Tonight I read John Fante's Ask the Dust. The foreward is from Bukowski, describing how it was THE pivotal novel in shaping his writing style. Those familiar with Bukowski can definitely see it. Fante's writer is more manic than Chinaski, but he nevertheless embodies a certain idyll of the novelist working for his craft. It's fitting that this would be the first one Bukowski read, as he mirrored it in his first novel, Post Office. In both, the character/author has a few published works and is doing menial labor (or nothing) and scraping by through bars in LA. In both, they bang chicks out of their league and then get drunk, act like assholes and then succeed/fail simultaneously. Both end in similar fashion. And, both are brutally well written. If you are a Bukowski fan, I highly recomind reading Ask the Dust. If you like LA fiction, ditto. And, basically, if you like blunt, well written fiction, it's worth your time.
I just finished my first Nabokov -- The Pale Fire. It is, without a doubt, unlike anything I've ever come across. The meta-aesthetics at work in the text (or the '3 texts' - prologue, poem, commentary) contain some of the most mind-bending literary dynamics I've ever had the pleasure of reading.
As a personal introduction to this thread, here are my 10 favorite pieces of literature (too early to add the aforementioned text):
1) In Search of Lost Time by Proust
2) Ulysses by Joyce
3) Infinite Jest by DFW
4) Twilight of the Idols / The Anti-Christ by Nietzsche
5) The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevky
6) The Fall by Camus
7) The Denial of Death by Becker
8) The Sound & The Fury by Faulkner
9) The Remains of the Day by Ishiguro
10) Kafka On The Shore by Murakami
Last edited by Poor Yorick; 05-22-2012 at 01:23 AM. Reason: Error
Yeah, I really enjoyed Pale Fire as well. [Minor spoiler ahead...] But once it was pretty obvious that we were dealing not only with an unreliable narrator but a delusional and even deranged narrator, it felt like we weren't going anywhere. Everything was beautifully and elaborately composed, though. Don't know if you caught this, Poor Yorick, but we actually had a book club for Nabokov's Pnin earlier this year. Perhaps not a resounding success, but it was fun to try and figure the puzzle out with everyone as we went along. I still can't believe I haven't read Lolita. It's on the list, but I try to avoid doing back-to-back with authors.
Ulysses and The Sound & The Fury are two of my favorites as well. Remains of the Day and Infinite Jest are on the 'to read' list for sure.
I'm pretty sure I already complimented you on the username, but once again, *standing ovation*. You should think about embarking on the literary journey that is Infinite Summer[.org]. Besides all the great secondary criticisms, analyses, interviews, et cetera et cetera , there's a few really helpful tips and strategies to reading the novel that will really enrich the experience. I couldn't agree with you more about Pale Fire: While it is a compelling, thought-provoking, and even ground-breaking text from an academic (re: completely cerebral) perspective, the story sort of plateaued around the middle [SPOILER ALERT] when it's suggested that Botkin & Kinbote are (most likely) one-in-the-same and that we're (probably) dealing with a paranoid schizophrenic.
I did not catch the Pnin book club, but I'll be reading it after I complete Lolita this weekend. (I actually prefer to read works by the same author back-to-back). I studied the novel college (without reading it) and figured it was about time I opened it up. To sum up my experience with the text thus far in a single word: stimulating. I feel complicit in the dirty deeds of our narrator when I say a text has never aroused me more in my life.
I just finished reading Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson. It's a collection of short stories about heroin addicts, and it's really compelling. He has a very direct style, and the stuff the people get into is pretty intense. There are a few characters with clear mental illness that he really brings to life. I would highly recommend it.
You are mad as the sea and wind when both contend, PY. I hate this long, unwieldy username, but I'm stuck with it now. It was just a strong reaction to that cretin's appearance with the Bloody Beetroots back in '09. Anyway, I much prefer my other username, BROKENDOLL.
Thanks for the tip on infinitesummer.org - bookmarked it for later.
I just finished The White Tiger which was a total blast. Highly recommended if you're looking for a breezy, darkly funny quick read. It captures the dark underbelly of Indian society in the age of globalization. It's also kind of an antidote to the usual romance associated with the sub-continent -- no swirling saris, fragrant mangoes and spiritual enlightenment by the Ganges in this one. I'm starting The Stranger's Child, the new Alan Hollinghurst novel, tomorrow. Really looking forward to this one, though I can't imagine Hollinghurst ever surpassing the brilliant The Line of Beauty.
I've read a bunch of stuff since I last posted something here. The standout is probably James Ellroy's Blood's a Rover. Ellroy needs to be experienced by everyone at least once. His prose is like a shot of pure adrenalin – it makes the hard-boiled noir of Hammett and Chandler look as ornate and ostentatious as Austen and Brönte. The plot of Blood's a Rover is almost beside the point – it's the third part of a trilogy that does audacious, exciting things with American history. In this case we get Howard Hughes' takeover of Vegas; the aftermath of the JFK, RFK, and MLK assassinations; political revolution in the Dominican Republic and Haiti; J. Edgar Hoover's paranoia of Communists and black militant groups; and a little dose of voodoo to spice things up. It's seriously exciting stuff.
5/25-5/27: MOVEMENT DETROIT
6/6: The Field @ The Independent
6/26: Colin Stetson @ The Chapel
I never read The Alchemist because the title and plot sound tedious. Was I right in my assumption?
Those that like to eat, travel, and cook should read Blood, Bones, & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton.
Am I tedious, Gunz?
The Alchemist isn't tedious at all. It is extremely simple, actually. It's like any other fable. I was disappointed that it wasn't really about alchemy, or that it didn't really use alchemy in a clever way. It just had alchemical flavors.
