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dchaikin sidesteps into 2013

This topic was continued by dchaikin causes his own troubles in 2013.

Club Read 2013

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Edited: May 15, 2013, 1:14am Top

I actually thought I might read the entire Old Testament last year, but only made it through about 8 books. So, that leaves this year with the same goal, but...the motivation isn't there yet...and I'm really into the two books I spent part of today (Jan 1) reading - Joan Didion's Miami and Every Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace by D.T. Max...and actually I'm beginning to think how nice it would be to read every major work by and about DFW...but first I would need to read Gödel, Escher, Bach...and Thomas Pynchon...and, well I can't see reading Wiggenstein, but maybe something about Wiggenstein...

Back to reality. Where does that leave me anyway?


Books I'm currently reading:

Books Recently Read:

Edited: May 13, 2013, 12:50am Top

Old threads: 2009 Part 1, 2009 Part 2, 2010 Part 1, 2010 Part 2, 2011 Part 1, 2011 Part 2, 2012 Part 1, 2012 Part 2

2013 List of Books Read


1. Miami by Joan Didion (read Dec 29 - Jan 6)
2. The Gettysburg Review : Volume 10, Number 2 : Summer 1997 (read Dec 4 - Jan 19)
3. Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne, illustrated by E. H. Shepard, E. H. (read ~Dec 27 - Jan 23, with my son)
4. Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace by D. T. Max (read Jan 1-24)
5. 1 & 2 Kings in The HarperCollins Study Bible : New Revised Standard Version (Fully Revised and Updated), edited by Harold W. Attridge (read Sept 22 - Jan 28, with a long break of Nov/Dec)
6. Beloved by Toni Morrison (read Jan 8-30)


7. Stickman Odyssey : An Epic Doodle : Book One by Christopher Ford (Read Feb 8)
8. Parable Hunter by Ricardo Pau-Llosa (read Jan 20 - Feb 21)
9. The Epic of Gilgamesh - Read an abridgement translated by E. A. Speiser in The Ancient Near East : An Anthology of Texts and Pictures edited by James B. Pritchard (Read Feb 23)
10. Toni Morrison's Beloved : a Casebook - edited by William L. Andrews & Nellie Y. McKay (Feb 7-25)


11. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare, edited by David M. Bevington & David Scott Kastan (Feb 25 - Mar 12)
12. Hamlet, a Guide (The Shakespeare Handbooks) by Alistair McCallum (Feb 25 - Mar 12)
13. Driven to Distraction : Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood Through Adulthood (Revised) by Edward M. Hallowell, John J. Ratey (read Mar 12-20)
14. The Brick Bible: A New Spin on the Old Testament by Brendan Powell Smith (Read Mar 1-28)
15. Seeking Palestine : New Palestinian Writing on Exile and Home by Penny Johnson & Raja Shehadeh, editors (read Mar 21-29)


16. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison (read Mar 30 - Apr 13)
17. 1 & 2 Chronicles in The HarperCollins Study Bible : New Revised Standard Version (read Feb 10 - Apr 16)
18. Introducing Wittgenstein by John Heaton & illustrated by Judy Groves (read Apr 18-20)
19. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (read Jan 25 - Apr 27)
20. Re Arts & Letters : Real West - Volume XVII, Number 1, Spring 1991 (read Mar 15 - Apr 27)
21. Wittgenstein : A Very Short Introduction by A. C. Grayling (read Apr 20-28)


22. Feynman by Jim Ottaviani & illustrated by Leland Myrick (read May 1-6)
23. Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon (Bloom's Modern Critical Interpretation) (read Apr 13 - May 12)

Currently Reading
- Sayings of the Fathers, or, Pirke Aboth, translation and commentary by Joseph H. Hertz (started May 5, but just reading here and there)
- A Wolf at the Door : and Other Retold Fairy Tales edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling (started Apr 13)
- The Story of Science: Power, Proof and Passion by Michael Mosley & John Lynch (started Feb 18)
- The Trophies of Time : English Antiquarians of the Seventeenth Century by Graham Parry (started Feb 17)
- The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne, illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard (started Jan 25, with my son...I think we're done...in midst of chatper 2)
- The Literary Guide to the Bible by Robert Alter & Frank Kermode (Editors) (started Jan 21, 2012, reading along with the Bible)
- How to Read the Bible : A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now by James L. Kugel (Started Nov 28, 2011, reading along with the bible)

Likely Abandonned
- The Ancient Near East : An Anthology of Texts and Pictures by James B. Pritchard (read bits Feb 18 & read Gilgamesh Feb 23. Too much here though.)
- Toni Morrison : Conversations by Toni Morrison, Carolyn C. Denard (Editor) (skimmed for Beloved references on Feb 1)

Edited: Jan 8, 2013, 9:53pm Top

For anyone new to me, I'm posting my 2012 reading so you can get a sense of what I read. On a whim I'm giving my favorites one or two asterisks. Careful with the links, they go to the relevant posts in my previous threads.

Books read in 2012
1. Cimarron Review : January 1997
2. Poetry : September 1996 (Volume CLXVIII, Number 6)
3. *Genesis - from The Five Books of Moses : A Translation with Commentary by Robert Alter
4. **Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible by Karel van der Toorn
5. Celebrate the Sun by James J. Kavanaugh
6. The Penderwicks : A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall
7. **Moby Dick by Herman Melville
8. To Be Read in 500 Years : Poems by Albert Goldbarth
9. Exodus - from The Five Books of Moses : A Translation with Commentary by Robert Alter
10. Oil on Water by Helon Habila
11. Cain by Jose Saramago
12. The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall
13. *The Dart League King by Keith Lee Morris
14. Leviticus - from The Five Books of Moses : A Translation with Commentary by Robert Alter
15. Black Warrior Review : Volume XXIII, Number 1 - Fall/Winter 1996
16. *The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin (re-read)
17. Imperfect : An Improbable Life by Jim Abbott with Tim Brown
18. This Close to the Earth by Enid Shomer
19. Overcoming ADHD Without Medication : A Parent and Educator's Guidebook by Children and Natural Psychology Association for Youth
20. Numbers - from The Five Books of Moses : A Translation with Commentary by Robert Alter
21. ADHD by Trudi Strain Trueit (juvenile book)
22. ADHD by Barbara Sheen (juvenile book)
23. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
24. Cobb : A Biography by Al Stump
25. Deuteronomy - from The Five Books of Moses : A Translation with Commentary by Robert Alter
--this completed **The Five Books of Moses : A Translation with Commentary by Robert Alter
26. *Wolves by Larry D. Thomas, with woodcuts by Clarence Wolfshohl
27. The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall
28. **The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
29. **When I Lived in Modern Times by Linda Grant
30. Joshua - from the King James Version
31. *The Missouri Review : Volume 27, Number 1, 2004
32. *How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden
33. *Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan
34. The Hunger Angel by Herta Müller
35. *Radioactive : Marie & Pierre Curie : A Tale of Love & Fallout by Lauren Redniss
36. Jewish Major Leaguers in Their Own Words : Oral Histories of 23 Players by Peter Ephross with Martin Abramowitz, editors
37. Judges (and Ruth) - from The Harper Collins Study Bible
38. **Just Kids by Patti Smith
39. **The Missouri Review : Volume XX, Number 2, 1997 - Rituals
40. *Palestinian Walks by Raja Shehadeh
41. Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me by Harvey Pekar & J. T. Waldman
42. *Space : A Memoir by Jesse Lee Kercheval
43. The Georgia Review : Spring 2000
44. People on the Street : A Writer's View of Israel by Linda Grant
45. **The Bible Unearthed : Archaeology's New Visions of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts by Israel Finkelstein & Neil Asher Silberman
46. The Love Story of Paul Collins by Donigan Merritt
47. *Stalking the Florida Panther by Enid Shomer
48. *Closing the Sea by Judith Katzir, Barbara Harshav
49. Poet Lore : Fall 1993 (Volume 88 Number 3)
50. **The David Story : A Translation with Commentary of 1 and 2 Samuel by Robert Alter
51. *The Art of Biblical Narrative by Robert Alter
52. The Cartoon History of the Universe : Volumes 1-7 by Larry Gonick
53. *The Cartoon History of the Universe II, Volumes 8 - 13: From the Springtime of China to the Fall of Rome by Larry Gonick
54. *The Druid's Son by G. R. Grove
55. Who Were the Celts? Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Celts 1000 B.C. to the Present by Kevin Duffy
56. A Mind at a Time by Mel Levine
57. God Knows by Joseph Heller
58. Poetry : October-November 1987 (75th Anniversary)
59. The Druid's Son by G. R. Grove (re-read)
60. Florida Postcards : Poems by Enid Shomer
61. Druids : A Very Short Introduction by Barry Cunliffe
62. **Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
63. *The Cartoon History of the Universe III: From the Rise of Arabia to the Renaissance by Larry Gonick
64. Open Door: A Poet Lore Anthology 1980 — 1986
65. Barefoot Gen, Volume 9 : Breaking Down Borders by Keji Nakazawa
66. Barefoot Gen, Volume 10 : Never Give Up by Keiji Nakazawa
67. *Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens (read Nov 17 - Dec 23)
68. *Traversa by Fran Sandham (read Nov 13 - Dec 29, mostly after Dec 24)

Jan 2, 2013, 12:08am Top

And reserved again...although admittedly I have no plan for this space yet.

