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Have any of you read The Sympathizer?

by Kevin @, Thursday, October 27, 2016, 11:42

It's by Viet Thanh Nguyen. The Sympathizer is magnificent. I enjoyed reading something that wasn't a failed attempt at replicating The Corrections.

Other recent books:

Here I Am, by Jonathan Safran Foer: hated it. Quit 55% of the way through.

Breaks of the Game, Halberstam: awesome, but not all that well organized.

Shotgun Lovesongs, Nickolas Butler: I talk about my hatred for this book every month or so. It deserves to be burned. I might re-start the Nazis just to collect and burn all copies of this shitty book. Then the new Nazis would disband. We wouldn't be anti-Semitic or anything.

The Interestings, Meg Wolitzer: this was more like Visit from the Goon Squad. I am starting to think women do contemporary big-city high-quality fiction better than men. Wolitzer's approach has a hell of a lot more heart, and far better characters, than Franzen's books. Even the good Franzen books, like Freedom, have bad characters.

Everybody's Fool, Richard Russo: maybe I'm alone, and LT and Buck will say this guy's too mass-market, but I think he succeeds with every book. I love this guy.

The Adventures of Augie March, Saul Bellow: not my cup of tea. Started to remind me of Portnoy's Complaint or an Updike book, neither of which are compliments from me.

My Name is Lucy Barton, Elizabeth Strout: I've mentioned this before. Elizabeth Strout is the best modern novelist in America. She's perfect. She, Russo, Richard Ford, and Jane Smiley (read the Last Hundred Years Trilogy, now that the weather is getting bad).



I want to read the Iliad and Odyssey - never read it through

by Grantland @, y'allywood, Friday, October 28, 2016, 09:28 @ Kevin

Any good recs on the best translation?

Same with Shakespeare - any good recs on a one volume collection?


add the Bagg translation of the Oedipus Cycle

by professor @, Tallahassee, Friday, October 28, 2016, 09:36 @ Grantland

I just finished teaching Oedipus Rex and Oedipus at Kolonos a few weeks ago. My gosh, are those great plays. And short enough to read in an hour or two.


Oedipus is very funny

by Jay ⌂, San Diego, Friday, October 28, 2016, 10:18 @ professor

Comedy equals tragedy, plus time. Take Oedipus for example. “Who did this terrible thing to our city? Oh God, it was me!” See, that's comedy right there.


It's gold, Jay! Comedy GOLD!

by Brendan ⌂ @, The Chemical and Oil Refinery State, Friday, October 28, 2016, 11:49 @ Jay

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Listen to the voice of Life, and you will hear Life crying, "Be!"


done, thanks

by Grantland @, y'allywood, Friday, October 28, 2016, 10:12 @ professor

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Robert Fagles for Homer; Riverside for Shakespeare

by HCE, Friday, October 28, 2016, 09:31 @ Grantland

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done, thanks

by Grantland @, y'allywood, Friday, October 28, 2016, 10:12 @ HCE

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I spent all summer reading McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom

by HullieAndMikes, Joe Turner's bookcase, ALHS, Friday, October 28, 2016, 05:13 @ Kevin

Pretty much the standard one-volume history of the Civil War. I thought it was fabulous.

I also read A Monster Calls after being intrigued by the movie trailer. It's kind of a kid's book the same way Pan's Labyrinth is a fairy tale. I was impressed.

Currently trying to find time to work through Le Carre's A Perfect Spy, which is semi-autobiographical (haven't read his actually autobiography that came out this year). It might be his most complex book in terms of structure and viewpoint, and is much more psychological than he usually gets. It's interesting how different he is from book to book.


My first year teaching,

by Bryan (IrishCavan), Howth Castle and Environs, Friday, October 28, 2016, 08:42 @ HullieAndMikes

I assigned it as the text for my Civil War class. I had to put down an insurrection from the students (I had assigned 4 other books, I believe). Not bright on my part. But I did show them the syllabus of my retired colleague from the late 60s. He had assigned 8 books for the course.


What were the other books?

by Jim (OFD) @, Naptown, Friday, October 28, 2016, 10:34 @ Bryan (IrishCavan)

Just curious...

