #10 on: September 07, 2010, 05:40:14 PM »
I just finished Donald Keene's autobiography Chronicles of My Life: An American in the Heart of Japan. If you don't know Donald Keene, he is one of the most important translators and commentators on Japanese literature in the world. He pretty much invented Japanese studies as we know it today in the West.

His autobiography is written beautifully, yet succinctly, clocking in at around 180 pages. The pages are glossy, thick stock, and the typeset is beautiful. There are also numerous drawings by Akira Yamaguchi interspersed to complement the text. Overall, it is one of the loveliest books I've ever held in my hands.

I recommend anyone interested in Japanese culture to read this book, even if you are not interested in Japanese literature. The man's life is full of fantastic stories and adventure, spanning the globe, and his insight on Japan is brilliant (and his knowledge of it deep). For those who have lived in Japan (or live there now), I think they'd find this especially interesting.

This can easily be read over a weekend, and it is time well spent. It is the best autobiography I've ever read.
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Offline cstarflare

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Re: The Literature thread
« Reply #11 on: October 06, 2010, 09:56:04 AM »
Just finished Christopher Isherwood's A Single Man. What a fucking downer. Great book. I can't imagine the movie living up to its source so I probably won't watch it for a long time.

Next on my list is Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential because it seems like it will be amusing and enjoyable enough to balance out what I just finished. Then I'm on to Nicholas Baker's Human Smoke, which I am told will destroy me.

Offline Ast-Kot

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Re: The Literature thread
« Reply #12 on: October 06, 2010, 01:43:15 PM »
Donald Keene's autobiography Chronicles of My Life: An American in the Heart of Japan, very nice book EOJ. I found in a bookshop in Japan two years ago and I bought it cause I know Keens's works since I've studied Japanese Literature at university using his "Seeds in the heart" Japanese Literature from Earliest Times to the Late Sixteenth Century.
あの痛みが君の事を守ってくれた、その痛みがいつも君を守っているんだ

Offline EOJ

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Re: The Literature thread
« Reply #13 on: October 15, 2010, 12:15:46 PM »
Funny you should mention "Seeds in the heart" - it's sitting on my desk right now (I've only read through the beginning). It seems pretty good so far, but I've heard Konishi's A History of Japanese Literature: The Archaic and Ancient Ages and Aston's History of Japanese Literature are better.

I'm currently reading Tale of Genji (Seidensticker translation), A History of Japan to 1334 (by George Sansom), and Tosa Nikki in the original Heian Classical Japanese. Sansom's book is fantastic, and Tosa Nikki is a fun challenge to read in the original language (I'm going to tackle Ise Monogatari in the original next). I'm about halfway through Genji. It's a masterpiece.

I spend much more of my free time reading than playing games these days.
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Offline Medal

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Re: The Literature thread
« Reply #14 on: October 18, 2010, 08:15:03 AM »
I'm not nearly as avid a reader as I once was, but I've been reading for history lately. The Beggar's Opera was hilarious, and now I'm reading 1984 for the first time in around five years. It's longer than I remember it.

Offline Lunchbox

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Re: The Literature thread
« Reply #15 on: October 23, 2010, 12:22:17 PM »
Hey, cool topic!
I'm now with a correspondence book between Kawabata and Mishima.
Also I'm re-reading Brad Warner's " Hardcore Zen  ". In case you don't know, Brad Warner is a Punk rocker who went to Japan to make Ultraman movies and became an ordained zen monk. He has written a few books, "Hardcore Zen " is the first of them, and not only the most interesting zen document I've ever read, but also one of the funniest books ever.
You should give it a try! Absolutely  :righton:

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Offline caincan

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Re: The Literature thread
« Reply #16 on: October 24, 2010, 03:49:03 AM »
 :) Neuromancer reminds me i was cyberpunk from 1989  ;).  my favorite was "Hard wired".  it was intense. it would have been so good in a movie what occurs !.
__
as i'm french i dont usually read big english written books,  but one has stuck me nearly insanely.  and because too.. i read a french book recently where the writers have come to the same evidence of horror in what life seems and blinds us.