Edited: Jan 2, 2013, 1:59am Top

Dan, if you don't find any other use for the message 4 space you could put this picture of a lion there.


Jan 2, 2013, 6:55am Top

But then what would I do with message 5?

Jan 2, 2013, 8:39am Top

Just peekin' in to see how you have started the year. It seems you are like a child lost in a woods filled with candy trees:-)

Jan 2, 2013, 8:49am Top

Hi Dan, Found my lurking spot. Carry on....

Jan 2, 2013, 1:40pm Top

An undetermined reading quest. I'm settling in with a cup of tea for this!

Jan 2, 2013, 8:19pm Top

7-9 - Hi !

#8 Katie- and keep calm...no, that's backward.

#9 Alison - I serve nice tea, much better than what I have home in RL. Also fresh ground coffee, even some port for those who prefer. I'm working on the scotch. No beer, that's only for RL, sorry.

#7/9 - At the danger of sounding a little strange, when I try to picture my reading this year I visualize it as trying to look into a future that lies just beyond a closed door.

Jan 2, 2013, 8:28pm Top

Posts 2 & 3 are filled in with my reading this year and last year.

The scariest part of post 5 is that face I can barely make out in the lower right. (post 4 is still blank)

Jan 2, 2013, 10:37pm Top

The scariest part of post 5 is that face I can barely make out in the lower right.
OH my! That is creepy!

Jan 2, 2013, 11:31pm Top

Re post 5 - I could make out just enough of the text above the face to google it and discovered that it is the lyrics of this song:

Iron Lion Zion

I am on the rock and then I check a stock
I have to run like a fugitive to save the life I live
I’m gonna be iron like a lion in zion (repeat)
Iron lion zion
I’m on the run but I ain’t got no gun
See they want to be the star
So they fighting tribal war
And they saying iron like a lion in zion
Iron like a lion in zion,
Iron lion zion

I’m on the rock, (running and you running)
I take a stock, (running like a fugitive)
I had to run like a fugitive just to save the life I live
I’m gonna be iron like a lion in zion (repeat)
Iron lion zion, iron lion zion, iron lion
Zion iron like a lion in zion, iron like
A lion in zion iron like a lion in zion

So the face must be that of the lyricist, Bob Marley.

I suppose after your trip to Israel and all your biblical reading, Robert is telling you that you are the iron lion of Zion.

Jan 3, 2013, 1:09am Top

Nice lion.

Jan 3, 2013, 2:11am Top

At first I thought that was the Jesus lion from Narnia.

Jan 3, 2013, 2:36am Top

#15 - me too

Jan 3, 2013, 8:10am Top

I could live with Aslan here (occasionally my daughter let's me read to her and lately it's Prince Caspian), but a Marley lion is most welcome, even if I don't know the song. Impressive find Steven, thanks.

Curiouser and curiouser, Robert. The lion is growing on me.

Jan 3, 2013, 12:06pm Top

iron lion of Zion sounds much stronger than my image, which had been one of dan facing off against the lion in his own Life of Pi struggle.

Jan 3, 2013, 2:01pm Top

For a most unusual adventure find/read "The Lion of Boaz-Zachin and Jachin-Boaz" by Russell Hoban.

Jan 3, 2013, 2:18pm Top

The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz

#19 Hi Esta! Enjoyed your review on the book page. I'm intrigued. It's going on the wishlist.

#18 SassyLassy - that was a tiger, but I would like to see Pi's Tiger take on Aslan...in a debate, of course. Could be an interesting mind bender. Yann Martel vs. C. S. Lewis...

Jan 3, 2013, 2:29pm Top

Serving just tea? And I so hope I can stop by for a quick coffee...

Jan 3, 2013, 3:05pm Top

>13 StevenTX: yes steven, amazing catch!

Dan, one w00t here for reading what is plainly delighting you, especially Didion and DFW!

Jan 3, 2013, 3:37pm Top

Hi Dan -- looking forward to your thread as always. I actually own The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz though I've not read it. I have liked other of Hoban's books -- maybe I'll go find this on the shelves.

Jan 3, 2013, 4:13pm Top

Sorry, I wasn't clear enough. I knew it was Pi and a tiger, that was why you needed a lion. Should have said Pi - like struggle or some such.

Jan 3, 2013, 4:30pm Top

If I had noticed the face I probably would not have posted it. My intent was mainly to post a photograph of a lion and, in this case, a lion with a fiery mane. The picture is from a web site called Gameglobe, and the label userpic is within the URL.

Animal pictures can get away from you, cf Chatterbox's thread in the 75 Books challenge group, wherein I merely wanted to mark the thread in a group I don't belong to without making a vacuous post. Three times I've used an animal beginning with W, and this time it took off.


Jan 4, 2013, 4:12pm Top

Looking forward to following your thread, Dan.

Jan 5, 2013, 4:10pm Top

I should post on my own thread on occasion too, as I try to catch up with the January Club Read burst.

#21 oh Annie, we have other options too. Fresh ground coffee always, to your tastes, 24/7.

#22 MJ - Thanks, really. It's good point to keep in mind.

#23 Jane - you know, Jane, I blame you if I manage to pick up Beloved this year (pausing to put it on my TBR shelf...)

Edited: Jan 5, 2013, 6:00pm Top

That was a long pause (Beloved, Godel, Escher, Bach and A Moveable Feast are on the shelf, A Confederacy of Dunces, The Tree of Man and, most questionably, The Shallows came off.)

#24 SassyLassy - : )

#25 Robert - The Lion has been pure entertainment. Thanks for putting him there.

#26 Deborah - welcome.

Edited: Jan 6, 2013, 9:58am Top

Two books to finish from last year

67. (from 2012) Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens (1865, 683 pages, read Nov 17 – Dec 23)

My first Dickens. A proper review of this book would leave the impression that I didn't like the book but really enjoyed the writing and the characters. Well, anyway, it left me wanted to read more Dickens. The book is flawed, and a trick with Boffins revealed near the end kind of guts it, IMHO. The names are spectacular. (The Veneerings are precisely as you might picture a nouveau riche couple with the name. And podsnappery, a favorite word of mine, was defined by this Mr. Podsnap.) I found reading Dickens slow, but very enjoyable. I didn't find much depth here. Yeah, there are lots of poor and desperate, but they are all stereotypical, which seems to be Dickens specialty. (Which horrified me with Riah. It wasn't that Dickens offended me, he's just reporting the accepted Jewish stereotype of the time.) There is something about the River Thames, that "river outside the windows flowing on to the vast ocean", but I never got a sense of what the vast ocean was.

68. (from 2012) Traversa by Fran Sandham (2007, 277 pages, read Nov 12 – Dec 29)

The cover has a useful subtitle, "A Solo Walk Across Africa, from the Skeleton Coast to the Indian Ocean". I no longer remember what led me to this book, but I came with high expectations of losing myself in a travelogue and learning about Africa. Fran manages to do some of both, more the former than the latter, but first he kind of rubbed me the wrong way. Once he gets started walking though, he suddenly becomes much more pleasant and, as the book moved on, I gained more and more affection for him and his journey. One oddity here is that Fran never gives us a year. His sources (he has two pages of sources, so some efforts at research) have a ten year gap from 1992 to 2002, with the vast majority coming before that date. Was his walk circa 1993, and the book 14 years in the making? It's possible, and funny that you can't easily tell based on his experiences. Anyway, recommended for fun.

