What book are you reading?

Sysyphus

Talk Tennis Guru
Read Eric Vuillard's The Order of the Day, winner of the Prix Goncourt. It is something between a novel and an essay with literary embellishments, chronicling the lead-up to the second world war. It presents us with a list of tableaux, essentially, from the timespan between the National Socialist Party's accession to power and through to the Anschluss -- the annexation of Austria. The book starts off by taking us behind the scenes at a meeting between the Näzi leaders and 24 of the most important men in German industry. The industrial lords are happily talked into pouring money into the näzi machine, under the pretext that the Party will provide a more stable political environment that will lead to the prosperity of the business men. Parliamentary democracy is too idle; a more 'rousing form of government' is needed. (You could be forgiven for thinking of the glee with which Brazilian financial market greeted the election of Bolsonaro.) And prosper they do: many of them earned enormous fortunes on the war, not least through the fruits reaped from forced labor from concentration camps. As Vuillard reminds us, these aren't business monsters that belong to the dark corners of history. These are companies such as Siemens, Allianz, Bayer, BMW -- our cars, washing machines, cleaning appliances, watch batteries.

The book also chronicles the weakness of French and British leaders in the face of the increasing German aggression. There is a scene depicting the dinner party where prime minister Chamberlain receives a telegram informing of the invasion of Austria. Instead of aborting the dinner, he lets Ribbentrop slyly drone on and on (about tennis players, incidentally) in order to deliberately stall them. Politeness at all costs.

Vuillard wants to dispel the myth of inevitability that surrounds our recollection of the lead-up to the war. This was not merely some irresistible force or law of nature. The world simply let it happen across many little steps. He recounts the invasion of Austria. The German tanks get stuck in ditches by the road and cause a massive traffic chaos, forcing them to be carried back by train like circus props. 'Blitzkrieg' was nothing more than an advertising slogan at this point, Vuillard reminds us, something they wished would eventually become reality. This mix of black comedy and frightening tragedy join together through these scenes.

Vuillard never explicitly draws the parallels to our present day, which makes the point all the more poignant. But it's there, just beneath the surface. “We never fall twice into the same abyss,” he writes. “But we always fall the same way, in a mixture of ridicule and dread.” And it's a point well made -- dread accomplished.

 

Sysyphus

Talk Tennis Guru
Also reread George Orwell's Animal Farm. Or, rather, listened to it – a version read by Simon Callow (who by all means should not be confused with Simon Cowell).

Originally read this at maybe 16, which I suppose is an age where many people encounter this one.

Did feel a bit more heavy-handed and not as freshly edgy this time around, a bit blunt or obvious in a certain sense. Though in reality, the situation of the world, during his time and during ours, shows that his message perhaps wasn't obvious enough in any case.

It's a poignant fable, though, both as a satirical critique of the horrors and absurdity of the Soviet in the particular and of political repression and the corruption of power more in the abstract, lessons which are still very much relevant. The way Orwell draws some of his symbolic parallels is often very amusing and adroit, with more of the historical parallels being readily obvious to me now than when I first read it, I think.



Currently I have begun listening to Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore. Will probably take some time given that the audio is some 21 hours and I'll only listen while commuting. Should keep me entertained for some trips to work in other words.
 

Vcore89

G.O.A.T.
Lol everytime I hear of Gertrude Stein, I can't get this sketch off my mind

Gertrude mentored Ernest Hemingway at the beginning of his literary life's sojourn. Simplify, use short sentences: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
 
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acintya

Legend
For some reason I cant anymore read imaginary stories. I read only auto-biograpfy stuff, or books that are written as if they would be a auto-biography.The last ones were: Nausea, Jean-Paul Sartre, Boris Yeltsin: Against the Grain.
What can you feel more than a true story?
 

Sysyphus

Talk Tennis Guru
Read Joseph Conrad's ever-classic Heart of Darkness a few days ago. To be honest, I found it a bit of a struggle to get into it at first, not quite in the right headspace for it I suppose. There is a lot of ambiguity, the language frequently dense (though it might just be me who is dense, hue hue). After I while I did start to get more into it, though. Conrad does write very skillfully, and his prose is more like poetry at times.

"It seems to me I am trying to tell you a dream—making a vain attempt, because no relation of a dream can convey the dream-sensation, that commingling of absurdity, surprise, and bewilderment in a tremor of struggling revolt, that notion of being captured by the incredible which is of the very essence of dreams... No, it is impossible; it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one's existence—that which makes its truth, its meaning—its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream—alone..."​
It is certainly interesting to read a book about colonialism written during peak colonialism from the vantage point of the present. There will inevitably be some discord between the values of the time and our values today. The book definitely voices its share of criticisms of colonial practice, but they are a species of criticism that appears quaint today. More than the fundamental wrongness of imperialism, Conrad seems concerned with its futility and inefficiency; while he certainly does show the horrors inflicted upon the native population, he seems more terrified by how colonialism corrupts the soul of Europeans such as Kurtz. But it'd be silly to fault a book from 1899 for not reading like it was written today.


