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Thread: Captain's (Reading) Log: Stardate 2014.01-.365

  1. #16
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    I just finished Palm-of-the-Hand stories by Kawabata. It was very good, and being a collection of stories from throughout his career, arranged in chronological order, I think it showed his great maturation over the decades. The stories became more exquisite, more fascinating and rich with thoughts and feelings, as I read on.

    The last story, Gleanings From Snow Country, is a condensation of his first novel, entitled Snow Country. It was interesting to see what parts he decided to include and which to drop out; I was surprised (though perhaps I shouldn't have been) at the way he left out the more dramatic elements of the storyline, instead choosing to emphasize - what? I'm not sure I can do it justice, but there seemed to be a deep sensual quality to the tale, even more than the original possessed.

    I'm not sure what I'll read next. If I can't get my hands on The Plum in the Golden Vase, I might go for Autobiography of Red, a novel in verse by Canadian poet Anne Carson.
    Last edited by Lykren; 02-17-2014 at 03:13 PM.

  2. #17
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    Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. I thought it was an interesting book. Liked how she mixed historical fiction and magic together. Wasn't crazy about the ending though...

    American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Absolutely loved this book. I'm going to the library today, as a matter of fact, to see what else they have from him. Really enjoyed his wit and sense of irony. Quite perceptive about American culture, also.

  3. #18
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    Palm-of-the-Hand Stories, Yasunari Kawabata: 7/10.

    So I read Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson, which was a very, very strange and intriguing book. It recounts a modern day parallel to the ancient Greek myth of Geryon. Carson's strong point is her unique way of delivering fantastically compelling imagery and description in a complete deadpan:

    "Enormous pools of a moment kept opening around his hands each time he tried to move them."

    Or,

    "The instant of nature forming between them drained every drop from the walls of his life leaving behind just ghosts rustling like an old map."

    The most readily apparent feature of the book is its tendency to juxtapose the everyday with the fantastic, the way those quotes above describe commonplace situations (being stoned and being in love, respectively) in startlingly fresh ways. This technique is also apparent in the narrative; Geryon, the main character, happens to be red and have wings, but this is mostly taken for granted by the other characters, none of whom have such abnormalities. A bit like what I hear magical realism is like.

    If this books has a weakness, it is probably in the conventionality of a moment in the plot in which a character tells Geryon he is part of an ancient society of chosen people - though I'm hesitant to call it a weakness, since everything else she did was so purpose-filled and graceful. Anyways, it was a very small trip-up (if it was indeed one) and I'll give this book 8/10.

    I've now started The Princess de Cleves.

  4. #19
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    Palm-of-the-Hand Stories: 7/10
    Autobiography of Red: 8/10

    I've just finished The Princesse de Cleves. It was a most unusual book. The titular character appeared to be shockingly self-loathing by the end. In addition, the behavior of the main male protagonist, as well as the love between the two, was so chaste and idealized it seemed written by one profoundly ignorant of any human reality.

    Bizarrely, at the same time, the narrator occasionally showed deep psychological insight in depicting various levels of social awareness among certain of her characters, all with the lightest of touches. So for that, and for the impressive style it was written with, I will give this book 6/10, despite its flaws.

    If anyone else has read this book and would like to share their opinions or contradict me, please do. I'm starting to feel alone on this thread.

  5. #20
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    Palm-of-the-Hand Stories: 7/10
    Autobiography of Red: 8/10
    The Princesse de Cleves: 6/10

    The Old Man and The Sea: The significant qualities of Hemingway's writing are his choice of detail and the phrasing with which he states the details he chooses. He also varies his diction in interesting ways. He uses words like 'phosphorescence' alongside the clumsy grammar which characterizes the internal monologue of Santiago. Even though I couldn't relate to the specific ideals Hemingway was communicating, the elemental quality of his style made the emotions of the all-enduring old man themselves highly relatable. 9/10

    Today I will finally get to start The Plum in the Golden Vase. Because it is 3,850 pages spread out over five volumes, I will post a review for each volume instead of one for the whole book.