Jan 6, 2013, 12:34am Top

The only Dickens I've read is Great Expectations which I remember really liking when I read it as a freshman in high school.

How did Sandham rub you the wrong way?

Jan 6, 2013, 12:56am Top

Trying to recall the details of it. Something about the carelessness both of his attitude and the way he expressed himself. I think the walk really humbled him, and I had this very subjective and maybe indefensible sense that there was some immature arrogance at the onset.

I read parts of Great Expectations in high school, but it didn't do much for me...but I wasn't really open to it then.

Jan 6, 2013, 8:18am Top

I've only read a few Dickens books, but my favorite by far is A Tale of Two Cities.

Jan 6, 2013, 10:12am Top

I've been lurking here, and I don't have to much to say (cue up Napoleon Dynamite), but very impressive 2012 reading list. I think I've only read one of your 2012 reads, but a few are either on my TBR or WishList (I just mis-typed WishLust there first - which is actually quite fitting for me!).

OK - back to lurking...

Jan 6, 2013, 10:33am Top

Traversa sounds interesting. Wouldn't it require a certain amount of arrogance to set out on such a journey?

Jan 6, 2013, 10:41am Top

Dan, I generally love well-written personal travel/adventure narratives and will be looking out for Traversa.

Jan 6, 2013, 11:16am Top

I was going to make the same comment as Kay re: the arrogance to undertake such a journey.

Jan 6, 2013, 11:28am Top

Things must've changed, because in my day you didn't get out of high school without reading at least two Dickens novels. My favorite is Bleak House, and I think you will find it deeper in terms of social satire but just as entertaining as Our Mutual Friend.

Jan 6, 2013, 8:21pm Top

Congratulations on finishing Our Mutual Friend Dan. It is slow going at first but after the first part becomes a bit of a page turner I found. I read it last year and loved it. Plenty of depth I think and a fierce critique of money men and speculators, which was right up my street.

Edited: Jan 6, 2013, 11:58pm Top

#32/37 - Japaul and Steven - I have this fantasy of spending a year reading all Dickens, in publication order, of course. Or I could just select a few. Bleak House is the one I keep seeing come up as a favorite.

#33 Lisa - unlurk. Tell me more about Napoleon Dynamite.

#34/36 Kay & Katie (Kay, I always thought to call you Allison??) - very very good point, it does take some arrogance. Hopefully I didn't kill the book for everyone with that negative comment, but because I really did like the guy who made that journey.

#35 Linda - Nothing the lose with this one. Go for it...but it's not that easy to find, outside amazon.

#36 Katie - your talk on your thread of prepping for a 5k run got me to the gym today. First time since August.

#37 Bas - Part 1 is slow, but OK. Part 2 is wonderfully fun. Part 4 is disappointing, although the very end is touching. The critique is fierce only in the beginning. Because, the moral, as far as I could gather, is that money does solve everything. As least that is how it works out for most of the good guys. Speculate away so your kids can be nice people unworried about money. I don't think that is what Dickens intended, mind you.

Jan 7, 2013, 12:14am Top

Our Mutual Friend is on the pile and will presumably be the next Dickens that I read though not sure when that will be. Bleak House was my favorite also though I haven't read any of his more popular works (I figured since Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol turned so many people off him in high school, I wouldn't read those until later). In Bleak House, he did have a lot of the one-note characters that sometimes earn him criticism but they were such vivid and crazy grotesques that I thought they should all have their own name-word coinage.

Jan 7, 2013, 6:07am Top

>39 dchaikin: - Excellent re: the gym. Then you can do the 5K for me!

Jan 7, 2013, 12:52pm Top

>29 dchaikin: - I'm interested in what you said about Riah. An essay I read years ago suggested that Dickens was breaking with stereotypes here - he was still a money-lender (which probably was a symptom of the times) but he is sympathetic, protective and not consumed by avarice. (I'm not the biggest Dickens fan, 3 of the 4 books I have read have been for courses - the odd one out being Great Expectations, which is the Dickens book for people who don't particularly take to him).

Jan 8, 2013, 3:39am Top

Hi Dan, Traversa sounds interesting, and I look forward to your review of Miami.
Hmmm, I'd like to read all of Dickens's novels one day, but the thought of reading them all in one year gives me a headache! Though there was an article on the BBC website recently about someone who did just that: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20663427.
(I didn't read it too carefully, as it apparently reveals some plot details.)

Edited: Jan 8, 2013, 8:45am Top

#40 Maus - Enjoy. Le Salon started a group of OMF, which is why I read it. But the group read kind of evaporated.

#41 Katie - How about you watch my kids and I'll...walk that 5k for you? Just offering.

#44 - Rebeki - Only Fifteen books...but then OMF took me about five weeks. It looks realistic, but probably an idea better left to fantasy, or Matthew Davis (the BBC writer).

Jan 8, 2013, 8:50am Top

#43 Turner - Now that is interesting, and Dickens does present Riah as a good. Still, there is something about him that I read as a commentary on 19th-century Judaism (in London?)...and, to me, it's a sad commentary.

Jan 8, 2013, 9:54am Top

LOL. Your kids seemed pretty cool so that might not be a bad trade...

Edited: Jan 8, 2013, 1:16pm Top

Reading is a change of state, a change of state of a particular sort.

We experience almost immediately a transposition—perhaps an expansion, perhaps a condensation—of our customary perception of reality. We shift our sense of time from our ordinary, sequential, clockface awareness to a quasi-timeless sense of suspension, the sublime forgetting of the grid sometimes called duration.

...we greet the world outside our immediate sphere of concern as a chaos essentially beyond our grasp, as an event the meaning of which will be disclosed to us later, if ever.

The meaning structure of a novel is absolutely different. Using condensation, moving in an altogether different medium of time, the author creates an artifact that is, in certain striking ways, a semblance of life, but with this exception: everything in the novel points toward a meaning."

The movement from quotidian consciousness into the consciousness irradiated by artistic vision is analogous to the awakening of spirituality.

On Jan 2 I read this wonderful little essay by Sven Birkerts in The Gettysburg Review : Volume 10, Number 2 : Summer 1997 called States of Reading, excerpted above.

I have never heard of Birkerts and he doesn't get back cover billing in this issue, like Brendan Galvin, but he is quoted in Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace! About DFW's story Little Expressionless Animals he says: "Wallace does not, in fact, tell the story. Instead he inhabits for extended moments the airspace around his characters." So, something for all the IJ readers to think about.

And, what great thoughts to begin the year.

Edited: Jan 8, 2013, 1:25pm Top

That Birkerts quote nutshells why DFW is so relatable to so many people -- it's like he's there on the page, speaking directly to you, the lonely reader, or even reader who isn't lonely (though definitely more the former), and yet it's not DFW getting in the way, making the voice of his characters his voice, but keeping it theirs, if that cursory contradiction makes any sense at all.

Edited: Jan 8, 2013, 1:36pm Top

for the moments I can hold that all together, it makes perfect sense.

I think it's valuable for IJ readers to get that sense of what he's doing. You don't need to read IJ in the regular straightforward way. You can experience it in the moment, and can, momentarily, let the rest of the book go. You can put it together yourself later.

(this is heavily edited, sorry)

Jan 8, 2013, 1:41pm Top

>49 dchaikin: You don't need to read IJ in the regular straightforward way. You can experience it in the moment, and can, momentarily, let the rest of the book go.

You may have just convinced me I can actually read this book.

Edited: Jan 8, 2013, 1:54pm Top

#50 : )

This link is for my own memory, I haven't read it: http://theamericanscholar.org/reading-in-a-digital-age/

ETA: PS - if it's a good as I hope, The Shallows goes back on the TBR pile

Jan 8, 2013, 2:14pm Top

>47 dchaikin: What a great quote! Also, Infinite Jest has got my interest.

