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Viscous Beats

What have you been reading recently?

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Just started "Night Watch" by Sergei Lukyanenko. The forces of capitalized Good and Evil come to an agreement--for every life Evil takes, Good gets to save one. Naturally, things get ugly fast, with a lot more moral complexity than you might expect. Read. It. NOW!!

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Just finished Star Wars: A Dark Rendezvous. Nalyd really liked it, it really gave a lot more depth to Dooku, his fall to the Dark Side, his relation with Sidious and the Confederacy. Dooku really didn't get enough screen time in the movies.

 

Oh, Brock, you stole Nalyd's avatar idea while he was away. tongue

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Hmmm, if Drew likes A Game of Thrones maybe I should consider it.

 

Over a long spell at the cottage I've read:

 

Red Seas Under Red Skies, the sequel to The Lies of Locke Lamora. The only apparent fault in this series is that volumes 3 through 7 are not yet written. This guy makes you realize how much filler most other writers get away with, because his books are pretty much pure story for every page. He's somebody who really absorbed the 'show, don't tell' axiom.

 

Volume 2 in Bujold's current 'Sharing Knife' series, which although a bit of a departure for Bujold I am quite liking.

 

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman, which was great. I may even be motivated now to pick up Fragile Things. An important factor in how much I like a book these days seems to be my impression, however slight or subtle, of the character of the narrator or author's persona. And Gaiman's voice is very likeable.

 

Spook Country by William Gibson, which I felt disappointed with right after reading, but which grew on me afterwards.

 

The second volume in Glen Cook's 'Instrumentalities of Night' series, which was disappointingly rambling and disjointed. Seemed to have a lot of uninspired filler.

 

Historians' Fallacies, by some guy whose name I forget, which was dry but quite interesting if you read a lot of history.

 

And I skimmed through Bruce Catton's US Civil War trilogy one more time. Those books are just beautifully written, with a very clear and down-to-earth style, conversational except for having no wasted words, well able to support bursts of eloquence in appropriate places.

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Still working through the X-Books. Turns out that you can get trade paperbacks of most of the early parts of each X-series, and you can fill in the gaps with cheap used comics. I'm seeing them go at about $1-2 per comic on some sites, and that's for comics that are older than I am.

 

Old-school Excalibur must've been the last gasp of Chris Claremont at his peak. I hear his more recent stint at Marvel did not meet with the same acclaim, but even through the end of the '80s, he was doing good work.

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Originally Posted By: Yelbis Eceer Nalyd
Just finished Star Wars: A Dark Rendezvous. Nalyd really liked it, it really gave a lot more depth to Dooku, his fall to the Dark Side, his relation with Sidious and the Confederacy. Dooku really didn't get enough screen time in the movies.

Oh, Brock, you stole Nalyd's avatar idea while he was away. tongue


only for a second while I got the one I have now.

Also, mine was from the digitally enhance recent movies.

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Originally Posted By: Yelbis Eceer Nalyd
Just finished Star Wars: A Dark Rendezvous. Nalyd really liked it, it really gave a lot more depth to Dooku, his fall to the Dark Side, his relation with Sidious and the Confederacy. Dooku really didn't get enough screen time in the movies.

Oh, Brock, you stole Nalyd's avatar idea while he was away. tongue


My favorite part is when Dooku realizes what would have happened if Yoda turned to the dark side of the force...

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I would suggest reading anything by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

 

Corean Chronicles - The first book takes a while to get good but it is worth it.

Legacies - Gets good about 1/3 of the way through. You need to read it, though.

Darknessess - The best by far.

Scepters - This one was OK.

Alector's Choice - Again: Read it.

Cadmian's Choice - It was good. Not great, though.

Soarer's Choice - Best out of the last three.

 

The Saga of Recluce - Start with The Magic of Recluce.

The Magic of Recluce - Good intro book.

The Towers of the Sunset - Beginning a little weird but got good quick.