  6. #21
    All are at the crossroads qimissung's Avatar
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    I guess this is my first one...I thought I'd read another, but I guess that was the one I was finishing from last year. Oh well.

    Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman. This is a well-told story (although not great literarily) and I enjoyed it. 7/10

    You are not alone, Lykren!
    Last edited by qimissung; 03-19-2014 at 11:55 PM.
    "The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its' own reason for existing." ~ Albert Einstein
    "Remember, no matter where you go, there you are." Buckaroo Bonzai
    "Some people say I done alright for a girl." Melanie Safka

  7. #22
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    Palm-of-the-Hand Stories: 7/10
    Autobiography of Red: 8/10
    The Princesse de Cleves: 6/10
    The Old Man and the Sea: 9/10

    Just finished the first volume of The Plum in the Golden Vase. It is an account of the going-ons and sexual politics of the household of the wealthy owner of a pharmaceutical shop in 12th-century China. The style of the narrative is ostensibly light-hearted, yet its method of inserting elegant poetry into scenes of sexual excess and vituperative dialogue make for an oddly dramatic effect. The author did well in making the narrative as lively as possible; the novel contains the larger part of life within itself, moving swiftly from scenes of grief to scenes of jubilation, from comedy to philosophical speculation. It's a hodgepodge affair, but one that makes for delightfully rewarding reading. I am very much looking forward to the next volume, which I will hopefully be able to obtain tomorrow. 9/10
    Last edited by Lykren; 03-15-2014 at 04:04 PM.

  8. #23
    All are at the crossroads qimissung's Avatar
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    Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman. This is a well-told story (although not great literarily) and I enjoyed it. 7/10

    Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. Humorous and charming. 8/10
    Last edited by qimissung; 04-11-2014 at 02:09 PM.
    "The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its' own reason for existing." ~ Albert Einstein
    "Remember, no matter where you go, there you are." Buckaroo Bonzai
    "Some people say I done alright for a girl." Melanie Safka

  9. #24
    TobeFrank Paulclem's Avatar
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    1) Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C Clarke Avery good, hard science read chronicling the appearance of a mysterious, gigantic cylinder in the solar system which is explored by a nearby spaceship. A good tale, well told. 8/10

    2) The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell A pagan Lord's Hall is burned down whilst he is blamed for the kidnapping of a Danish leader's wife and children. His ensuing struggle and travels make for interesting reading as Cornwell expands upon the historical detail in a swords and shields thriller. 6.5/10

    3) Cosmopolis by Don Delillo A successful currency dealer's every need is taken care of as he engages with experiences which will provide insight, feeling and meaning. A very interesting novel which asks big questions in an atheistic, corporate world. What do the riches we can acquire really mean for individuals? 8.5/10

    4) The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith aka JK Rowling A suicide is investigated by Private Detective Cormoran Strike in London. The plot twists and turns offering a number of plausible suspects and scenarios to murder before the final denoument. An enjoyable read. 7.5/10

    5) The Player of Games by Iain M Banks Jernau Gurgeh is a human game player in the Culture - an advanced, liberal, super-duper computer run civilisation set many years in the future. He is enlsted to play a game by the super computers - minds who reside in advanced spaceships - against players who live in a highly stratified and despotic Empire. An early culture sci-fi, and a rare re-read for me, Banks has written an engrossing book packed with ideas and speculations. Excellent. 9/10

    6) After Dark by Haruki Murukami The novel is set over one night. Murukami's vision of night is a fertile ground where things can happen - good and bad. I found it oddly bloodless, though this is my first Murukami novel and I intend to read more as he has interesting things to say about media through his use of the narrator. 7/10

    7) Greybeard by Brian Aldiss Following nuclear tests and the sterilisation of the adult world community, the novel tracks the attempts by individuals to survive the breakdown of society and then find and protect any children who may have been born since the disaster. The novel flits back and forth to pre and post breakdown, charting Greybeard and the community's progress. 7/10

  10. #25
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    [QUOTE=prendrelemick;1252265]Reading log. 2014
    Following on from last year's...