it's a modern novel from Lovecraft ; Call of cthulhu Rpg -> Delta green :  

"Rules of engagement".  the cover itself is so weird.  it's a story about someone captured by powerful agency, that his old companions must retrieve,  as he's becoming an half-god "? la akira".



the most powerful words are even in the intro. it's something like that ...   "i approached the wall in my bedroom. it started to fluctuate. i looked in the wall and saw the universe. things moving fast, giant vessels in navel, dancers.  i moved in.  and it was the beginning"...    :whyioughtta: :oogle: :cool:


Offline gsl

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Re: The Literature thread
« Reply #17 on: October 26, 2010, 08:17:53 PM »
I'm now with a correspondence book between Kawabata and Mishima.
What's the title?  The idea sounds like it could be really, really fascinating.

Just finished Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita the other day.  The translation was a little clunky--though from what I understand, they all are, to some extent--but damn if that wasn't the best novel about writing a novel that I've ever read.  I've heard of an annotated version that I think would be great to try and track down.

Halloween's getting close, so I'm thinking it's time to either re-read House of Leaves or dig into my Lovecraft collection once more.

Offline Lunchbox

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Re: The Literature thread
« Reply #18 on: October 27, 2010, 12:11:29 AM »
I'm now with a correspondence book between Kawabata and Mishima.
What's the title?  The idea sounds like it could be really, really fascinating.

Well, I'm reading it in  spanish:

http://www.amazon.com/Correspondencia-1945-1970-Correspondence-Spanish-Yasunari/dp/9500424606/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1288165962&sr=8-3-fkmr1

I've done a quick search and couldn't find it in english... Take a look, because yeah, it is fascinating.
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Offline Ast-Kot

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Re: The Literature thread
« Reply #19 on: October 28, 2010, 03:28:29 PM »
I read both the Tale of Genji and Ise Monogatari in italian translation. :)

I also suggest the books of Risa Wataya a young female novelist who won the Akutagawa prize. I read in Japanese, but I know that her novels are translated also in english, "Install" and " The Back You Want to Kick" (in japanese Keritai Senaka)

I'm reading 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (in japanese)
あの痛みが君の事を守ってくれた、その痛みがいつも君を守っているんだ

Offline Kaneda

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Re: The Literature thread
« Reply #20 on: November 24, 2010, 11:20:58 PM »
40 years ago today, my favorite author and yours, Yukio Mishima, committed ritualistic suicide at a military base in Tokyo as part of an extreme display of narcissistic genius. I love him and loathe him at the same time, but regardless of what can be said about his personal life, he wrote good books.

Throughout college I was a big Mishima buff, reading everything I could find and even collecting some memorabilia (I have a newspaper from the day he died and some newspaper clippings of editorials he wrote).

As soon as I finish reading Pet Sematary again I'm going to start Utsukushii Hoshi, a pseudo-sci-fi novel by Mishima. It will be the first book of his that I've read in the original (and one that hasn't been translated yet into English, to the best of my knowledge), so I'm looking forward to it.

Offline EOJ

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Re: The Literature thread
« Reply #21 on: November 25, 2010, 12:12:11 AM »
Spring Snow is my favorite Mishima book.  :)
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Offline gsl

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Re: The Literature thread
« Reply #22 on: November 25, 2010, 01:23:36 AM »
I also suggest the books of Risa Wataya a young female novelist who won the Akutagawa prize. I read in Japanese, but I know that her novels are translated also in english, "Install" and " The Back You Want to Kick" (in japanese Keritai Senaka)

I'm reading 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (in japanese)
Do you have any other info on the English Wataya Risa books?  I've looked all over the place and have found mention of French and German translations, but no English.  I've heard good things about her writing for quite some time now.