Wellspring of Chaos - Worth the read.

Ordermaster - Working on this one now. Really good. Build on Ordermaster

Natural Ordermage - Haven't opened it yet but it looks great according to the back.

 

Also

The Eternity Artifact - Worth the read but not great.

The Elysium Commision - Dead boring except for the end. Read if you like Politic-ey crap with a little action.

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Nalyd's been doing his best to read Glen Cook's novels, but the libraries are missing most of the Black Company books.

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Originally Posted By: Arch-Mage Solberg
I'm reading 'The Indian and the Cupboard'. I read it years ago that's why I'm reading it again now. cool


Did you ever pick up the sequels? They get to be rather . . . interesting. (The explanation in book 4 of how the cupboard got its powers is just plain weird.)

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Uglies: Interesting Sci-fi.

Prettys: Sequel to the above.

Specials: Sequel to the above.

Extras: Spin off of Specials.

 

Peeps: Great Sci-fi that teaches you A LOT about parasites.

The Last Days: Less informative sequel to peeps.

 

All of these are by Scott Westerfield.

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"Maus" by Art Spiegelman left me the most depressed I've been in my life. "Up the Down Staircase" by Bel Kaufman is occasionally depressing, but more often hilarious. (Student in an English class: "We study myths to learn what it was like to live in the golden age with all the killings.") Oh, and a collection of the world's "75 Best Short Stories" introduced me to 73 works I'd never read and 72 I'd never even heard of. About 10 were worth reading for someone like me who doesn't know how to interpret deep symbolism and hidden meaning. (Orson Scott Card said once that quite a few critics have based their careers on the idea that any book the general public can understand is meaningless drivel. I agree with him that those of us who are stupid should still be able to learn lessons from what we read, and would add that those of us who are stupid have the most need of the lessons in the first place.)

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Kind of a random question: Does anyone besides me like John Steinbeck?

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Originally Posted By: Timshel
Kind of a random question: Does anyone besides me like John Steinbeck?


I do. He's not my favorite author, or anything, though. And I very rarely re-read books, so yeah.

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New pages differ by individual settings. It happens that your post was on the same page as mine, and Excalibur's, based on my preferences. Your mileage may vary.

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Originally Posted By: Jumpin' Salmon
New pages differ by individual settings. It happens that your post was on the same page as mine, and Excalibur's, based on my preferences. Your mileage may vary.


Ditto that. You don't see very many new pages when it's set to '99' tongue

And I've never heard of the author. Will have to search wikipedia...

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I'm reading Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb. I'm about 80 pages in. Seems nice.

 

As for Steinbeck, I read the Pearl when I was in 8th or 9th grade or something. I liked the ending, but that's about it.

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Originally Posted By: w-dueck
Originally Posted By: Jumpin' Salmon
New pages differ by individual settings. It happens that your post was on the same page as mine, and Excalibur's, based on my preferences. Your mileage may vary.


Ditto that. You don't see very many new pages when it's set to '99' tongue

And I've never heard of the author. Will have to search wikipedia...


How in the world did you go to high school in the US without reading something by Steinbeck?

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Originally Posted By: Tyranicus
Originally Posted By: w-dueck
Originally Posted By: Jumpin' Salmon
New pages differ by individual settings. It happens that your post was on the same page as mine, and Excalibur's, based on my preferences. Your mileage may vary.


Ditto that. You don't see very many new pages when it's set to '99' tongue

And I've never heard of the author. Will have to search wikipedia...


How in the world did you go to high school in the US without reading something by Steinbeck?


I just started my freshman year, so there is hope yet. I am sure I will end up reading some of his works.

Originally Posted By: Jumpin' Salmon
The Idaho/Montana region of Canada. That's how.


Idaho and Montana are not in Canadia. Close, but we are still Americans. tongue

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Typical.

 

"Americans" includes all that live on the continent, which includes Canadians. Admittedly there is no convenient shorthand for "citizen of the United States of America" that isn't misleading.