 

Bartelby

Bionic Poster
Boris Yeltsin: Against the Grain or For the Grain Alcohol?

For some reason I cant anymore read imaginary stories. I read only auto-biograpfy stuff, or books that are written as if they would be a auto-biography.The last ones were: Nausea, Jean-Paul Sartre, Boris Yeltsin: Against the Grain.
What can you feel more than a true story?
 

max

Legend
I finished Eusebius last night. The accounts of pagan persecution of Christians were intense and went on and on and on. Long book. Now I'm on to additional persecutions, with Anne Applebaum's "Iron Curtain: the Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-1956." So far an account of how the reds had no compunction about killing and destroying whatever served the Ultimate Ends of communist utopia. Nice and brutal.
 

max

Legend
Yeah sysyphus, Conrad IS dense stuff. I read that as a teen and just didn't care for it. If you want good fiction, look no further than Melville (as BB may prefer): I'm keen on Moby Dick as the world's first postmodern novel.
 

Bartelby

Bionic Poster
It's called empire, not communism, and there was even a Holy Roman Empire.

I finished Eusebius last night. The accounts of pagan persecution of Christians were intense and went on and on and on. Long book. Now I'm on to additional persecutions, with Anne Applebaum's "Iron Curtain: the Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-1956." So far an account of how the reds had no compunction about killing and destroying whatever served the Ultimate Ends of communist utopia. Nice and brutal.
 

max

Legend
I'd recommend for nonfiction a nice little book, The Last Fine Time, which is an account of a Buffalo, NY corner bar and its family. WELL written.
 

Sysyphus

Talk Tennis Guru
Did read Sally Rooney's Normal People, perhaps a couple of weeks ago or so now. A 'modern romance' wouldn't exactly be the kind of thing I normally go for, but I have encountered Rooney's non-fiction writings in the LRB and so on and she's got a sharp pen, so I was curious. Her two novels have earned her names such as 'the millennial Jane Austen', which is obviously a kind of hyperbole which is impossible to live up to. But there is some truth to the connection inasmuch as Rooney does write a kind of novel of manners -- in her case, chronicling the mores and social culture of urban educated millennials.

We follow the relationship of Connell and Marianne, from the last year of high school in the countryside of Sligo through their undergraduate years at Trinity College Dublin. In high school, it's Connell who's the popular and shy-but-well-adjusted of the two, from a working-class background but star of the football team, whereas the rich Marianne is a pariah. When they enter into a sexual relationship, Connell makes her promise to keep it a secret so as not to ruin his social standing. When, after a good dose of high school drama, they meet again in Trinity, it's suddenly Marianne who has found herself in social demand, flourishing in college life, whereas the working-class Connell finds himself alienated in this more moneyed environment. Rooney, a self-described marxist, is very interested in chronicling the subtle power shifts that play out in these relationships and the way their class backgrounds play into this and in shaping their lives. When they both end up winning prestigious scholarships, and the economic security that comes with it, for Marianne, the money is merely “a happy confirmation of what she has always believed about herself anyway: that she’s special,” but for Connell it is “the substance that makes the world real,” that allows him to travel and to think about stuff besides rent.

Of course, despite this class consciousness, there is a sense in which Rooney doesn't seem all that interested in writing about 'Normal People'. The two protagonists and much of their social circle are very much urban intellectual types, even if one of them happens to come from a relatively poor family.

In any case, I did find the story quite moving and well realized. While Rooney often settles for a restrained and sometimes almost flat tone, she certainly knows how to write and throws in moments of expressionistic descriptions (I suspect more and more as the characters aged and became more educated?) or subtle but clever irony in the dialogue. I thought her psychological sensitivity was attuned also; miscommunications and the traps set up by pride and insecurity are legion here. Her description of being a young, urban university student often felt relatable to me, which, being a stereotypical millennial narcissist, I obviously appreciated ~!~

Obviously the story has been turned into a hit BBC TV show as well. I have watched some episodes of that after reading the book. Seems like a nice rendering. The filming is often very tasteful, more than you usually see with TV. They do a great job capturing light, faces filmed in real places, emotions and intimacy — even if they can maybe get a bit too cute with the artsy out-of-focus tricks. The chemistry between the two leads is good also.