The Civil War class I took in college was condensed (taught over ~8 weeks) and McPherson's book was the only one we used.


If I recall correctly,

by Bryan (IrishCavan), Howth Castle and Environs, Friday, October 28, 2016, 16:01 @ Jim (OFD)

Bruce Levine, Half Slave, Half Free.
Emory Thomas, The Confederate Nation
Confederates in the Attic
The Killer Angels


Were you teaching in the South?

by Grantland @, y'allywood, Friday, October 28, 2016, 09:26 @ Bryan (IrishCavan)

I have picked the book up and down and read parts and I like it.

But most of my Southern friends do not think it is pro-South enough - whatever the hell that means.


No, it was in Illinois.

by Bryan (IrishCavan), Howth Castle and Environs, Friday, October 28, 2016, 15:49 @ Grantland

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McPherson is clear on why the war was fought

by HullieAndMikes, Joe Turner's bookcase, ALHS, Friday, October 28, 2016, 09:29 @ Grantland

He explains the full range of pre-war conflicts between North and South, but he doesn't mince around the fact that slavery was the real reason for the whole thing.


Right I meant "whatever that means" as how could the guys

by Grantland @, y'allywood, Friday, October 28, 2016, 09:40 @ HullieAndMikes
edited by Grantland, Friday, October 28, 2016, 10:06

down here argue that it was not a war primarily against slavery and argue that anyone who does not agree with that is not "pro-South."

I have friends (very smart but also very crazy) who have often explained the States' rights argument (the War of Northern Aggression), how Lincoln ignored the Constitution (, etc., etc.

I just shake my head. These guys need to live elsewhere a bit. [EDIT: Sometimes I look at them and say, "SO? Why the hell does it matter? Do you all think there should still be.............Nevermind, don't answer!"]

I evacuated to Atlanta from the hurricane. Atlanta is a pain because of traffic, but it is so refreshing to walk into a store and see different walks of life.


Even if you accept the states' rights argument on its face

by Jeremy (WeIsND), Offices of Babip Pecota Vorp & Eckstein, Friday, October 28, 2016, 10:20 @ Grantland

It still comes back to slavery in some way, shape, or form.


It was a fight over the states' rights to enable slavery

by Coach Gillespie, Omaha, Friday, October 28, 2016, 11:40 @ Jeremy (WeIsND)

The two are not mutually exclusive, as much as some southerners want to think.



by Jeremy (WeIsND), Offices of Babip Pecota Vorp & Eckstein, Friday, October 28, 2016, 12:00 @ Coach Gillespie

"We want to be free to do whatever we want."**

**And that includes continuing the practice of slavery, which is necessary to continue our heavily agrarian society.


I'm about 60% of the way through Battle Cry

by Kevin @, Friday, October 28, 2016, 05:20 @ HullieAndMikes

I thought it was great, but it's tough to restart something that dense once you've put it down for awhile.


Same here. Really like it but progress is slow. And

by BillyGoat, At Thanksgiving with Joe Bethersontin, Friday, October 28, 2016, 06:43 @ Kevin

Every time I put it down and pick it up I feel like Cam McDaniel running through the backwards gauntlet.


That's definitely true

by HullieAndMikes, Joe Turner's bookcase, ALHS, Friday, October 28, 2016, 05:25 @ Kevin

It's funny, because most people would have a general idea of the war's narrative, but you learn so much new stuff and so many new characters that it's almost a whole new story.

I agree with your assessment of The Breaks of the Game, by the way. I read that earlier this year. It's hypnotizingly fantastic in individual parts (I never knew how graceful and poetic a section about Bill Walton's feet could be) but it reads more like two dozen magazine pieces meshed together than a true book. But a fascinating glimpse at early NBA history.


I love book threads. Anyone read Skinny Dip?

by Turtlecrack, Thursday, October 27, 2016, 16:40 @ Kevin

That book is one of the few that makes me laugh out loud. I like hiassen books in general but after 3 of em you've read gen all. Also recently read I Claudius (really good) and the Winter of Frankie Machine (considering picking up the Cartel by the same author).