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Originally Posted By: w-dueck
Idaho and Montana are not in Canada. Close, but we are still Americans. tongue


Close enough and we wouldn't miss them. smile

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Not much of a Steinbeck fan, myself.

 

Oddly, I seem to be going through a non-fiction phase at the moment. I'm reading The Ghost of Freedom: a history of the Caucasus by Charles King (published this year), and I'm picking my way through several books about Queen Kristina of Sweden. You know... the one who inadvertently killed René Descartes.

 

EDIT: Personally, I think John Steinbeck is just one of those moldy guys who needs to be removed from the Literary Canon, and replaced with... oh... say Ben Marcus, or Gary Lutz, or Donald Barthelme, or Mark Z Danielewski... or Andrei Bely for chrissake. Andrei Bely was probably literally a genius. (Hard to tell in a translation.) How come he gets ignored and schoolkids still have to be stultified with John Steinbeck and Thomas Hardy?

 

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Not liking a writer and not thinking they belong in the English canon are two different things. I don't love Steinbeck, but he's definitely a great writer. Andrei Bely is great, but he's really not English canon, what with not actually writing in English and all.

 

—Alorael, who will also remind you that some books are read not because they are good but rather because they are important. If all good books were required English reading (for the literati, at least) no one would have time for anything else.

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Originally Posted By: Desdén del Dramaturgo
Not liking a writer and not thinking they belong in the English canon are two different things. I don't love Steinbeck, but he's definitely a great writer. Andrei Bely is great, but he's really not English canon, what with not actually writing in English and all.


There are two reasons I don't quite understand what you're saying. First, how can a writer be great if their writing is a chore to read? (Surely you're not saying that they're great because of their moral lessons? Speaking personally, I have never read a moralistic book whose morals, if followed, wouldn't worsen the lives of both myself and those around me.) And second, what relation does the fact that an author isn't part of the "English canon" have to whether or not a particularly good translation of their work is worth teaching in schools?

P.S. As for what I've read recently: "Sharp Teeth" by Toby Barlow. I can think of no other book remotely like it, so I can't recommend for or against it to any particular audience (it's bound to be polarizing), but I can recommend that any dedicated reader at least take a look at it and see if they like it.

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If no one likes a writer, it's not a great writer. If you don't, it's a matter of taste.

 

—Alorael, who also doesn't think whether a book is part of English canon, whether a book is good, and whether a book should be taught in schools are at all the same thing. It's nice when one book fits more than one set of criteria, but not all do.

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Imagine that the world is ignoring a horrible problem, because there is no easy way to deal with it, but one book brings the problem so forcefully to light that the world can't ignore it any more. That would be a great book, but it might well be quite unpleasant to read.

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Alorael:

Then why is Franz Kafka in the English canon? Why is Fyodor Dostoevsky in the canon? It's fully proper that the canon should embrace world literature, not just English-language literature.

 

If the canon can only afford a certain number of writers, then it needs to be constantly updated. Which means taking some writers out and replacing them with new ones. I say: Get rid of Thomas Hardy and O'Henry, and replace them with Donald Barthelme and Andrei Bely.

 

Actually, SoT's point, which is a good one, emphasizes why Andrei Bely's masterpiece Petersburg is an "important" book which illuminates a critical moment in Russian history.

 

Honestly... I think that every High School student should read David McDuff's translation of Petersburg. Not only for the socio-historical perspective, but also for the artistic possibilities he opens up within that novel. If gradeschool students are not interested in literature, then it's because they're not being exposed to enough literary styles. Like music, I think that literature possesses enough variation to interest most people. I think that most of America's youth is not being exposed to enough variation.

 

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Originally Posted By: Evnissyen

EDIT: Personally, I think John Steinbeck is just one of those moldy guys who needs to be removed from the Literary Canon, and replaced with... oh... say Ben Marcus, or Gary Lutz, or Donald Barthelme, or Mark Z Danielewski... or Andrei Bely for chrissake.

