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What are you reading? 
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Post Re: What are you reading?
Right now it's Youngblood Hawke. Entertaining and a fine primer on coal mining in the 1950s.


Sun Jan 02, 2011 12:13 am
Assistant Second Unit Director

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Post Re: What are you reading?
Just purchased The Handmaids Tale.


Tue Jan 04, 2011 9:14 am
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Post Re: What are you reading?
Arron wrote:
Just purchased The Handmaids Tale.


That's on my "To-Buy" list but I have doubts. Please share your thoughts whenever you finish reading it.


Tue Jan 04, 2011 1:43 pm
Post Re: What are you reading?
Handmaid's Tale is subject to the same limitations as any dystopian genre novel, but it is a very good book within those limitations.


Tue Jan 04, 2011 2:07 pm
Post Re: What are you reading?
Ken wrote:
Handmaid's Tale is subject to the same limitations as any dystopian genre novel, but it is a very good book within those limitations.


Thanks, Ken. For some reason your post made me laugh, but I am grateful for the explanation. I've recently shared my admiration for the dystopian genre so an opinion that it's a good entry in that genre is encouraging.


Tue Jan 04, 2011 2:20 pm
Post Re: What are you reading?
Handmaid's Tale is a great book. Margaret Atwood is on my short list of "I'll read anything by" authors.

I'm currently reading Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides and enjoying it immensely. I'll write more when I finish.


Wed Jan 05, 2011 11:27 pm
Post Re: What are you reading?
MunichMan wrote:
Handmaid's Tale is a great book. Margaret Atwood is on my short list of "I'll read anything by" authors.



Have you read The Year of the Flood? I liked the 'prequel' but didn't know if the follow-up was worth it, if it'd be more redundant than inventive.


Thu Jan 06, 2011 9:46 pm
Post Re: What are you reading?
About time I got around to this...

Suttree

I read this one slowly, because as I understand it, it was written slowly and I figured it deserved as much.

(And, as various circumstances would have it, I've gotten around to putting down my thoughts about it very, very slowly.)

This would be my second Cormac McCarthy novel, the first being No Country For Old Men. I will stand by that book as an engaging and often absorbing read, but Suttree is a different animal. While contrivance isn't a bad thing by any means--most great stories wouldn't exist without it--nothing so contrived as NCFOM's chase plot ever quite emerges. Suttree is a transitional story, filled with beginnings and ends that aren't the point of the storytelling, but they color the storytelling.

And the storytelling is very much the point. Suttree is to be read for the pleasure of reading--of absorbing the author's use of words to paint the canvas of the imagination. The book jacket contains wild proclaimations--"Faulknerian", for one--which I take to be learned versions of this observation. I suppose authors with a style of their own are so rare that they all have to be mentioned together. McCarthy isn't afraid to forgo plot concerns and spill sentences onto the page, half-real and half-invented, to build vivid scenes for the senses. "Faulknerian" though it may be, McCarthy is uniquely gifted in this. His prose often seems to have come about in no other possible way than for McCarthy to have lived it himself, which is both impressive and frightening.

The people with whom Suttree associates would reasonably be described as just living their lives, rudderless except for the touchstone of the dingy end of town in which they live. Suttree is an odd one in that he lives among them and in this lifestyle presumably by choice, estranging himself from his better-off family for reasons of his own. They seem to hate him for it, but, given his dignity and the dignity he sees in those around him, it is difficult not to view their opinion of him as a sort of prejudice. The very fact that Suttree has cut his ties and immersed himself in this world enables an understanding that would otherwise seem impossible. It isn't noble savagery, nor is Suttree the benevolent white person condescending to live among these people as their better. Suttree has simply taken it upon himself to know these people, to refuse to dismiss them as the other.

What made him do this is an interesting question, and as the story develops, it would seem that his reasons aren't entirely innocent. No character is without his shameful elements, Suttree being no exception. Perhaps he left his world out of ennui, or fear of the obligation to his family and his social status. Does he dirty himself to evade the responsibility of cleanliness, or is he purifying himself of attachment? I doubt he knows. It is interesting that every experience that might be transformative in another book seems to be a reaffirmation in this one. For every friend who screws up only to screw up again, for every woman who is won only to be lost, for every life-threatening moment faced, for every opportunity to change his mind and go back, Suttree stays the path.