Jan 8, 2013, 4:41pm Top

>47 dchaikin: Interesting! "Little Expressionless Animals" is on the reading list I compiled from DFW's biography and this recommits me to it.

Dan I only posted comments, not a review, of The Shallows but recall it as a quick read:
"The Shallows by Nicholas Carr explores our brains in the Internet age. He acknowledges the enormous benefit of the Internet but argues that the adult brain is not static but instead remains plastic (i.e. moldable over time; not instantly “elastic”), and the Internet’s instant gratification and the distraction of its linkages is remolding our brains to prefer snippets and spoiling us for activities of depth, e.g. long-form reading. It’s good history, science and narrative, and is an important caution though with no real solution."

Jan 8, 2013, 10:02pm Top

#52 avidmom - I'm still thinking about the quote...

#53 MJ - It's in Girl with Curious Hair. Loving the biography. Thanks for the note on The Shallows.

Jan 9, 2013, 6:53am Top

>45 dchaikin: - I can understand your point of view, after all Riah is still a money lender and exists outside of mainstream society but look at the development between Fagin, who is a stereotype, and Riah. The latter's position in society is still determined by the status of Jews at the time, barred from many avenues and still viewed as the 'other'. It is worth noting that Catholics only achieved equal rights in 1829 and whether that equality really existed in the lower stratas of society is a moot point. (Bizarrely, catholics still can't marry into the British Royal Family but there has never been a restriction against marrying someone Jewish).

>51 dchaikin: - what intrigues me about Birkerts standpoint is that it doesn't answer why novels have gotten longer over the years. Look at novels from the 1950s and they are 250 pages or less - in an age when concentration is supposedly lacking readers are regularly consuming 600 page books (in SF&F they are regularly consuming series consisting of x number of such volumes). It just not novels that have grown - there was a report on how the average film is now 17 minutes longer than a decade ago (2 hours now seems a bare minimum). And in television we have the growth of 'slow TV' - series like Mad Men and The Killing (original Danish version, please) which expect the viewer to pay attention over weeks.
As for young people who have supposedly have no attention span, how can they pay detailed computer games for hours after hour.
Is this a backlash against internet culture or is there something in our psyche that still wants to get lost in a story?

Jan 9, 2013, 7:37am Top

>47 dchaikin: Your quotes reminded me of Narrative Impact, which is a great overall look at narrative theory and media psychology, especially with regard to meaning and transportation theory. Here are a few quotes from it that your post reminded me of:

Narratives can be seen as a form of simulation, the product of representational techniques and cognitive artifacts that allow us to extend the range of our experience to other physical and social environments.

A reader or viewer's visceral experience of "realness" may be more a function of emotional and physical arousal to the narrative than a consequence of the knowledge that a story is fiction, or even whether or not a story corresponds to known reality.

... fictional narratives may provide models of how to think about life's situations (e.g., with humor, or irony, or epistemic doubt) without aiming to change what we think about life's particulars.

Once in memory, story-world assertions may migrate to a reasoner's real-world belief space when they are temporarily dissociated from the nonfactive context in which they are embedded.

Jan 9, 2013, 9:11am Top

I wanted to read Our Mutual Friend last year...I ended up watching the movie but never had time to dedicate to the book. I really loved the movie though! I know what you mean about Dickens' characters being stereotypical, but I always figured he was amazing at somehow adding depth to his caricatures - most of his characters are caricatures, but somehow they stand the test of time to such an extent that we have coined words based on Dickens' characters (like Pecksniffian). That shows skill. I also like the how his books display the social injustices of the time.

Jan 9, 2013, 9:35am Top

Some very interesting discussion here, Dan, although I'm still on the fence about reading Infinite Jest. But the Kindle price at the moment is very tempting.

Jan 9, 2013, 4:00pm Top

#55 - Turner, good points. I haven't read Oliver Twist, but know enough of the story to know Riah is a big improvement over Fagin. As for Birkerts...I have to read the article first.

#56 - Debbie - Well, that last comment is enlightening. I'll certainly keep that in mind as I read through the OT. What book is this? The link takes me to Fatal Impact by Alan Moorehead. The only Narrative Impact I found was an interesting sounding but obscure work by Melanie C. Green, called Narrative Impact: Social and Cognitive Foundations

#57 Hibernator - I should look up the movie. Caricature is a better word than stereotype for Dickens.

#58 Linda - As important and impressive as I find IJ, I'm not trying to sell it. It's too much work for the reader and I have no clue who will like and who won't. But, if you are up for a project, enjoy. I would love to read your responses.

Jan 9, 2013, 8:28pm Top

>59 dchaikin: Sorry, I'm horrible about making sure the touchstones go to the correct book. Yes, the one edited by Green, Strange and Brock is the correct one. (Amazon link) Unfortunately, media psychology is still a relatively obscure field.

Jan 9, 2013, 9:01pm Top

#60 Thanks Debbie!

Jan 10, 2013, 8:53pm Top

>56 _debbie_: gagging on that terrible prose: nonfactive????? WTF?

Re Fagin and Riah: Letter from CD in reply to Mrs Davis July 10 1863. (Mrs Davis was the wife of J.P. Davis, a respectable Jewish money lender who bought Dickens's London home, Tavistock House, from him, in 1860)

Dear Madam,
I hope you will excuse this tardy reply to your letter. It is often impossible for me, by any means, to keep pace with my correspondents. I must take leave to say, that if there be any general feeling on the part of the intelligent Jewish people, that I have done them what you describe as "a great wrong," they are a far less sensible, a far less just, and a far less good-tempered people than I have always supposed them to be. Fagin, in "Oliver Twist," is a Jew, because it unfortunately was true of the time to which that story refers, that that class of criminal almost invariably was a Jew. But surely no sensible man or woman of your persuasion can fail to observe—firstly, that all the rest of the wicked dramatis personæ are Christians; and secondly, that he is called the "Jew," not because of his religion, but because of his race. If I were to write a story, in which I described a Frenchman or a Spaniard as "the Roman Catholic," I should do a very indecent and unjustifiable thing; but I make mention of Fagin as the Jew, because he is one of the Jewish people, and because it conveys that kind of idea of him which I should give my readers of a Chinaman, by calling him a Chinese.
The enclosed is quite a nominal subscription towards the good object in which you are interested; but I hope it may serve to show you that I have no feeling towards the Jewish people but a friendly one. I always speak well of them, whether in public or in private, and bear my testimony (as I ought to do) to their perfect good faith in such transactions as I have ever had with them; and in my "Child's History of England," I have lost no opportunity of setting forth their cruel persecution in old times.
Dear Madam, faithfully yours.

In reply to this, Mrs Davis thanks him for his kind letter and its enclosure, still remonstrating and pointing out that though, as he observes, "all the other criminal characters were Christians, they are, at least, contrasted with characters of good Christians; this wretched Fagin stands alone as the Jew."

The reply to this letter afterwards was the character of Riah, in "Our Mutual Friend," and some favourable sketches of Jewish character in the lower class, in some articles in "All the Year Round."

It's worth noting that the Jewish Riah is a front for the Christian Fledgeby.

Hope this helps somewhat.

Jan 10, 2013, 9:53pm Top

Murr - I don't know that it changes my emotional response in any way, but it's a fascinating letter. It seems Dickens did was he thought was the right thing to do. I don't blame him for for anything negative I pick up from Riah.

Jan 11, 2013, 8:26am Top

I haven't read OMF, and so don't know Riah, but that letter by Dickens is fascinating for his thinking he is doing the right thing and having no idea (by modern standards) how prejudiced he sounds. He may well have been advanced for his time and place.

Jan 12, 2013, 7:12am Top

#58 I went ahead and bought it thinking I should read it at some point, might as well buy if cheap for the future.

I actually love Dickens, but Fagin is a big part of the reason, I dislike Oliver Twist, I didn't love to hate him, I just plain hated him. Mrs Davis was right to still be unhappy with him.

Edited: Jan 15, 2013, 7:21pm Top

Apologies up-front for the conclusion-less mini-essay like thing posted here. I wanted one short paragraph, but it just wouldn't do.