Hiassen's brother was actually my boss for awhile

by HullieAndMikes, Joe Turner's bookcase, ALHS, Friday, October 28, 2016, 05:09 @ Turtlecrack

He was a newspaper editor. Really nice guy and similar sense of humor. I always wondered if it was hard being in the relatively same business as an uber successful sibling.


Fantasy subthread:

by Jim (OFD) @, Naptown, Thursday, October 27, 2016, 13:25 @ Kevin

I started The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson. I kind of wish I hadn't. The first book (The Way of Kings) took a long time to get going and each book is like 1,000 pages. There are 10 planned.

Why did I do this to myself?


I loved it. It gets better and better. I also liked

by Turtlecrack, Thursday, October 27, 2016, 16:31 @ Jim (OFD)

The emperor's blades (3 part series complete and each book gets better) and ember in the ashes (although the whole boy goes to school thing and becomes a warrior who rebels isn't new, it's well done). The new book by Anthony Ryan I liked despite me not wanting to because blood song trilogy ended so damn poorly.


It'll be worth it in the end (IMO)

by PootND ⌂ @, Jersey City, Thursday, October 27, 2016, 15:52 @ Jim (OFD)

It's gonna be his mangnum opus and will likely be the best thing that will tie the entirety of the Cosmere together.

Sanderson is known for his slow starts and Sanderson Avalanche that finishes a book. I disagree with Suave_andrew below in that I think Words of Radiance was better than WoK. the ending did tie up a bunch of storylines (more than I expected to finish by the end of book 2) but there are still a good deal of plot lines (including the Warbreaker cameos) available for book 3. and personlly, I loved the interludes & think they are definitely worth it. They bring in so much background world building of Roshar and the Cosmere that are fun to read about...especially if you've read the latest Mistborns.

I'm enjoying being on the ground floor of an epic series considering Malazan, GoT, & Wheel of Time were all finished/essentially finished by the time I started reading. There's enough other books out there, including many by Sanderson, that the 2 years wait for each Stormlight Book is worth it.


And unlike Martin and rothfuss he actually churns out books

by Turtlecrack, Thursday, October 27, 2016, 16:33 @ PootND

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I'll give Rothfuss a pass, Martin, not so much

by Chris (HCC) @, Paradise, Friday, October 28, 2016, 05:10 @ Turtlecrack

Rothfuss has been really clear that with the third book that he was changing his writing schedule. He did a few really good interviews where he talks about how he missed some things with his kid because he was on a grueling schedule. After that he decided he was going to set firm hours to write at and the book would get done when it gets done. The other thing that he spends time on is his charity, which is actually a pretty baller setup. WorldBuilders is a pretty sweet org that he spends a lot of time on.

So, I mean, when a dude is like, "yeah, I'm writing, it'll be a awhile" and he's spending his free time on being a good dad and starting/running a very active charitable organization, I'm ok with that.

Martin on the other hand, dude probably does some good things in his free time, but he's also setting a ton of "deadlines" which he consistently misses and then doesn't update until several months after the fact. The scope of his writing keeps shifting and growing as well. Just look at A Feast For Crows and Dance with Dragons and you have what was supposed to be one book that was just meant to jump the story forward in time, but turned into two books that were far longer than the preceding books. Martin is just undisciplined as a writer. In the last year I've started to read more for pleasure, and now that I've dove back into to fantasy head first, it's become clear that Martin can paint a very clear picture and transports the reader to an interesting world, he just really isn't a good story-teller as the tale keeps getting away from him.


I listened to both books on Audible

by suave_andrew, Thursday, October 27, 2016, 14:40 @ Jim (OFD)

90 hours of audio in total between the two. Helps pass the time walking to and from work.

I liked the first book the best so far; the ending of the second book felt like the season finale of a TV show where all the loose ends are conveniently tied up and new plots opened. I normally hate fantasy books to be honest, so I'll give him credit: it moves along well despite the length of the books (although I did skip over some of the 'interludes' which got very boring very quickly and the book could have done without) and the characters were generally well developed and not cookie cutter fantasy archetypes for the most part. Also, no dragons or wizards (so far) which is a plus.