Wed Jan 26, 2011 9:33 pm
Post Re: What are you reading?
Faulknerian? I suppose. I fondly recall that scene in Light in August where Joe Christmas fucks himself a watermelon. You know what would make publishing shine just a tiny bit brighter? Less critical endorsements on jackets and in the first 2-4 pages of the book. While I think it's just swell that Salman Rushdie enjoyed his advance copy of Book X I tend to puke, just a tiny bit and only in my mouth, when his praise is above the author's name. But that's me. I like simple pleasures, like butter in my ass, lollipops in my mouth. That's just me. That's just something that I enjoy.

Hmm?

I figured Suttree would get a good, dedicated critique and I feel nothing in the way of disappointment. I also don't feel shame, remorse or maudlin. I most especially liked the sentence
Quote:
Suttree is to be read for the pleasure of reading--of absorbing the author's use of words to paint the canvas of the imagination.


because that's what I always figured McCarthy was a-brewin' when he wrote the damn thing (over the course of 10 - 30 years, depending on whom you ask). You'll need to replace "reading" with "writing" to make sense of the fragment beginning with "because".

But why say "Faulknerian", uncited critic? I think the book is more along the lines of Uncle Tom's Cabin as told with less sentiment, more humor and a less puritanical perspective on how the defeated should save themselves (hint: less masturbation, more Jesus). Less overt slavery, too. I regret this paragraph. This post, too. I also regret making a girl named Wendy cry when I suggested she make friends through handjobs rather than her awkward humor. That was over 15 years ago and I feel like I should join Facebook just to find and apologize. I won't, though.

Great review, Ken. You've brought to mind the themey convergence the novel has with the recently-watched Easy Rider. These Great American Works and their improbable connections with one another!

Also: I'm reading Skippy Dies by Paul Murray. The box it comes in (yes, it arrived as three separate volumes -- it must be important) tells me it's David Foster Wallaceian and J.K. Rowlian.
I myself believe it's more Creutzfeldt–Jakobian.


Thu Jan 27, 2011 1:44 am
Post Re: What are you reading?
I wholeheartedly endorse human-melon relations in any literary context. In this, as in many other categories, Suttree excels. Faulkner can put that in his pipe as far as I'm concerned.

For my next trick, I will return to my pile of partially-finished, dust-covered writings and finish up Asterios Polyp. It resides in the queue alongside a quarter-complete draft of a lengthy commentary on The Big Lebowksi, as well as a mostly-finished rambling screed about how the average American adult just plain can't fucking do math.


Thu Jan 27, 2011 2:56 am
Post Re: What are you reading?
Cormac McCarthy - The Road. Prior to watching the film shortly.

I'm just over half way through and it has me gripped. I like the prose. It is like a poem. Both child-like and erudite. And I enjoy the benefit of not knowing what happens.


Thu Jan 27, 2011 5:45 am
Post Re: What are you reading?
Just started re-reading Asimov's "Foundation" series. It's been about 20 years since I last read it.


Thu Jan 27, 2011 9:35 am
Assistant Second Unit Director

Joined: Fri Dec 10, 2010 3:20 pm
Posts: 163
Post Re: What are you reading?
Alex wrote:
Cormac McCarthy - The Road. Prior to watching the film shortly.

I'm just over half way through and it has me gripped. I like the prose. It is like a poem. Both child-like and erudite. And I enjoy the benefit of not knowing what happens.


I adore this book.


Thu Jan 27, 2011 2:41 pm
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Post Re: What are you reading?
Asterios Polyp

Citizen Kane is widely regarded as a great film, if not the greatest film, mainly because it wears its technique on its sleeve. Attentive viewers can spot its visual strategies right away, because it does not attempt to hide them. Everything hangs out. Yet, viewers cannot dismiss Citizen Kane as cleverness for the sake of cleverness, because it uses those strategies so integrally to tell the story. Citizen Kane, more than any other film, is vindication that form and content are one and the same. The story it tells is fairly basic, the sort that has likely been with humankind since the beginning. The genius lies within HOW the story is told.

But this isn't about Citizen Kane. This is about Asterios Polyp, a graphic novel (and yes, it thoroughly earns the distinction) by master comic artist David Mazzuchelli. The titular character, Asterios, is a middle-aged "paper architect." He has earned acclaim for his daring designs, but none of them has actually been built. This brilliant book is his story.

