Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #200 on: July 28, 2015, 03:51:13 PM »
I know Stalingrad is supposed to be well good. I might bump it up my to-read list.

Stalingrad is decent as fuck.  Stalingrad and Leningrad were my favorites of the bunch and easily the most accessible.  I think Stalingrad is the better military history, and I think Leningrad is the better narrative history.  Stalingrad was like reading some epic war saga; Leningrad was the bigger emotional roller-coaster.  Going to a grocery store now kinda makes me want to cry from joy.

Reading Leningrad has also absolutely convinced me that I should probably keep a 6-month supply of foodstuffs in storage.
« Last Edit: July 28, 2015, 04:03:59 PM by garygreen »
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Offline Crudblud

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Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #201 on: August 27, 2015, 01:32:19 PM »
Will Self - The Quantity Theory of Insanity

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Offline Ghost Spaghetti

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Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #202 on: August 27, 2015, 03:03:40 PM »
Concrete Island by J.G.Ballard.



This is my first exposure to Ballard's work and it left a mixed impression on me. The concept itself is fantastic - a man crashes down a steep motorway embankment, leaving him grievously injured and trapped in the 'concrete island' formed by the intersection of three motorways. The story follows his efforts to survive, the exploration of the island and the coming to terms with his life.

the first half of the novel is a bleak but fantastic survival story in the mould of Robinson Crusoe. It becomes somewhat more horrifying and surreal when the other inhabitants on the island are encountered , but the ending feels rushed and unsatisfying. It could have done with just one or two more chapters for him to come to his realisations more naturally.

I'd give it 3/5, but it's certainly worth reading.

Eddy Baby

Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #203 on: August 28, 2015, 10:27:18 AM »
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell.



I generally say that David Mitchell is my favourite author. Cloud Atlas blew me away (not so much the film), but some of his other works surpass it in pure strength of imagery and craftsmanship of the language used. His best book so far is, in my opinion, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.

I'm not so sure about this one. After Ghostwritten and Cloud Atlas, this is his third novel that has a time-travelling, globetrotting plot, with several craftily interlinked main characters and hints of the supernatural that don't quite feature enough to call the books 'fantasy'. Of those three, it is also the second to feature a tortured, failing literary type. 

I'm also over halfway through, and there have been several minor supernatural occurrences, but nothing has yet properly happened. Mitchell as a writer is interesting enough to be able to pull off a slow plot, but I sincerely hope some earlier events are elaborated on by the end.


So far, 7/10, hopefully getting to an 8.5 by the end, we'll see.

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Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #204 on: September 01, 2015, 12:07:25 PM »
Fiction: Thomas Pynchon - Bleeding Edge

Non-fiction: Noam Chomsky - Failed States

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Offline Crudblud

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Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #205 on: September 15, 2015, 08:42:06 PM »
Mervyn Peake Titus Groan

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Offline Crudblud

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Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #206 on: September 27, 2015, 03:24:44 PM »
James Joyce - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

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Offline Foxbox

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Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #207 on: September 28, 2015, 12:00:46 AM »
Fiction: Thomas Pynchon - Bleeding Edge

What were your thoughts on this? I think you may have already told me, but I forgat..

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Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #208 on: September 28, 2015, 01:47:53 AM »
Fiction: Thomas Pynchon - Bleeding Edge

What were your thoughts on this? I think you may have already told me, but I forgat..

Once I got over how weird it was to read a Pynchon novel set in the early 2000s, I really enjoyed it. Of his recent stuff I didn't enjoy it as much as Inherent Vice (although it succeeds as a "tech noir" just as well as IV did as a "stoner noir"), but comparing them you have to bear in mind that the 1960s is his home turf and he can write about that as well as anyone; with the modern New York setting he shows his age more, but it's impressive to consider a guy in his late 70s writing something like this, because it's got that same understanding of time and place and all the little details you'd expect of him when he's working in more comfortable territory. To that end it's pretty dense, lots of weird stuff going on just on the margins of the story, sometimes creeping in to the foreground, and you can never be sure if it's directly relevant or if it's just the atmosphere of paranoia that makes it seem that way. Of course, Pynchon doesn't really offer any answers and thereby avoids tying things up neatly, which in some ways puts it more in line with his older stuff where it's not so much about the truth as it is about looking for it, and maybe even cherishing the search itself as a small victory regardless of the outcome. In some ways you could almost think of it as a stylistic/thematic bridge between V/Lot 49 and Vineland/Inherent Vice, and for that reason it's probably best to be familiar with those before reading it, but ultimately like any Pynchon novel it stands perfectly well on its own.