    Road to Nab End by William Woodruff.

    A true story of growing up in Blackburn between the Wars, by a man who can write fluently and interestingly. These people had absolutely nothing, unyet managed to get by. I found it facinating - it brought back memories of my Grandma's stories of her childhood. 8/10

    Why be Happy When You Can be Normal by Jeanette Winterson.

    It goes over the same ground as Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit. This time she is not so concerned with narrative and humour but jumps around from place to place and thought to thought. The story is still the same, an orphan brought up in extraordinary and loveless surroundings by a dominating religious mother, somehow educates herself and breaks free.
    Then she jumps 25 years and tries to track, explain and describe the causes of a horrendous breakdown. This is couragous stuff I was genuinely moved. My admiration of this woman has gone up to a whole new level. 9/10

    The Dinner by Herman Koch.

    (A re-read)Two couples meet to discuss their boys - who have done a very bad thing. It is a fine example of being led along by an unreliable narrator, you never quite know where you are , especially with the characters. The effect is unsettling - which is exactly the author's aim - and so although I didn't exactly enjoy it, it is a well written and clever book. 7/10

    The colour purple by Alice Walker
    &
    The help by Katheryn Stockett

    Two similar books about life in the American south. The Colour Purple concerns one black woman's journey from utter powerlesness into position and self worth, and is set completely within the black community. 7.5/10

    The Help was the most enjoyable of the two because of its incorrigable humour. It is about the interaction between white society housewives and their black maids - from the maids' point of view. I liked it a lot. 8/10

    The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien.

    Ok, I've been wallowing in self indulgence revisiting this epic fantasy for the fifth or sixth time. I love it. I love the story, the writing ,the language, the cliff hangers, the emotion etc.. It is also a work that has significance for our family, a bond we have forged on dark winter nights together many years ago when we turned the telly off and read it out loud to the kids (it took two winters to complete). So anyway, it is my all time favorite book and is (apart from one other ) the work I reserve my 10/10 for.

    The Thread by Victoria Hislop.

    Complete waste of time and effort.


    Anabasis by Xenophon

    Written two and a half thousand years ago, a cracking true tale of action and adventure. 10 000 Greek mercenaries are stranded in hostile lands - leaderless and surrounded by enemies. Cometh the hour cometh the man, Xenophon takes charge (democratically of course) and leads them home. 7.5/10.
    Last edited by prendrelemick; 04-04-2014 at 01:57 AM.
    ay up

  11. #26
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    Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte

    The Emergence of a Nation State: the Commonwealth of England 1529-1660 by Alan G R Smith

    The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
    'Anger's my meat; I sup upon myself,
    And so shall starve with feeding.'
    Volumnia in Coriolanus

  12. #27
    All are at the crossroads qimissung's Avatar
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    Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman. This is a well-told story (although not great literarily) and I enjoyed it. 7/10

    Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. Humorous and charming. 8/10

    Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott; a book on writing and living. 8/10
    Last edited by qimissung; 04-22-2014 at 01:14 AM.
    "The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its' own reason for existing." ~ Albert Einstein
    "Remember, no matter where you go, there you are." Buckaroo Bonzai
    "Some people say I done alright for a girl." Melanie Safka

  13. #28
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    Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey - 6.5/10 - Carey's prose is very beautiful and he has a delicate touch when it comes to describing emotional states. The first half was very good, especially the parts about Oscar's childhood and his interactions with his friend Wardley-Fish. The second half has many wonderful elements - the two compulsive gamblers finally meet (one is supposed to be obsessive and the other compulsive, but I didn't get the difference), and the idea of transporting a glass church across uncharted terrain is a beautiful piece of inspired folly, but it all fails to really take off, probably because Carey bases it on that most annoying and arbitrary of plot devices - the mistaken belief that the beloved person is in love with somebody else.