The artwork is mainly rendered in the clear-line style, reminiscent of Tintin. By almost exclusively using lines of equal weight, Mazzuchelli is able to present the world of the story in elegant detail. There are moments, significantly few in number, when he deliberately departs from this. In these sequences, Mazzuchelli renders each character in a different art style appropriate to their individual personalities. Rather than merely showing off his considerable command of a wide range of drawing techniques, Mazzuchelli is revealing character through the visuals.

Asterios, for example, is an architect. Architecture informs his thinking, and therefore his self-image. In these moments, Asterios is rendered as a simplified 3D wireframe, similar in appearance to a wooden drawing doll. The character Hana is an artist. Rather than the clear, defined 3D outline of Asterios, Hana is rendered in these moments with rich, dynamic crosshatching. The way Mazzuchelli plays with the overlap of different styles as his characters interact with one another is one of the many show-stopping stylistic strategies of this book.

(It is worth noting that there are other, more subtle departures from the clear-line style that runs through most of the book. Hana's face, for example, is drawn quite delicately, and her body shape is often accentuated through varying line weight. Kudos to Mazzuchelli for allowing himself to cheat on his chosen style where cheating was warranted.)

The main character, like the book that bears his name, is obsessed with the relationship of form and function. Without giving too much away, the story is about how that obsession affects his life and his interaction with those around him. If that all sounds very cerebral, it is because the book very well might have been. But Mazzuchelli has obvious affection for his cantankerous leading man, investing his story with plenty of heart. Asterios takes a rocky journey through life and love that will be immediately identifiable to anybody who has experience in either of those areas.

As a final note, let me just say that the logo design on the cover is fantastic. Overlaid on the plain white background are two layers of translucent color--a cyan one with a winding, angular cut-out, and a magenta one with cut-outs of simple shapes. These two heavily abstracted layers are piled upon one another to form the title of the book. The adherence to just the handful of primary printing colors continues into the book proper. Magenta, cyan, and yellow on white. No black. Color is too often used in flashy and gimmicky ways in comics, struggling to compete in a marketplace that favors he who shouts the loudest. But David Mazzuchelli has other considerations on his mind.


Thu Jan 27, 2011 7:59 pm
Post Re: What are you reading?
Arron wrote:
Alex wrote:
Cormac McCarthy - The Road. Prior to watching the film shortly.

I'm just over half way through and it has me gripped. I like the prose. It is like a poem. Both child-like and erudite. And I enjoy the benefit of not knowing what happens.


I adore this book.


The Blu-Ray arrived yesterday. I was eager to watch it, but was only half-way through the book. So what to do? I had a solid reading session and finished the book, of course.

Now I too adore the book. Poignant, poetic and beautiful, yet terrifying, disturbing and suspenseful too.

I watched the film immediately after finishing the book. Whilst a mostly faithful adaption, I was left feeling a little disappointed. The film portrays nearly every event in the book, yet somehow manages to miss the point.

One problem is that the actor playing the boy cannot act. I was always aware that I was watching a performance. One of the major themes in the book is the humanity of the boy in this post-apocalyptic world; the only world he has ever known. This did not come across in the film.

The threat of death from starvation is a constant in the book, and when morsels of food are found the man and boy are euphoric. I never felt this danger in the film. I think one of the reasons for this is that the encounters in the film seem to happen too quickly. The journey takes weeks, maybe months, but in the film it feels like a couple of days. Some of the more disturbing images are omitted, and this lessens the sense of dread and desperation.

Trivial items that we take for granted are the difference between life and death: a lighter, the wheels on the cart, the plastic blanket. The hopelessness of their situation feels toned down in the film. The father's constant fear that they he will have to resort to drastic measures to escape from this world is not conveyed convincingly.

I did not feel any suspense while watching the film, yet I was on the edge of my seat thoughout the book. I think this is a major failing in the adaption.


Fri Jan 28, 2011 5:40 am
Post Re: What are you reading?
I have just read Ebert's review and his comments describe almost exactly how I felt about the film also (except he thought the boy was convincing; I did not).

http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbc ... 49990/1023


Fri Jan 28, 2011 7:47 am
Post Re: What are you reading?
I'm about halfway through The Picture of Dorian Gray. It's a little slow, but I'm enjoying it for the most part. I've wanted to read it for a long time, so I was overjoyed when I finally managed to get my hands on it. Next on the list is one of my silly teen romance novels, since why not? XD I don't think it's good writing, but it's good to read when I want some lighter fare. My goal for next summer is to read all of the books on the Barnes and Noble wrapping paper. It's all classics and a lot to get through, but I'm excited to try. :)


Fri Jan 28, 2011 2:06 pm
Post Re: What are you reading?
Alex wrote:
Arron wrote:
Alex wrote:
Cormac McCarthy - The Road. Prior to watching the film shortly.