1. Miami by Joan Didion (1987, 214 pages, read Dec 29 – Jan 6)

”Havana vanities come to dust in Miami.” There is something striking about the writing here from the opening line. Didion gets your attention, or she got mine. She is sharp, smart and… and what? We readers like to be drawn along, we like to have something that just pushes our imaginations a little forward. What are Havana vanities? Isn’t there an insult there? But…

But this was never the book I expected it to be. I opened this thinking it was about Miami. Before focusing, instead, entirely on the Cuban Miami, Didion takes a few pages to describe how clueless my own childhood Anglo-community was (and is?). Miami’s Anglo community not only assumed it was the Miami, and ignored the majority Cuban population, but even lacked a basic curiosity of the culture. The rich and influential Cuban culture was left was alone, an unknown, a quarter-century-old (at the time) other.

None of this prepares the reader for how Didion will tear this Cuban culture apart. What she describes here is a violently repressive culture focused on the struggle to take down Castro. There were multiple assassinations throughout the 1970’s within the US and elsewhere. This was a community where any public figure that strayed from the extreme, even suggesting something as basic as establishing some kind of dialog with Castro, was fair game for assassination. At one time a car bomb blew off the legs of a radio announcer, an extremely conservative anti-Castro announcer, because he complained about the violence. The culprits of these crimes found communal praise. They were protected and talked about as “men of action.” This is the dark stuff.

But, when the book moves toward the stories of CIA-promoted exile Cuban involvement in Nicaragua, it doesn’t return focus back to Cuban Miami. Instead it moves on to Reagan and his full time effort for appearance. How groups like these exile Cubans, who were totally dedicated to their own ideas, were let loose in Central America…but, only when the when the actions became politically unpopular (there were brutal actions. This book followed Didion’s book Salvador covering that violence. I haven’t read it and I don’t know the details) and it was time to end them, did it begin to become apparent that these were runaway agencies. They had taken on a life of their own.

So, what was Didion doing here? It seemed very simple to the The NYTimes Reviewer and, again, in a retrospective interview published in 2010 that I found in Beached Miami that this was about exposing, maybe exaggerating, the dark side of the exile Cuban community. (A past dark side, according to the Beached Miami interview.)

I want to say that there is more going on here, but I’m not able to say exactly what it is. I find it interesting that at every point in the book I knew exactly where this book was going and what it was doing, and yet every time I was wrong. Actually the book doesn’t really conclude. It just leaves off with Reagan and a little pondering on a future of incompetent, image obsessed US presidents.

All this leaves Didion a mystery to me. She is clearly not just a reporter. Her ability to mine complex information, put it together and then present it fantastically is only a tool, not the purpose. It keeps us reading. There is a clear and intentional structural complexity to this work. She is leading somewhere, just pushing our imagination a little forward, but it’s not clear to me where.

Jan 15, 2013, 1:48pm Top

All interesting and very intriguing, dan. Didion is an author that I know I have to get to some time. The conversation around here about her writing is certainly educational for me.

Please check the above links. They don't work.

Jan 15, 2013, 1:56pm Top

Very thoughtful review of Miami, Dan. I know relatively little about Miami - I've never even read a book with Miami as the backdrop, although I have seen TV programs that take place in Miami. Obviously, these aren't the best sources of cultural critique (well, usually). I found the reference to how clueless my own childhood Anglo-community was (and is?) interesting, as it reminds me of how my own Afrikaans community is often accused (usually correctly) of being clueless about the majority population in South Africa. In any case, thanks for the intriguing review.

Edited: Jan 15, 2013, 2:07pm Top

#67 re the links: as far as I can tell they are coded correct but LT is fitting a "http : // www . librarything.com/topic" infront (without the spaces). Anyway, I posted them long form on the bottom of #66

ETA - solved. It was my quotation marks. I had somehow pasted ” instead of "
EATA - care of MS Word, I presume.

Thanks for the comment. I need to read more of her works.

Jan 15, 2013, 1:57pm Top

Interesting book and review. I took a class on American activities in Central America (we read a lot of Chomsky) and it wasn't admirable. I should return to the topic. I'll take a look at Miami.

Jan 15, 2013, 2:10pm Top

#68 Dewald - Too bad she hasn't gotten to SA. That might have been quite the book.

#70 Kay - Central America is a gap in my knowledge...

Jan 15, 2013, 3:18pm Top

Great "conclusion-less mini-essay like thing" of a terrific book.

Reversing your thoughts a bit:
She is leading somewhere, just pushing our imagination a little forward, but it’s not clear to me where...I find it interesting that at every point in the book I knew exactly where this book was going and what it was doing, and yet every time I was wrong.

I think this is where she is leading us; to show us that we think we know what's going on when all along it is something completely different, so we will now have to think it through for ourselves.

Jan 15, 2013, 3:46pm Top

#72 - SassyLassy - That' is along the lines of what I was thinking. That she might be making the point that there is more to the the story, but we don't yet know what that is. That there is a gap in knowledge. There is more to find...and that this will change our understanding and our response. But I'm not sure whether she really intended us to read it that way or not.

Jan 15, 2013, 5:50pm Top

Really interesting review, thanks! I think a Didion might be the next book I read.

Jan 15, 2013, 7:18pm Top

Fascinating review of Miami, Dan -- it's been sitting on my FL TBR shelf for a long time -- I guess I should dust it off.

Jan 15, 2013, 7:21pm Top

#74 thanks char

#75 Jane - if I can return the favor for Beloved... I'm only 90 pages in, but wow.

Jan 15, 2013, 7:24pm Top

Ah -- I can't wait to read what your final reactions are.

Jan 15, 2013, 7:50pm Top

Miami looks like quite an eye-opener. Thanks for the fine review. I've only read one novel by Didion, but I can see I need to try some of her non-fiction.

Jan 15, 2013, 7:56pm Top

Dan, having just read your very interesting review it has led to wonder: Is Miami just very good journalism or is it something more than that?

Jan 15, 2013, 8:22pm Top

I'm getting to my first essays by Didion (after her memoirs) -- Slouching Towards Bethlehem is about California in the '60s. Either I knew that when I chose it or it was fortuitous; I'm very interested in that time/place. And now per your comments I'm interested to see Didion go at it (and me).

Jan 15, 2013, 8:38pm Top

That does sound interesting.

Jan 15, 2013, 9:24pm Top

#77 - Not thinking about that yet... :)

#78 - Thanks Steven. I hope to read more of her non-fiction myself. EnriqueFreeque pointed me to We tell ourselves stories in order to live : collected nonfiction. (Oh, I forgot how perfect and revealing that title is! It was going to work that into my review...oh well...)

#79 - Bas - It is more. That was the most unexpected part. I was expecting journalism.

#80 - MJ - Looking forward to your comments.

#81 - Thanks, avidmom.

To all - All these comments are appreciated and fun. So, thanks everyone. (And I'll never again raz Darryl about the number of posts on his thread).

Jan 15, 2013, 11:12pm Top

Congrats on writing the historic, first-ever, review of Miami in LibraryThing. Nice one, Dan.

Miami & Salvador were written like non-fiction novels. They're exciting, and there's building suspense and the non-fiction equivalent of plot twists and turns you don't see coming -- only the turns are true -- and not her imagination. Even her essays are written as if they were short stories. Maybe that's where some of the "more" in her work, that SassyLassy & bas mentioned, originates also.

Reading her novels, by comparison, is like reading a completely different author. She loses all those long complex sentences with parentheses that can contain multiple semi-colons each, in favor of a terse prose that tends to match the barrenness of her fictional characters.

Jan 16, 2013, 10:12am Top

I bought a very nice Everyman's Library edition of Didion's We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live, a collection of her nonfiction which includes Miami, Slouching Towards Bethlehem and a number of others. Your review has made me anxious to find time for it.

Edited: Jan 16, 2013, 10:29pm Top

I am absurdly pleased that I was there when you bought the book that earned such a good, thoughtful review from you and lots of great feedback from others.

(I live vicariously a lot.)

ETA: or am I totally misremembering and you didn't buy Miami at Books & Books last month? Then I would feel absurdly ridiculous....

Jan 16, 2013, 10:58pm Top

That's the one, Katie. You get lots credit. If we hadn't met there, I wouldn't have the book yet.