    The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith - 7/10 - a charming, entertaining read from the 18th century.

    The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka - 9/10 - "One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin." this is how it starts, and the rest of the book was quite unlike anything I expected from such a beginning. Absolutely brilliant. I bet the literary over-interpreters and over-analysers have a field day trying to explain what this is all about.
    Last edited by mona amon; 04-15-2014 at 12:17 AM.
    Exit, pursued by a bear.

  14. #29
    TobeFrank Paulclem's Avatar
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    1) Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C Clarke Avery good, hard science read chronicling the appearance of a mysterious, gigantic cylinder in the solar system which is explored by a nearby spaceship. A good tale, well told. 8/10

    2) The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell A pagan Lord's Hall is burned down whilst he is blamed for the kidnapping of a Danish leader's wife and children. His ensuing struggle and travels make for interesting reading as Cornwell expands upon the historical detail in a swords and shields thriller. 6.5/10

    3) Cosmopolis by Don Delillo A successful currency dealer's every need is taken care of as he engages with experiences which will provide insight, feeling and meaning. A very interesting novel which asks big questions in an atheistic, corporate world. What do the riches we can acquire really mean for individuals? 8.5/10

    4) The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith aka JK Rowling A suicide is investigated by Private Detective Cormoran Strike in London. The plot twists and turns offering a number of plausible suspects and scenarios to murder before the final denoument. An enjoyable read. 7.5/10

    5) The Player of Games by Iain M Banks Jernau Gurgeh is a human game player in the Culture - an advanced, liberal, super-duper computer run civilisation set many years in the future. He is enlsted to play a game by the super computers - minds who reside in advanced spaceships - against players who live in a highly stratified and despotic Empire. An early culture sci-fi, and a rare re-read for me, Banks has written an engrossing book packed with ideas and speculations. Excellent. 9/10

    6) After Dark by Haruki Murukami The novel is set over one night. Murukami's vision of night is a fertile ground where things can happen - good and bad. I found it oddly bloodless, though this is my first Murukami novel and I intend to read more as he has interesting things to say about media through his use of the narrator. 7/10

    7) Greybeard by Brian Aldiss Following nuclear tests and the sterilisation of the adult world community, the novel tracks the attempts by individuals to survive the breakdown of society and then find and protect any children who may have been born since the disaster. The novel flits back and forth to pre and post breakdown, charting Greybeard and the community's progress. 7/10

    8) Q by Luther Blisset The 16th century Protestant movement in Germany is the setting for a novel which follows the fortunes of a German supporter who has to adopt many names to survive the trials of opposing the Catholic hierarchy in Europe. Different narrative techniques such as Diaries, letters and multiple flashbacks are used to tell the story. The authors refer to historical martyrs and the most read banned book - The Benefits of Christ Crucified - (which is still available to buy and on the web) - to give the story authenticity. I really enjoyed the story and the historical details, and was intrigued to find its authors were four Italians who went on to write as a new group called Wu Ming. Fascinating 9/10

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/54-Wu-Ming/d...d_bxgy_b_img_y

  15. #30
    All are at the crossroads qimissung's Avatar
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    You are reading along at a very rapid clip, Paul.

    Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman. This is a well-told story (although not great literarily) and I enjoyed it. 7/10

    Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. Humorous and charming. 8/10

    Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott; a book on writing and living. 8/10

    Claire Dewitt and the Bohemian Highway by Sara Gran. 9/10 A sort of existential, philosophical, noirish, murder mystery, with a female private detective. Shades of Philip Marlow and his creator.
    Last edited by qimissung; 07-22-2014 at 10:51 AM.
    "The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its' own reason for existing." ~ Albert Einstein
    "Remember, no matter where you go, there you are." Buckaroo Bonzai
    "Some people say I done alright for a girl." Melanie Safka

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