Having never heard of any of those, I've decided to find a copy of Petersburg. Hopefully the county library has it, because there isn't a bigger library for 150 miles. frown

-I've been reading a lot of long articles on the internet recently. To be more precise, ones about serial killers. That's not being morose or sadistic, just a recent interest I've had in psychology. Ted Bundy is particularly fascinating.

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There's obviously no agreed-upon list of great and important works of English literature, but I wouldn't put either Dostoevsky or Kafka on it. They're not English writers. They're certainly both great and important, but not English. I'd certainly recommend reading them and teaching them in school, though.

 

—Alorael, who doesn't think the list can be limited, and he questions why you think Hardy and O. Henry should be excised. It's fine not to like them, but it's going a little far to suddenly decide that their writing and their contributions to English literature no longer qualify them for recognition.

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Most public libraries are networked so that they can borrow books from each other. If you do not find a specific volume in your local library, you should request from the librarian that they search throughout Nevada and ship it to you. If it interests you, you might include a short review for publication in your school paper as well as for reference to the librarian. Short budgets make for difficult choices, but the librarian does have some say in how their meat gets spent.

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Ex:

If you're going to pick up Petersburg, pick up David McDuff's translation (greenish cover, Penguin Books). This is also the most recent translation. If you can't find the McDuff translation then do not read the book. I'm serious. Translation is a tough thing... but when you totally eviscerate a genius' work... well.. I'll just say that I don't find evisceration to be an admirable practice. The more popular translation (red cover, I don't remember who the translator is) might be half the read, but by shortening the book, an awful lot of good material was removed, as well as much of the humor.

 

I'd suggest checking out Donald Barthelme, too... you might like his stuff. Look for Sixty Stories, it's a pretty decent collection.

 

Also... oh, hell, this really is getting to be a habit... but Salmon is right again, here. There are ways to influence how the head librarians spend their budgets (and it's often through other librarians). The better librarians are open to ideas... especially from people who frequent the library.

 

As for inter-library-loans (ILL): Check the library website and it should have a link... if your state has an ILL service then exploit it to death. Librarians don't dislike the "extra work" at all... in fact it's helpful to them because if they can show the state higher figures for its usage then that gives them a stronger hand in asking for a budget increase.

 

I'm sure school libraries can be influenced, too, to help you find certain books even when they're not "available". In fact: A lot of libraries have storage facilities. None of the books in these storage facilities are accessible to the public. But they are released from time to time on request. If you know that a book is in storage you can also email a request to the librarian in charge.

 

Alorael:

I'm in no way trying to say that everyone should like or dislike whom I like or dislike, I'm just saying that if people are going to decide which writers should be taught and which writers shouldn't (which they've been doing, obviously, for a long time... nobody knows who these people are! but they're out there someplace)... then they should keep up with the times and the new ideas. The canon necessitates its own borders, and great books and great writers are being overlooked, and students are growing up hating literature.

 

Of course, you can certainly argue getting rid of the canon. The Internet might some day free us of any need for a scholastic literary canon.

 

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I didn't realize you were on a schedule.

 

Well, I'll wait. Then again, I've got plenty of opinions, myself, that people aren't too happy with... so maybe we'll end up disagreeing sooner.

 

On subject of the Literary Canon, I've just been thinking... perhaps I can find some sort of 'unofficial' general list that describes said canon? I suppose it's true that there really isn't any sort of agreement on what books really compose "The Canon", and to what extent that canon is divided in regard to domestic, English-language and world literature... although anybody can point out at least a few which 'belong' to it. If I find anything I'll get back to you all.

 

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Try list of Great Books for a starting point of a canon. It's not exactly what I was looking for, but there have been attempts to create a list of great books that everyone should read to have an understand of the past. The University of Chicago started a program with selected books and stories that were to be taught at each grade level starting at kindergarden level going through high school.

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