Edited: Apr 18, 2013, 8:12am Top

Idle thought. In 2009 I read Beowulf on the Beach : What to Love and What to Skip in Literature's 50 Greatest Hits by Jack Murnighan. Ever since I've been slowly making my way through those 50 books (but without the skipping bit). So, time for a list:

1. The Illiad-Homer (circa 900 B.C.)
----- plan to start after I finish the OT
2. The Odyssey–Homer (circa 900 B.C.)
----- plan to start after I finish the OT
3. The Old Testament (15th- to 2nd-century B.C.)
----- I've been reading this since January 2012 in a series of threads in the le Salon group. Been quite an experience.
4. The New Testament (1st-2nd century)
5. The Aeneid–Virgil (19 B.C.)
6. Metamorphoses-Ovid (A.D. 17)
7. Beowulf (10th century)
8. Inferno (Divine Comedy)-Dante Alighieri (1308)
9. Paradiso (Divine Comedy)-Dante Alighieri (1321)
10. The Decameron-Giovanni Boccaccio (1353)
11. The Canterbury Tales-Geoffrey Chaucer (1400)
12. *The Faerie Queen-Edmund Spencer (1596)
----- read in 2011
----- I read this theoretically with le Salon, but really on my own. Wonderful experience
13. Hamlet-William Shakespeare (1600)
----- Read in March, 2013
14. King Lear-William Shakespeare (1605)
15. Macbeth-William Shakespeare (1605)
16. Don Quixote-Miguel de Cervantes (1615)
17. Paradise Lost-John Milton (1667)
----- read books 1-4 in 2010. It was difficult but rewarding. Will try again, with more focus
18. The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling-Henry Fielding (1749)
19. *Pride and Prejudice-Jane Austen (1813)
----- read in 2005.
----- I may read again, but first I need to read other Austens
20. Faust I II-Johann Wofgang von Goethe (1832)
21. Eugene Onegin-Alexander Pushkin (1832)
22. Père Goriot-Honoré de Balzac (1835)
23. Jane Eyre-Charlotte Brontë (1847) - read in 1991, I will re-read this
24. Wuthering Heights-Emily Brontë (1847)
25. *Moby Dick-Herman Melville (1851)
----- read in 2012
----- Read with a wonderful Le Salon group read led by A_musing. Also my favorite book from last year.
26. Bleak House-Charles Dickens (1853)
27. Great Expectations-Charles Dickens (1861)
28. Madame Bovary-Gustave Flaubert (1856)
29. *Crime and Punishment-Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866)
----- read in 2003.
----- One of my all time favorite books.
30. *The Brothers Karamazov-Fyodor Dostoevsky (1880)
----- read in 2010
----- read under TomcatMurr's guidance in Le Salon. Murr is amazing, the book is tough.
31. War and Peace-Leo Tolstoy (1869)
32. *Anna Karenina-Leo Tolstoy (1877)
----- read in 2004
----- I don't need to read this again. I mean I liked it, just saying.
33. Middlemarch-George Eliot (1872)
34. The Wings of the Dove-Henry James (1902)
35. Remembrance of Things Past-Marcel Proust (1922)
----- read the first two books in 2010 (There are six, and I will re-read the first two...). Combray, the first part of book 1, is about the best thing I've ever read
36. Ulysses-James Joyce (1922)
37. *The Magic Mountain-Thomas Mann (1924)
----- read in 2011
----- another Le Salon group read, again a wonderful. Led by Macumbeira
38. The Trial-Kafka (1925)
39. To the Lighthouse-Virginia Woolf (1927)
40. The Sound and the Fury-William Faulkner (1929)
41. A Farewell to Arms-Ernest Hemmingway (1929)
42. Tropic of Cancer-Henry Miller (1934)
43. Native Son-Richard Wright (1940)
44. The Man Without Qualities-Robert Musil (1942)
45. Lolita-Vladimir Nabakov (1955)
46. Giovanni’s Room-James Baldwin (1956)
47. One Hundred Years of Solitude-Gabriel García Marquez (1967)
48. Gravity’s Rainbow-Thomas Pynchon (1973)
49. Blood Meridian-Cormac McCarthy (1985)
50. Beloved-Toni Morrison (1987)
----- read in 2013
----- Hoping to read all Morrison's novels in 2013 and to re-read this in December

Edited: Jan 21, 2013, 9:56pm Top

No touchstones : (
ETA - touchstone success! Finally on Jan 20. I had to save with only about 40, and then edit in the rest.

Among the notables missing above (I know, there are multitudes) are:
The Plumed Serpent-D H Lawrence (1926) - Baswood recommendation.
Master and Margarita-Mikhail Bulgakov (1940 - sort of) - I read this last year
Infinite Jest-David Foster Wallace (1996) - read in 2010. I'm working towards a re-read.

Jan 17, 2013, 7:56am Top

That's a fascinating list, especially for the books that have stood the test of time. Much more difficult to pick "the best" when we reach the modern (i.e., 19th century) era!

I am very interested in reading the Iliad and the Odyssey and maybe will try to read them when you do (not that I've had any success in following your OT read, despite the best of intentions, although I've starred all the threads for reference "later").

Jan 17, 2013, 8:51am Top

Dan, that's a great list and an admirable goal. But I am very curious about which books were on his skip list and why. Guess I should read the book.

I bought the Iliad and the Odyssey after attending some enticing lectures and dramatic readings. I would enjoy following along also.

Jan 17, 2013, 9:57am Top

A very interesting list, Dan. Thanks for sharing it. The biggest surprise on it is Giovanni's Room, but then that's one of the three on the list I've never read. I also wonder what he considers "skippable."

The "missing" works that come to my mind include: Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, and Oedipus Rex.

Fifty is a handy number for book lists. I made my own list of 50 several years ago in response to a request from my niece. I was just comparing the two, and we agree on only 27 of the 50. But my criteria were probably different.

Jan 17, 2013, 10:54am Top

Giovanni's Room was a surprise 5 star read for me, so I think it belongs there.

Edited: Jan 17, 2013, 11:06am Top

Mainly at #91 Steven

In Murnighan's defense, he ends the book arguing against lists. He says something like* what is important is to read deeply into the books you select. So, these were just A list, not THE list.

But I like his list.

- Twain & Fitzgerald are interesting skips, as is Steinbeck and many Nobels...
- We could argue Homer overwhelms any Classical ancient Greek works...but...

*as I read it 3+ years ago and it was a library book, I don't really remember what he says, and I didn't look it up

Mainly at #90 & 91, Linda & Steven

Murnighan doesn't suggest skipping any works, he lists sections in these books to skip. It's an interesting idea, but it was awkward...so my conclusion was that he makes a nice argument to NOT skip.

Jan 17, 2013, 11:05am Top

#89 - 90 - Rebecca & Linda - if I can finish the darn OT, I will approach Homer in 2014...no promises, as my note taking has me reading at a snails pace (but enriches the OT a ton).

Rebecca - what stands out to me is that #49 is Gravity's Rainbow...which I think leads to Infinite Jest in a way. That's my ideal place to be - solid in the classics and then approach GR...and IJ...and ?? (It's dream, mind you, since I'm looking at like 25 years of reading at my desired pace. By which time I hope there is another work before the ??)

#92 - Joyce - good to know! Murnighan made it enticing...(actually he made all 50 enticing. A credit to him.)

Jan 17, 2013, 9:48pm Top

I'm with Joyce; Giovanni's Room is one of my favorite 20th century American novels.

Jan 18, 2013, 7:40am Top

Another vote of support for Giovanni's Room from me!

Jan 18, 2013, 8:09pm Top

#87 I would not be inclined to give any such list credence if it did not include a book by D H Lawrence.

I have only read 21, I can't think of a book on that list that I would not want to read, apart from Blood Meridian perhaps.

Jan 18, 2013, 8:27pm Top

97> apart from Blood Meridian? Huh?! Ohhhhh, I don't know about that.

Jan 19, 2013, 2:59pm Top

Bas - in your opinion, what is the penultimate D H Lawrence?

I definitely want to read Blood Merridan....and Sutree.