I taught a Creative Writing Seminar a few years ago

by HCE, Thursday, October 27, 2016, 13:56 @ Jim (OFD)

My most earnest students were fantasy and science fiction fans, and having been raised on thousand page novels and ten volume series, they found short fiction impossible to write. Every story I read that semester was five pages of exposition taken randomly from the third novel in a planned saga about time-traveling aliens or alternate realities; every workshop devolved into lectures about the intricate plots and overly-dense mythoi of unwritten books.

They weren't bad writers, and some of their ideas were good, but they couldn't wrap their heads around self-contained short stories or novels. My guess is that's pretty typical of budding authors, so expect more 10,000 page epics in the future.


what short stories did you use as examples?

by Jay ⌂, San Diego, Thursday, October 27, 2016, 16:22 @ HCE

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I kept things pretty canonical

by HCE, Thursday, October 27, 2016, 18:26 @ Jay

I opened with two stories--Michael Chabon's "The Lost World" and Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown"--that I don't particularly like. The idea, in theory, is to take away the mystique of fiction by making fun of obvious metaphors...

After that we did "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," "Rose for Emily," a week on Flannery O'Connor, a week on Poe, a week on Joyce, and something by Atwood ("Rape Fantasies," I think). I wish we had done something in the sci-fi or fantasy realms, but Arthur Conan Doyle ("Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle") was all the "genre" fiction I scheduled. We finished with Amanda Holder's "Love and Other Catastrophes," then did poetry for the second half.

It wasn't a bad class, but my sci-fi students had some serious reverse snobbery about more realistic fiction. "I feel like anyone could have written this" was a common complaint for some reason. I nearly lost my shit when someone said that about Faulkner; thankfully they knew me too well to dare say it about Joyce.


Saying "anyone could do this" about Faulkner

by HullieAndMikes, Joe Turner's bookcase, ALHS, Friday, October 28, 2016, 05:17 @ HCE

Has got to be some sort of gold standard for youthful ignorance.


Shoulda made them read Raymond Carver.

by ⌂ @, Thursday, October 27, 2016, 19:00 @ HCE

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Sometimes I rhyme slow sometimes I rhyme quick.


We might have read his "On Writing," but I can't remember

by HCE, Thursday, October 27, 2016, 19:47 @

I think we did a "writers write about writing" day, so he would have been on that roster (right next to Elmore Leonard, Allegra Goodman, and Kurt Vonnegut).


good stuff, thanks

by Jay ⌂, San Diego, Thursday, October 27, 2016, 18:42 @ HCE

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Its pretty good, but might be too much for him

by Jeremy (WeIsND), Offices of Babip Pecota Vorp & Eckstein, Thursday, October 27, 2016, 13:52 @ Jim (OFD)

He seems to operate better in more tightly-controlled worlds with shorter books. I could see this getting away from him.


I can see that

by Jim (OFD) @, Naptown, Friday, October 28, 2016, 06:40 @ Jeremy (WeIsND)

I like how he finished WoT, but he basically turned one book into three right?

While I understand that many don't care for Tolkien here, it still serves as the gold standard in terms of fantasy. LotR is like 1000 pages (with a few things that could have been cut out) and still tells a great story. The world-building that authors feel obligated to pursue is just a bit more than I really want.


RE: Bellow, Herzog is much better than Augie March

by HCE, Thursday, October 27, 2016, 13:22 @ Kevin

I don't particularly love Bellow, but I loved that book. I also agree on Portnoy's Complaint: it's exhausting and unpleasant, and he basically stole the punchline from Tristram Shandy. Frankly, I'm glad that Dylan took his Nobel Prize.


You are wrong.

by professor @, Tallahassee, Friday, October 28, 2016, 06:08 @ HCE

The Adventures of Augie March is THE great novel.

Herzog is wonderful, too. I taught it last semester, actually. But this semester I am doing Augie, starting the week after next. I cannot wait.


I don't personally love Richard Russo

by LT, Thursday, October 27, 2016, 12:43 @ Kevin

but I respect what he's doing and the quality of his writing. He's definitely not too mass market.