How's 1Q84?  My Japanese, at its peak, was suitable for some of Murakami's short stories, but that was all.  I'm stuck waiting for the late 2011 translation unless I somehow make huge leaps and bounds in Japanese before then.  (As an interesting aside, Wikipedia has Jay Rubin, IMO the best of the Murakami translators, doing the first two volumes and Philip Gabriel doing the last, for some odd reason).

Offline Lunchbox

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Re: The Literature thread
« Reply #23 on: November 25, 2010, 12:53:20 PM »
40 years ago today, my favorite author and yours, Yukio Mishima

Yes, Mishima was the f%*#ing Boss!
There's an excellent book about his career and an approach to the true reasons behind "the incident", writen in teh 70's by Vallejo Najera, a Spanish psychiatrist:" Mishima y el placer de morir" (  = Mishima and the pleasure of dying ). The best stuff i've ever read about Mishima.

Spring Snow is my favorite Mishima book.  :)

Confessions of a mask, here  :righton:
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Offline Danza

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Re: The Literature thread
« Reply #24 on: December 18, 2010, 05:10:23 PM »
Confessions of a mask, here  :righton:

Likewise.  =D

Offline exersia

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Re: The Literature thread
« Reply #25 on: December 28, 2010, 09:48:50 PM »
Great thread idea! Hearing good feedback from books mentioned, I might just pick up something from Yukio Mishima this week seeing how I have nothing left to read. Most likely Confessions of a Mask or Spring Snow...

Other than that, the last recent literature I've read was Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. Short little book, but packs a lot of insight into few pages.

Offline EOJ

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Re: The Literature thread
« Reply #26 on: January 14, 2011, 06:47:49 PM »
I recently finished Skylark by Dezső Kosztol?nyi. I thought it was a fantastic, beautifully written novel, with some parts that made me laugh out loud, and others that made me sit back and think. It transported me to early 20th century Hungary. A short novel just a bit over 200 pages, it is well worth your time.
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Offline EOJ

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Re: The Literature thread
« Reply #27 on: May 21, 2011, 06:32:01 PM »
I'm currently reading Oliver VII by Antal Szerb. I'm about halfway through and it's typical Szerb genius. He only wrote three novels, but all are superb. He's clearly the most criminally neglected brilliant writer outside of Hungary. Next up on my reading list is Szerb's The Queen's Necklace, an experimental historical work on 18th century French aristocracy.
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Offline EOJ

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Re: The Literature thread
« Reply #28 on: October 17, 2011, 08:41:28 PM »
I've read a lot of stuff over the past couple months. Here are some of the highlights:

-The Queen's Necklace by Antal Szerb - such a wonderful and unique book. It's difficult to describe it, but you learn a lot about the whole necklace fiasco with Marie Antoinette, as well as the French culture of the time. It's just written so brilliantly, it's hard to put down.

-Juha by Juhani Aho. A simple story told with deep psychological analysis and lots of stream of consciousness passages. A classic of Finnish literature, and a pretty quick read (172pp). If you're interested in ancient Finnish culture, give it a read.

-Be Faithful Unto Death by Zsigmond M?ricz. I loved this book. Easily the best thing I've read all year. If you've ever been an 11 year old boy, you'll probably relate to this coming of age story set in Hungary over 100 years ago. It's a shame practically no one outside of Hungary has heard of this masterpiece.

-Anna Edes by Dezso Kosztolanyi. Not quite as good as his masterpiece Skylark, but I still enjoyed it. It's a fairly dark tale.

-The Old Capital by Yasunari Kawabata. The recent translation by J. Martin Holman is excellent, and for me, this is Kawabata's best book. If you're interested in Kyoto (where I live) and traditional Japanese culture, you'll love this.

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Offline Orochi S

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Re: The Literature thread
« Reply #29 on: October 19, 2011, 12:23:41 PM »
I've been reading David Luke's beautiful English translation of Goethe's Faust (both parts) for the second time. I can't recommend it highly enough - few things have ever captured my imagination so powerfully.