Jan 19, 2013, 8:00pm Top

Jan 21, 2013, 9:54pm Top

Bas - Just realized I never responded. Never having heard of The Plumed Serpent, I went to wikipedia which left wanting to read everything D H Lawrence has written. But I was thinking someone else my comment on TPS, so I held off posting. Anyway, I'll put TPS on my extras list for now.

Jan 27, 2013, 10:33am Top

Unlurking! Enjoyed your comments on Miami. I've never read Joan Didion and this sounds like a good one to start with.

As far as Napoleon Dynamite, well I'm a bit hesitant to drag your thread down! It's a 2004 film about a dorky teenager growing up in Idaho. It has a weird charm, the whole film is quotable, and it has a cult following. It's sly and subtle. I first saw it on a plane flying home from the Netherlands; I had never heard of it, and the person next to me said they loved it, but that I might not like it. I'm definitely part of the cult following.

And on that note - if you ever watch it, and it you like it, well then, I caught you a delicious bass.

Jan 27, 2013, 12:17pm Top

OHHHH I'm going with you on Miami. I haven't read Didion either and I typical enjoy anything about Cuba whether it takes place in Cuba or Miami! Also have to go watch Napoleon Dynamite - I'm tired of hearing about it and not knowing what it is or getting the references!


Jan 28, 2013, 10:00am Top

Found you! Glad you've made it to Dickens. After loving my first, Great Expectations, last year, I've been listening to Bleak House for more months than I care to admit - am really enjoying it though. Agree with Rachel in post 57 about his characters being caricatures with flesh; I'm often amazed by how Dickens manages to choose just the right details about a character to allow me to get a good idea of them.

I keep thinking I should read some Joan Didion - enjoyed your little essay, conclusions or not!

Jan 28, 2013, 11:14am Top

Lisa, Merrkay and Rachel, thanks for visiting my idle thread. : ) I been slow on getting my next reviews up...and on finishing two books I'm nearly done with, but not done with (Read nothing over the weekend, sigh) Anyway, hope to have something more to post later this week.

Regarding Joan Didion - I recommend her to anyone willing to read her, highly.

Regarding keep Napoleon Dynamite - I'm entertained by your comments, Lisa. I don't see many movies lately, but sometimes... Will keep this in mind.

Regarding Dickens - Rachel, I need to read more of him. I don't think Our Mutual Friend was the best place for me to start, but it was a start.

Edited: Jan 29, 2013, 10:44pm Top

2. The Gettysburg Review : Volume 10, Number 2 : Summer 1997 (168 pages, read Dec 4 - Jan 19)
Main editor: Peter Stitt

One of the many old lit journals I have lying around in stacks, and the first issue of The Gettysburg Review that I’ve read. Based on this issue, it seems to be a high quality journal with a lot of good poetry, essays and terrific stories. The short stories here stayed with me the longest. A few people have actually read through my previous posts like this, but please don’t feel compelled to read all this. The comments below are mainly for me. * means I liked and ** means I liked it a lot.

Essays and Essay-Reviews

Peter Stitt: Edgar Allan Poe’s Secret Sharer, Part 1 (Editor’s Pages) - On the undermining of Poe’s reputation by his main early posthumous collector and editor, Rufus Wilmot Griswold. Among other things, Griswold doctored Poe’s letters.

David Baker : Critical Disobedience: Nine Ways of Looking at a Poem - opens this way
This really happened. The poet just completed the evening’s reading and eased shut his notebook with tangible relief, glancing first at the reception area.
But the host had swiveled to face the audience of about fifty. With eagerness, a solicitous smile, she said, “Does anyone have a question for our guest?”
A young student shot his hand into the air. It was still straight in the air when he asked, “Can you explain what your last poem was about? Why did you write it? I know what it says, but what is it supposed to mean?
The jug wine and crackers and boxed cookies beckoned.
But the poet opened his book, and took a long breath, and read the poem once more, a little slower.

Jeffrey Harrison : Meditation on an Aphorism by Wallace Stevens: “A Poem is a Pheasant”

**Sven Birkerts : States of Reading - This essay was my favorite item in the book. See post #47 above for comments

Josephine Jacbosen : four two-page essays
- Editors Note - this is about Josephine Jacbosen…either a joke, or I’m easily confused, or both.
*- The Handless Clock - includes this , which Thomas Mann would love:
It could tell me accurately that time was passing; but it could not tell me where I was in relation to time. With a poet’s devious instinct, I understood that this was a metaphor for what I knew: that in a very real sense there is no true measurement for time in relation to the human being.
*- Time Out of Mind
*- Artifacts of Memory

Lawrence Douglas and Alexander George : Philip Roths Secret Sharer - A dry humor here, arguing for a real, ”second ‘Philip Roth’ who travels the world pretending to be the bard of Newark”, and then trying to figure out which one wrote which novels. Cute.

Floyd Collins : Enactment of Desire - reviewing three books
---- Crossing to Sunlight: Selected Poems by Paul Zimmer
---- Trespasser by R. T. Smith
---- The Spirit Level by Seamus Heaney – which or may not help me understand Heaney better


*Joan Connor : The Poet’s Lobster - A lobster, on his way into the pot, reflects on his brief life of self-awareness when he was author’s pet. ”I was not a deep thinker then. I had no need of thought, nor language for it.”

*Stephen Dixon : Wishman - A street man collecting money for wishes approaches a man having lunch outside with his going-senile mother.

Franklin Fisher : Blameless - The hiding of a hypochondriac-ish medical fear begins to look like adultery…

**Mark Wisniewski : Descending - A terrific story of a failed author, now working as Dr. Manuscript, an editor-for-hire, who stumbles across a job with a down-and-out author he happens to know and adore.

**Peter Ho Davies : On the Terraces - Another terrific story. The narrator recounts his last days in the hospital with his brother who is dying of AIDS, while trying to understand why he couldn’t understand him.


Robert Bly :
- People Like Us
- Sea Water
- The Parcel
- A Farm in Western Minnesota
Betty Adcock :
- Locomotion - “Her life/ is put together like a train…She moves/ possession after possession, into the next/ oblong of darkness"
- January
David Baker
- Still-Hildreth Sanatorium, 1936
Kristin Fogdall
- The Reading Room
- Oregon, 1859
- Coda
Delisa Mulkey
*- Eulogy for a Snake Handler Killed by a Canebrake - slang first-person poem about a preacher who preached holding poisonous snakes.
- Waiting for the Aliens
Vern Rutsala
- What’s Out There Now
Arvind Krishna Mehrotra
- The Vase That is Marriage
- Trouvaille
- Old Survey Road
- The Storm
Stefanie Marlis
- Butter
- Hollywood
- Proteus and Sunflowers
Caroline Finkelstein
*- New Address
- Purely Drinking My Coffee
Mary Jo Bang
- The Ana of Bliss - "The risk of proximity is always/ that the body will not contain itself."
- Renunciation of Dreams and Such
Quinton Duval
*- Storm
- When Budberg Died
Walter McDonald
**- Praying for Rain on the Plains - I posted this in our Poetry thread, here
Jane Hirschfield
*- Respite - opens ”Day after quiet day passes./I speak to no one besides the dog.”
Lawrence Raab
*- Meaningful Things - plays on writers' fear of their work becoming outdated.
Billy Collins
*- Housefly - cute
Michael Heffernan
- A Stand of Trees
Christopher Howell
*- Apacatastasis - about a curious raving street man who comes home to his wife at the end of the day, greeting her with these words
”What a day!
so long and swift with the air’s design
I’ve come back almost before I left
and then
came back again, which goes to prove
that God is not a bus.”

Daniel Hoffman
- A Witness
Ronald Wallace
- The Bad Snorkler
- The Student Theme
- L*A*N*G*U*A*G*E
Allan Peterson
- Hitting the Hot Spots
Brendan Galvin
**- Midsummer Nocturne - A fantastic poem.
Edward Nobles
- American Home
Daniel Halpern
**- Beauty & Restraint - another terrific poem, which opens with a quote by Paul Valery: ”The definition of beauty is easy; it is what leads to desperation”


Kathy Ruttenberg: Paintings

Jan 30, 2013, 2:43am Top

Enjoyed reading about your reading, Dan. I'm a bit envious of you and your piles of lit journals - we don't really get that kind of thing here in SA.