I also liked The Interestings--it's a fairly narrow slice of life but I think Meg Wolitzer is a good enough writer to get us invested in these people regardless.

I second Buck on The Flamethrowers--it was very divisive in my book club but I thought the writing was truly excellent and it was an era I haven't read much about.

Have you (or has anyone) read "The Sellout"? After the Booker I should probably get around to it...


Sellout is also on the list.

by Kevin @, Thursday, October 27, 2016, 12:47 @ LT

Someone on NDN said it was on par with Confederacy of Dunces. I'll try to ignore that bar when I read it.


This post amused me on at least three levels.

by LT, Thursday, October 27, 2016, 12:50 @ Kevin

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every time there is a great book thread, I feel shitty

by Jay ⌂, San Diego, Thursday, October 27, 2016, 12:29 @ Kevin

I used to read so much.

These days, I have a stack of books in my office that are either completely unread, or with bookmarks anywhere from 10-50% of the way through.

And I keep ordering new ones.


I hope you use

by Grantland @, y'allywood, Friday, October 28, 2016, 09:29 @ Jay

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I hear you. I blame the internet

by MattG, Friday, October 28, 2016, 09:00 @ Jay

I'm reading more WORDS than ever.

But my progress through Infinite Jest remains "glacial". I'll be lucky to finish it in my lifetime at this pace.


Amen. Amen, I say to you.

by bk, Thursday, October 27, 2016, 14:31 @ Jay

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You have Tsundoku (as do i)

by oviedoirish @, Oviedo, Florida, Thursday, October 27, 2016, 12:42 @ Jay

"Tsundoku" (n.) is the condition of acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up in one's home without reading them. :-)


Otherwise known as...

by BPH, San Diego, Thursday, October 27, 2016, 13:54 @ oviedoirish

a New Yorker subscription.


great word

by Jay ⌂, San Diego, Thursday, October 27, 2016, 12:55 @ oviedoirish

In German that's probably something like Bücherhortenbereitschaft.


meant to include: book threads on TPG

by Jay ⌂, San Diego, Thursday, October 27, 2016, 12:35 @ Jay


Following that link, I quickly saw

by Kevin @, Thursday, October 27, 2016, 12:38 @ Jay

that I already started a separate thread about hating Shotgun Lovesongs, already wrote about the Hundred Years Trilogy, and already ranted about Portnoy's Complaint and Updike.

So don't feel bad. Basically, this is just an update to let you know I read one new book.


Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is now a movie by Ang Lee

by Jay ⌂, San Diego, Thursday, October 27, 2016, 13:33 @ Kevin

He shot it in some sort of hyperfast fps mode, which is supposed to make it seem ridiculously realistic. Jackson tried this with his first Hobbit movie, but this is supposed to be several steps beyond. I haven't read the book, so I don't know why this format might be appropriate for the material.


People HATE the format.

by MattG, Friday, October 28, 2016, 09:03 @ Jay

Ultrafast frame rates highlight the artifice of everything. Props and sets look fake, sure, but acting ITSELF seems artificial and off-putting.

Ultrafast frame rates are going to be good for documentaries (ideally, nature documentaries) and absolutely nothing else.


Seems like an awkward fit for a movie.

by Kevin @, Thursday, October 27, 2016, 13:52 @ Jay

The book, as I remember it, had a lot of internal dialogue. Any movie will need to take considerable license to be interesting.


Using Kindle apps has greatly increased my volume

by Kevin @, Thursday, October 27, 2016, 12:30 @ Jay

While killing my sleep quality.


Especially when you can add the audio sync for $4.99.

by Buck Mulligan, Martello Tower, Thursday, October 27, 2016, 12:35 @ Kevin

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Good recs. Have you read The Flamethrowers by

by Buck Mulligan, Martello Tower, Thursday, October 27, 2016, 11:58 @ Kevin

Rachel Kushner? I think it'd be in your wheelhouse based on your comment about ladywriters and their characters. Many of the men are plumbing near Stephen King level of woefully cardboard characterizations.

I'll not rag on Russo. Far from it.


Adding it to the list -- thanks.

by Kevin @, Thursday, October 27, 2016, 12:00 @ Buck Mulligan

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