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What have you been reading recently?

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Recently read:

Ficciones, by Jorge Luis Borges. Uneven. When a given story contains a solid alignment of idea and style (eg, Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius, The Library of Babel) it's spectacular. When they aren't quite aligned (Funes the Memorious, The South) the coy, oblique, allusive style feels like a tiresome smokescreen to cover for Borges's unwillingness to really develop an idea.

Tales of Pirx the Pilot, by Stanisław Lem. Okay. Blunt, low-stakes stories in a setting where interplanetary travel, and all it implies, is common, and even boring. They work fine as escapist thrillers, but mostly lack the more cerebral appeal of Lem's better/mature work.

Fiasco, also by Stanisław Lem. Lem's last and probably most pessimistic novel, and ostensibly the last Pirx story, this is almost exactly the opposite: almost all of the appeal is intellectual, especially since there is no happy or even emotionally-satisfying ending. Also Lem's last and most thorough treatment of the first contact scenario he returned to through his career. An extremely good book.

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Based on the fact that this topic has over 1.5 million views, everyone's answer should be "What have you been reading recently?"

The topic is dead! Long live the topic!   —Alorael, who will throw in The Ringmaster's Daughter, a relatively normal and therefore still quite unusual novel by Jostein Gaarder. Unlike Sophie's Wor

It was in one of the introductions for a book. Part of the problem was he had a few children and was trying to save for their future educations.   The figure I've seen is that a basic paper back

  • 4 months later...

Recently read books:

Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut. Very good. There's so much that's been said about this novel that I don't think there's much I can add to the discourse. I enjoyed it, and especially the sly way Vonnegut works his themes into the text both plot-wise and stylistically.

The Isles: A History, by Norman Davies. I think Davies is very possibly a brilliant historian, but in that particularly British way (eg Taylor or Hobsbawm or Trevor-Roper or Carr- Taylor was his mentor) where his idiosyncrasies and biases and iconoclasm are so apparent that it's hard to recommend him broadly. Anyway this is a history of the "British" Isles (deliberately avoiding that term for good reasons). He's excellent at the big sweeping aspects, but sometimes fumbles the details.

Memoirs of a Space Traveler, by Stanisław Lem. This is basically just the stories that got cut from the English translation of The Star Diaries, translated by different translators, and then reassembled into this hodgepodge. It's uneven enough that, frankly, removing these stories from The Star Diaries makes it a stronger work, while this is basically a curio, although some of it is great.

The Show that Never Ends: The Rise and Fall of Prog Rock, by Dave Weigel. A weird misfire. Lots of information, synthesized poorly, with no real thesis or arguments, and little in the way of explanatory power. Disappointing.

If on a Winter's Night a Traveler, by Italo Calvino. Typically stylistically brilliant and elusive in the standard Calvino way, although I felt that ultimately this might be less than the sum of its parts- there are passages that are gold, and then passages that, while clever, are merely serviceable- in a way that perhaps illustrates why I have thus far preferred his short fiction to his novels. It also gives me a greater appreciation for what Lem means by his backhanded compliment, in A Perfect Vacuum, that Calvino is the artistic descendant of jewelers rather than of sculptors.


Currently: A Perfect Vacuum, by Lem. Next up, in some order: His Master's Voice and More Tales of Pirx the Pilot, both also by Lem; The Hole in the Moon and Other Tales by Margaret St. Clair; Cat's Cradle by Vonnegut; Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. Hope they're good.

Edited by googoogjoob
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