I'm just over half way through and it has me gripped. I like the prose. It is like a poem. Both child-like and erudite. And I enjoy the benefit of not knowing what happens.


I adore this book.


The Blu-Ray arrived yesterday. I was eager to watch it, but was only half-way through the book. So what to do? I had a solid reading session and finished the book, of course.

Now I too adore the book. Poignant, poetic and beautiful, yet terrifying, disturbing and suspenseful too.

I watched the film immediately after finishing the book. Whilst a mostly faithful adaption, I was left feeling a little disappointed. The film portrays nearly every event in the book, yet somehow manages to miss the point.

One problem is that the actor playing the boy cannot act. I was always aware that I was watching a performance. One of the major themes in the book is the humanity of the boy in this post-apocalyptic world; the only world he has ever known. This did not come across in the film.

The threat of death from starvation is a constant in the book, and when morsels of food are found the man and boy are euphoric. I never felt this danger in the film. I think one of the reasons for this is that the encounters in the film seem to happen too quickly. The journey takes weeks, maybe months, but in the film it feels like a couple of days. Some of the more disturbing images are omitted, and this lessens the sense of dread and desperation.

Trivial items that we take for granted are the difference between life and death: a lighter, the wheels on the cart, the plastic blanket. The hopelessness of their situation feels toned down in the film. The father's constant fear that they he will have to resort to drastic measures to escape from this world is not conveyed convincingly.

I did not feel any suspense while watching the film, yet I was on the edge of my seat thoughout the book. I think this is a major failing in the adaption.


Good thoughts. I feel similarly about the novel and have been avoiding the film out of fear that I'll feel the same way as you. Glad to know that I'm not missing out. Still, I'll see it someday.

MimixRose wrote:
I'm about halfway through The Picture of Dorian Gray. It's a little slow, but I'm enjoying it for the most part. I've wanted to read it for a long time, so I was overjoyed when I finally managed to get my hands on it. Next on the list is one of my silly teen romance novels, since why not? XD I don't think it's good writing, but it's good to read when I want some lighter fare. My goal for next summer is to read all of the books on the Barnes and Noble wrapping paper. It's all classics and a lot to get through, but I'm excited to try. :)


Nice @ Dorian Gray. I picked up a copy last year (well it was more of a complete Oscar Wilde compilation) and can't wait to start. I just have another 900 pages of Don Quixote to go...thankfully that novel actually feels really breezy all of a sudden. Hopefully it won't take me too long.


Fri Jan 28, 2011 2:35 pm
Post Re: What are you reading?
I recently read Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov and Song of Myself by Walt Whitman. The former is the most unique autobiography I've ever read, the latter is a cornerstone of poetry that's great down to the letters it uses. That's all I have to say about that, for now anyway.


Thu Feb 03, 2011 11:30 pm
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Post Re: What are you reading?
I am currently reading And The Band Played On by Randy Shilts. It is the story of how AIDS came to America, and how it spread throughout the country. It is an amazing book, just excellent.

A few things become immediately apparent when reading this, and Shilts identifies plenty of blame to go around for the botched response to the AIDS outbreak:

  • The private sector was completely unprepared for AIDS. They didn't have the technology or the money to deal with the problem, and those few in the private sector who did have the money didn't want to be bothered with it.
  • Many doctors just didn't take the disease seriously enough. Those who did were treated as alarmists, or their opinions were not taken seriously.
  • Many in the gay community were reluctant to sound the alarm, fearing that they would be seen as alarmists and moralists. furthermore, many gays did not take the disease seriously enough, and continued having unprotected sex even after they were infected.
  • The Reagan administration hardly cared about the disease, and didn't consider it a real priority as long as only gay people were the ones dying. The indifference of the medical professionals in Reagan's administration is one of the main reasons why the federal government took so long to put serious effort into treating the disease.

I highly recommend this book. It's an excellent read.

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Fri Feb 04, 2011 2:54 pm
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