geckothegeek

Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #209 on: October 17, 2015, 04:51:20 AM »
"Sherlock Holmes In Dallas", by "Edmund Aubrey " (Edmund S. Ions)

Has anyone read it and have any comments ?

Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #210 on: October 19, 2015, 12:22:06 AM »
In this episode of Garygreen's Good and Tasty History:



Destiny of the Republic: easily my favorite of the bunch.  I knew not a single fact about James Garfield before reading this book, and he's now my hands-down favorite president.  It's not even close anymore.  Pretty much everything about Garfield's life was remarkable.  As an example, he was a lawyer for a time, and the very first case he tried was in front of the Supreme Court.  He won.  The case is still important.  He's (probably) the only president in American history who actively opposed his own nomination.

As an added bonus you get to learn a bunch of cool shit about Alexander Graham Bell and medicine-before-anyone-really-understood-septicemia.

The American Revolution: if I'm being completely honest, I only read this because I wanted to read something by Gordon Wood, it was apropos of the other bits of my reading list, and Empire of Liberty is way too fucking long.  I'm glad I started here.  This is an excellent survey/primer on the American Revolution.  Although it only covers the revolution in broad strokes, it stays robust by not locking itself into any particular narrative or searching for causes of the war.  If it focuses on any particular narrative at all, it's that America, it's people, and it's origins, are really quite odd.

The President and the Assassin: I also didn't know a goddamn thing about McKinley before reading this book, and I'm not sure I really do now, either.  Perhaps it was because I read this right after Destiny of the Republic, much of which was biographical, that I didn't like it much.  I think the problem for me is that it wanders too much.  Like DotR, it wants to tell the story of the unlikely forces that came to connect two people, a president and his assassin.  Unlike DotR, it gets way too bogged down in ancillary material, like Cuban independence and the Spanish-American war.  Those events are important to the story (especially to the story of the assassin), but I don't want to also survey those events themselves in their entirety.  Don't get me wrong, this is an excellent history, but it's one to read more for its policy perspectives than its biographical elements. 

The Triumph of Improvisation: I didn't know anything about Reagan before reading this book (it's almost as if there's a theme going on here...), and I haven't actually finished reading this one.  I'm only 40% finished, but that's enough to know that it's worth recommending to anyone who would like to learn about Reagan's foreign policy.  It's really, really fair.  It doesn't cast Reagan as a dolt, and it doesn't cast him as a savior.  It casts him as an interesting fellow who was at once absurdly naive and perfect for the job that needed doing at the time.  It makes me think that much of what I've read about Reagan from both the Right and the Left is hopelessly misguided.

e: for whatever it's worth, The President and the Assassin, and Destiny of the Republic, come at the recommendation of some history nerd on CSPAN who gave a lecture to a bunch of other book nerds at Good Sir Book Nerd College or whatever; they're written for general audiences, but their scholarship is genuinely lauded by the other history book nerds.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2015, 02:33:20 AM by garygreen »
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Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #211 on: October 29, 2015, 03:10:17 PM »
Thomas Pynchon - Against the Day

#basedpynch

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Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #212 on: November 05, 2015, 06:44:11 PM »
Magyk by Angie Sage

Before that, I finished my fourth read of The Hobbit. No one nails down fantasy like Tolkien.