/ramble

 

Bagumbawalla

Hall of Fame
In the last couple weeks, read- The languages of Pao (Jack Vance) [interesting sci-fi idea], The Case of the Gilded Fly (Edmund Crispin) [poorly written mystery], A Pelican at Blandings (P.G. Wodhouse) [not one of his best],
Einstein's Theory of Relativity (Max Born) [Contains the math/calculations- mostly beyond my ability], The dead in their Vaulted arches (Alan Bradley) [culmination of the first 6 Flavia de Luce mystery novels]. Currently reading, Fantamos (Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre) [enjoyed by the Dadaists and Surrealists of the time- I am still undecided as to its merit].
 

Sysyphus

Talk Tennis Guru
Damon Young's The Art of Reading.

Title is pretty self-explanatory when it comes to the general topic.

Young, a philosopher by trade, wants to explore what good reading is. He has structured the book around Aristotle's taxonomy of the virtues. Young uses this taxonomy to explore how these virtues need to be cultivated by the reader if they want to read well – read with curiosity, patience, courage and temperance and so on – and also, I suppose, how reading might help us cultivate such virtues as well.

He draws on a wide range of literature to furnish this tour – everything from Borges to Batman, Heidegger to (Sherlock) Holmes, Nabokov to Ninja warriors and Plato to Proust.

As far as its structure and unity of concept goes, it felt rather tangential and loose to me. As if Young has set himself a list of authors, books and ideas he wants to visit on the journey, and then proceeds to casually go through the motions to connect these dots in a way that felt a bit strained and inorganic. But as a tour of a wide range of readings and some discussion of several literary minds' thoughts about reading, it works well enough.

 

max

Legend
Memoir of Ulysses S. Grant Vol 1
This actually IS a kind of classic. Pretty valuable and useful.

You might also like Carl Sandburg's biography of growing up as a boy in the 1880s, 1890s--"Always a Young Stranger." VERY good for getting a feel for the daily texture of those times.
 

Sysyphus

Talk Tennis Guru
read Mark Fisher's slender Capitalist Realism about a week ago. A rather readable critique of the ideological underpinnings of the neoliberal era, in which it is easier to envisage the end of the world than an end to capitalism.

"Capitalist realism as I understand it cannot be confined to art or to the quasi-propagandistic way in which advertising functions. It is more like a pervasive atmosphere, conditioning not only the production of culture but also the regulation of work and education, and acting as a kind of invisible barrier constraining thought and action."​


 

Tshooter

G.O.A.T.

Faris

Professional
Currently reading.


Got this for a class I was taking but opted to skip a book project and went for a different project instead. Book is a must-read on how racism took root and persists in the US till this day. Kendi writes in heartfelt manner, book has short chapters, is easy to read and his writing has substance..
 

Soul

Semi-Pro
Fascinating book, one that potentially could revolutionize type 2 diabetes and Alzheimers treatments.

The Chelation Revolution: Breakthrough Detox Therapy, with a Foreword by Tammy Born Huizenga, D.O., Founder of the Born Clinic


The Medical Breakthrough of Chelation Therapy: A treatment that uses medicine to remove toxic metals from the body so they don't make you sick.

Chelation has long been approved by the FDA to rid the body of lead by using a synthetic amino acid (ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid), which binds to toxic metals and minerals in the bloodstream, allowing a patient to excrete them. When metals like lead, mercury, iron, and arsenic build up in your body, they can be toxic.

Alternative medical practitioners have used chelation for nearly 60 years, especially to treat heavy metal contamination that causes or contributes to heart disease. Chelation rids the body of deposits that can lead to atherosclerosis, which causes coronary arteries to narrow, leading to heart attacks. Patients have also found relief through chelation for improving the symptoms of autism. One of the most promising areas of research is in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Because the buildup of metals like copper, iron, and zinc are thought to play a role in Alzheimer's disease, Chelation Therapy might have a place in treating it.

Full of hope-inspiring case histories, expert findings and where to find treatment, The Chelation Revolution: Breakthrough Detox Therapy shows how Chelation Therapy can alleviate suffering in numerous medical conditions and lead to a healthier, happier, and longer life.

Includes a Foreword by Tammy Born Huizenga, D.O., owner of the internationally recognized Born Clinic in Grand Rapids, MI, an internationally respected organization in preventive medicine with a speciality in Chelation Therapy.
 

ollinger

G.O.A.T.
On vacation last week, read two of my favorite non-fiction writers: "The Body" by Bill Bryson, and "Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War" by Mary Roach. Both books highly informative and highly entertaining.
 
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