I just received Amphigorey -- Fifteen Books By Edward Gorey an hour ago from a nice coworker of mine. It's funny, I was looking into buying a Edward Gorey book or two after viewing his Gashlycrumb Tinies poster a month back. I've only thumbed through it, but it's dark, disturbing and funny--a category of media I really enjoy.
The used copy of Martian Chronicles I received in the mail smells like Grandfather's den.
Also picked up Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene, which is supposed to be a crackup, featuring an appliance salesman turned secret agent.
Read a few more books in June...
The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst - The latest book by the wonderful British author. I believe that the US edition didn't come out until this year, which seems unusual for such a popular and acclaimed author. Last year, when the book failed to get shortlisted for the Booker Prize, there was a mini uproar in the UK. I'm not sure it was justified, though. The book has all of the expected Hollinghurst tropes - British class warfare, sexual repression and release, changing mores of evolving (or devolving?) gay culture, the intrigue of life in great British houses - but it lacks the elegant structure of his prior works and their passion, too. He can still turn a phrase masterfully; perhaps better than any contemporary British author, but the book is a slog. I had to fight to finish it. Quite the opposite reaction I've had to all of his prior works. If you've never read Hollinghurst, skip this one and go straight for The Line of Beauty, which actually (and deservedly) won the Booker Prize in '04.
Just Kids by Patti Smith - I wish this had lived up to the hype. Smith has a lovely way with words. There are many passages I had to read twice because of how beautifully she captured a moment between her and Rober Mapplethorpe, but it didn't really add up to much. It was very "this happened, then this happened, then this happened." I will say that the book made me love her even more. The passion she had (and still has) for so many different kinds of fine and performing arts is really infectious. Also, I know a lot of "developing artist" types and Smith's wonderful descriptions of her and Mapplethorpe's artistic development will make me think twice before calling a young artist's efforts vainglorious.
We the Animals debut novel by Justin Torres - I tend to stick with established authors, but I picked this one up last week after a friend was raving about it. I believe Torres published a couple of short stories in The New Yorker and The Atlantic, but this is his first novel. It's kind of a roman a clef about Torres' youth growing up the youngest of three boys of a hot tempered Puerto Rican father and a confused (and possibly mentally ill) American mother who were seemingly trapped in a sometimes violent and passionate relationship. It's a slim 128 pages which you could easily finish in a day or two. The chapters are very short vignettes - almost self-contained short stories - of surviving an unsteady upbringing in which your family is constantly teetering on the edge of disaster. It's beautifully written, concentrated prose in which an almost achingly tender moment between a father, mother and their boys can suddenly careen into rage and confusion. This is an odd way to recommend a book, but if you enjoyed Terence Malick's The Tree of Life - specifically the scenes involving the young brothers - I think you'll love this book. It's a dark, ferocious and tenderly observed little book.
Anyone done the ‘Arabian Nights’? Bueno? Not sure if it’s clichéd, but plan on reading them whilst in the Middle East/Africa this summer. Richard Burton translation. Also bought these recently for the pipeline.
Up Above the World by Paul Bowles
Days: A Tangier Diary by Paul Bowles
Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
Old Man and The Sea by Hemingway
Two Wheels Through Terror: Diary of a South American Motorcycle Odyssey by Glen Heggstad
I think Bowles is a fantastic writer.
5/25-5/27: MOVEMENT DETROIT
6/6: The Field @ The Independent
6/26: Colin Stetson @ The Chapel
Yeah, for sure. Done him like three or four times (i.e. three or four books). Looking forward to 'Up Above the World' as it sounds similarly themed to Ballard's Cocaine Nights, which I really enjoyed. Mystery, drugs, sex, murder, a sense of dread rounding every corner, etc. Not necessarily the normal Bowles fair.
Speaking of The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho says, "I'm modern because I make the difficult seem easy, and so I can communicate with the whole world." Also, he says, "One of the books that caused great harm was James Joyce's Ulysses, which is pure style. There is nothing there. Stripped down, Ulysses is a twit."
Insipid cunt. I wonder if he knows it's part of his personal legend to suck my fucking dick. And it'll happen too, because if you want something bad enough, the universe will conspire to make it happen.
I've actually started reading on a daily basis again lately. Trying to reach my goal of 30 books by the end of the year, which I am woefully behind on. Here's what I've been reading:
The House Of Sand And Fog by Andres Dubus III. This was enjoyable enough. It seemed like a pretty typical best-seller middlebrow kind of thing, but framing the story as two different protagonists making antagonists out of each other gave it some needed depth. By telling the story from both perspectives and then letting things escalate out of control as both sides just try to hang on to the little they have is a great source of heartbreak. Still, it didn't add up to anything exceedingly memorable, but not a bad book to pass the time.
A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith. This I enjoyed a lot. It's a sprawling series of slice-of-life vignettes about a young girl and her family growing up poor in Williamsburg. There's a lot of simple yet profound insight into human nature and the way different types of people behave that reminded me a bit of Steinbeck. It's comical and tragic in equal measures and is a delight to read the whole way through.
Amsterdam by Ian McEwan. This was pretty bad and pointless. I wrote a full review and posted it in the book club thread about this book.
And right now I'm making my way through David Eggers' A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius, which I'm loving and devouring pretty quickly, even it's a little too cute about its self awareness at times.
David Rakoff died this past week after a long battle with cancer. If you've never read anything of his, I can't recommend him enough. He was truly brilliant, irreverently witty, sometimes uncomfortably honest in his observations, and had a narrative voice all his own. This is a considerable loss for the world of nonfiction. RIP.