After the seven part Septimus Heap series, I'm going to start on The Chronicles of Narnia because, well, C.S. Lewis is a bamf.
« Last Edit: November 05, 2015, 06:47:26 PM by Hollocron »

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Offline Jura-Glenlivet

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Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #213 on: November 16, 2015, 10:40:14 PM »

Neil Gaiman. Just read Neverwhere, excellent, American Gods, brilliant, The ocean at the end of the lane, gorgeous.
Just to be clear, you are all terrific, but everything you say is exactly what a moron would say.

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Offline Ghost Spaghetti

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Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #214 on: November 17, 2015, 01:34:50 PM »
Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 - Hunter S. Thompson


As a self-described liberal and progressive, this book depressed me. It is a typical Hunter S. Thompson rollercoaster following the 1972 presidential democratic Primaries and the election contest between George McGovern and Richard Nixon.

It's a classic example of Thompson's 'Gonzo' style of journalism; he involves himself intimately with events, admits to misremembering facts, and reporting them through a drug and alcohol-fuelled haze. He makes no claims to objectivity (indeed, after Nixon is elected in a landslide,  there is a chapter where his editor simply printed a verbatim transcript of an interview with him after he became too 'bummed out' to actually finish the chapter on time.)

As a behind-the-scenes look at the dirty realities of a presidential campaign, it's both stimulating and depressing as it draws some uncomfortable parallels with Jeremy Corbyn's current bid to become the next Labour Prime Minister in the UK (Unorthodox left-leaning candidate elected on the back of students and activists but unpopular with the Party machinery fighting against a right-wing incumbent with a strong control over the narrative...)

8/10

High Rise J.G. Ballard


The inhabitants in the eponymous High Rise live a stratified life in a 40-storey block of flats. Although they all hail from the same social circles, the nature of the building divides them by class into (literally) lower, middle and upper classes. The novel follows a resident of each as the wild nightly parties and the minor irritations of high-rise living erode away civilisation until the residents find themselves at war between floors, eventually descending into a squalid tribal existence within the confines of the building.

The descent of the building into anarchy is described wonderfully, as elevators break down, the garbage piles up, rooms are ransacked and excrement clogs the ventilators. The violence is visceral, and clearly inspired by his own experiences in Japanese-occupied Shanghai.

The biggest problem, for me, was the sheer believability of it. Over two-thousand people live in the building, plus all the staff, delivery drivers, visitors, garbage collectors, meter-readers, and yet not one of them raises concerns with the police? Not one of the residents’ colleagues or families are concerned when they stop going into work? The supermarket suppliers and bank operators aren’t worried about their loss of profit? I understand the message that the residents eventually become grateful for the opportunity to live lives as decadent and hedonistic as they please but I struggled to believe that it applied to absolutely everybody who had any dealings with the building.

What this novel needed was an external threat to isolate the high-rise but then it wouldn’t have stayed true to its central conceit about human nature really being feral and brutish. Ballard had the choice of either making it believable or sacrificing his parable. By doing neither, the story ends of feeling a little contrived and the message is confused and hollow.

7/10

The Martian – Andy Weir


A sandstorm hits a Mars exploration mission 6 days into its 6-month mission. When one astronaut is hit and apparently killed by flying debris, the rest of the crew assume he’s dead and leave without him. Having survived the disaster, Mark Watney has to figure out how to McGuiver his way to survival until a plan can be developed to rescue him.

After the bleakness of Ballard and the cynicism of Thompson, I needed something a little lighter. Fortunately, this delivered.

Told mostly through log entries, the novel is carried by the good humour of its central protagonist as he bodges his way through every problem Mars can throw at him. Jury-rigging old probes, recycling shit, and patching holes are just some of the solutions he has to come up with. Weir has done his homework and, not only can you tell, he’s shown his working, without flooding the pages with too much maths.

This isn’t a literary classic, nor does it aspire to be. It’s a fun survival story with an uplifting message. The overly-informal writing style did start to grate by about half-way through, but I can overlook it when there’s so much to like.

7/10
« Last Edit: November 17, 2015, 01:37:47 PM by Ghost Spaghetti »

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Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #215 on: December 03, 2015, 08:02:05 PM »
I took a break from the fantasy stuff for now and also started reading The Martian. It's very well written, and doesn't leave you stranded on Mars with the main character. It takes breaks often, and lets the reader know what's happening on Earth also. In 50 years, The Martian will almost surely be a classic.

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Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #216 on: January 14, 2016, 10:26:46 AM »
The first book I finished this year was the Welcome to Night Vale novel.

Based on the podcast series of the same name, WTNV follows its two protagonists through the weird and wonderful world of Night Vale and beyond. Unlike the podcast, which is framed as a community radio news program, the novel is a surprisingly traditional mystery novel following Jackie – a pawn-shop owner who has been nineteen as long as anyone can remember, - who is given a piece of paper which reads ‘KING CITY’ and no matter what she does to it, the paper will always reappear in her hand, uncrumpled and legible. Meanwhile, Diane Clayton, head of the Night Vale PTA is trying to help guide her teenage son, who can shapeshift into any form he wants, away from his mysterious father who left hem when he was a child. The chapters are interspersed with excerpts from Cecil – the host of the NV podcast.

Their adventures will take them through agents from a vague but menacing government organisation, the eldritch horrors of the City Council, the psychopathic owner of the local newspaper, the dreaded librarians, a host of angels all called Erika, dimension-hopping plastic flamingos and invisible pies. All the weirdness from the podcasts makes it here.

And that’s probably the book’s biggest problem.

While the weird little asides about sentient patches of haze working at the cinema box office, or how wheat and wheat by-products have suddenly turned into venomous snakes, are amusing for the half-hour podcast format, in the novel they start to get in the way of the pace of the story to such an extent that instead of smiling about some strange town quirk, by chapter five you’re rolling your eyes and wishing they would just get to the point. For instance, there is a scene about half-way through where the two main characters meet properly for the first time in the All-Nite Diner, both of them are following their own mysteries and getting in each other’s way. Instead of this being a snappy back-and-forth exchange between them, the narrative keeps getting distracted to tell you that the waitress has caught her leaves in the kitchen door, that paying for the bill involves a complicated incantation to some sort of creature that lives under the sugar bowl, that men-in-black-style agents are muttering into microphones about the woman who is feverishly writing everything down, and so on…

All-in-all, if you enjoy the podcast, you’ll enjoy the book, but it’s probably best read in small doses. 7/10
« Last Edit: January 14, 2016, 10:33:27 AM by Ghost Spaghetti »

Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #217 on: January 23, 2016, 01:54:18 PM »
Currently reading Alfred Hitcock's Tales of Terror: 58 Short Stories Chosen by the Master of Suspense.

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Offline Crudblud

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Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #218 on: January 30, 2016, 02:40:16 PM »
New (second hand) acquisitions, 2016/01/30

John Barth - The Sot-Weed Factor
Saul Bellow - More Die of Heartbreak
Don DeLillo - Libra
Eugène Ionesco - Rhinoceros / The Chairs / The Lesson
Lao Tzu - Tao Te Ching
Thomas Mann Buddenbrooks
Cormac McCarthy - The Road
Molière - The Misanthrope / The Sicilian / Tartuffe / A Doctor in Spite of Himself / The Imaginary Invalid
Molière - The Miser / That Would-Be Gentleman / That Scoundrel Scapin / Love's the Best Doctor / Don Juan
Orhan Pamuk - The White Castle
Plato - The Symposium
Jean Rhys - Wide Sargasso Sea
Philip Roth - The Human Stain
Gore Vidal - The Smithsonian Institution
Virgil - The Aeneid
Virgil - The Eclogues
Voltaire - Candide
Walt Whitman - Leaves of Grass
Tom Wolfe - The Bonfire of the Vanities
« Last Edit: January 30, 2016, 02:43:32 PM by Crudblud »

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Re: FES Book Club
« Reply #219 on: February 07, 2016, 11:51:33 PM »
William Faulkner - Intruder in the Dust