Jan 30, 2013, 5:28am Top

>106 dchaikin:, 107 I was just thinking the same - quite envious of your stacks of old lit journals. What a lovely thing to have lying around the house.

>105 dchaikin: I can't remember if you're a fan of audiobooks, Dan? If so I heartily recommend Great Expectations read by Martin Jarvis. It was my first Dickens and one of my first audiobooks, and got me hooked on both.

Jan 30, 2013, 6:57pm Top

I love that opening of "Critical Disobedience."

Jan 30, 2013, 10:25pm Top

Dewald/Rachel - The stacks are inherited, sort of. A friend, who is also a poet, was cleaning out his house before a move. I think I have thirty years of Poetry magazine...

Rachel - I tried an audiobook once, but couldn't keep my attention on the speaker...

Hi Katie! I'm only about 50 posts behind on your thread...will get there... (Friday morning I was completely caught up with all Club Read and all my regular threads...)

Jan 31, 2013, 3:41pm Top

>106 dchaikin: But the poet opened his book, and took a long breath, and read the poem once more, a little slower.
Love this.

It reminds me of a Flannery O'Connor quote I keep in a Word file ... even more true for poetry:
When you can state the theme of a story, when you can separate it from the story itself, then you can be sure the story is not a very good one. The meaning of a story has to be embodied in it, has to be made concrete in it. A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other say, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is. You tell a story because a statement would be inadequate. When anybody asks what a story is about, the only proper thing is to tell him to read the story. The meaning of fiction is not abstract meaning but experienced meaning {...} As the late John Peale Bishop said: “You can’t say Cezanne painted apples and a tablecloth and have said what Cezanne painted.”

Jan 31, 2013, 4:30pm Top

which reminds me I haven't read Flannery O'Connor yet. I love that quote. This is why we have some many loose ends in our reviews. We say things like, "The books explores..."

Jan 31, 2013, 4:31pm Top

>87 dchaikin: That's an interesting list. Reading lists like that usually make me feel "bad" about all the books that I ought to have read at some point - but they always renew a self-promise that I'll get to those long-delayed books. :) It's hard to wheedle a list like that down to just 50, I think they did an impressive job.

Jan 31, 2013, 8:23pm Top

111> The meaning of fiction is not abstract meaning but experienced meaning


Jan 31, 2013, 10:45pm Top

#113 Rachel - I love lists. But having that list is my kind of way of dealing with how few classics I've read. It means I can think to my self, hey, I'm working on it.

#114 Murr - I don't want to see that logic applied to Locke.

Jan 31, 2013, 10:50pm Top

3. Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne, illustrated by E. H. Shepard (1926, 160 pages, read ~Dec 27 – Jan 23 with my son)

I never saw this one happening. My poor son (he's six) only loves books with the Avengers, or LEGO or policemen and firemen, which kind of takes the fun out of story time. He would normally never let me read this to him. But this was an e-book...and he got to watch me read it him on the I-pad. Apparently this was enough to cast a spell, because my son loved it. And I, who had never read it before, loved it too. Reading this together led to one of the most charming series of evenings we've had together. (Too bad my I-pad also had a free copy of part of an Avengers comic book...)

Jan 31, 2013, 11:18pm Top

It's good that you finally read it. I grew up with this book (or parts of it anyway) - nothing like a good Pooh and Piglet conversation to brighten my day even years later. :)

Feb 4, 2013, 12:09am Top

Wish I had known that Flannery O'Connor quote to answer a few of my high school English test questions, i.e. "What is the theme of ......?; What did the author mean....?" etc. :)

I particularly loved the statement that the meaning of fiction is not abstract meaning but experienced meaning.

Feb 4, 2013, 2:37am Top

The earliest reading experience I can remember was of being read the AA Milne poem about 2 rain drops having a race down the window pane. Was it fron Now we are six?

What it means is that you have potentially 3 or 4 of these books available to you dan.

Feb 4, 2013, 7:55am Top

My son, who is now nine, loved the Winnie-the-Pooh books. And also Power Rangers, so they aren't mutually exclusive. And what child wouldn't love stories in which a boy is king and wise man of a forest?

Feb 4, 2013, 8:53am Top

#119/#120 Zeno & Annie - Well...we only made it to chapter 2 of The House at Pooh Corner before we were back to other things. I tried Now We Are Six when my daughter was open to anything and my son was just happy to part of the group reading the stories...didn't take...although it did lead to trying out more children's poetry books and some did work.

#121 Kay - Maybe I should present it to him like that...

#118 Deborah - ha! I'm guess that wouldn't quite work so well.

Edited: Feb 5, 2013, 4:47pm Top

I also loved that Flannery O'Connor quote, especially the statement about abstract versus experienced meaning. I'm a big fan of hers, and I'd recommend reading her debut novel Wise Blood and The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor, which contain all of her short stories. Alternatively, this novel and nearly all of her short stories are included in Flannery O'Connor: Collected Works, published by the Library of America.

Feb 5, 2013, 1:24pm Top

Darryl - I own copies of both those two recommendations, and they have gone on and off the TBR shelf...a few times...sigh...

Edited: Feb 5, 2013, 1:55pm Top

4. Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace by D. T. Max (2012, 328 pages, read Jan 1 - 24)

Reading about DFW was a fascinating experience. There is so much I want to say that it is very hard not to ramble on at length, incoherently. Apologies for those crimes committed below. I did try to put some structure into this...but my fingers kept typing away.

At the most basic level this is an excellent first biography of a complicated and tragic figure whose cultural meme extends in many vastly different, complicated, and sophisticated directions. DFW never finished The Pale King, but Infinite Jest has had multiple lives, and somehow, written without the internet in mind, has without intent become something of a symbol and expression of our current information splurge. Max handles all this by keeping the biography very clean and chronological and mostly to facts. Much the information he covers is easily available in various semi-famous online articles. But there is still a lot to cover and to put together and Max gets in tons of details. He stays organized by simply following the timeline, beginning in DFW’s childhood and working through his life stage by state. He offers textual analysis, but it’s unclear whether or not his takes have any originality, and, I think, it’s unlikely. There is too much good information to choose from.

There are two different DFW’s to cover, the person and the writer/author. As a person the unfortunate take away is the negative sides. It's not completely fair. He had some close relationships with people that stuck by him, and clearly there was an endearing quality to him throughout his life. And, entirely at home in academia, he became something of a legendary teacher wherever he happened to be teaching. But there were serious problems, which manifest themselves in his writing, that were dangerous, hurtful and eventually tragic. That he was insanely ambitious, extremely shy and yet something of a striking showman that broadcast something like a charming mid-western American humbleness only goes to show many of his contradictions. He was also unstable. His psychological problems began to really affect him as a college student, and he would suffer numerous breakdowns and many suicidal episodes. His drug problems began in high school and led later to alcohol problems that would eventually, after a lot of abuse, force him into a clinical detox. Remarkably he would recover, and spend the rest of his life clean and sober…but in constant awareness of his addictions.

Others personal issues include a constant lying, I would call it compulsive, and a constant string of short-term girl friends. The womanizing reached an extreme after Infinite Jest made him something of a cultural figure and book tours became opportunities for many one-night stands. But he really knew no bounds and had relationships with students and, maybe worse, with women he met at AA meetings! On the positive side he came around. Before his final plunge he had apparently cleansed himself of all his bad habits, was in a happy and healthy marriage, had a good relationship with his family and most of his friends, many life-long friends. Before his final plunge… Pale Fire did not lead Wallace to suicide. The book was failure, at the time of his death an unsolvable contradiction, but Wallace appears to have become somewhat content with this.

Wallace's death defies my words. I had always imagined it was something to be angry about, a failure. And, it true his death hurt a long list of people. But I was completely wrong to put such blame on him. He had a long downward fight which he fought without any unprescribed drugs or alcohol, without turning anyone away from him. He wasn’t alone. He simply couldn’t find an answer to stabilize him mentally. This is covered at the end of the book and it’s really one of the saddest things I’ve come across.

The thing about DFW about a writer is that the biographical fallacy is a fallacy here. Wallace’s ambitions and insecurities poured out his writing to a fault. He wanted the reader to know he was smart, and he also wanted to conceal this desire from the reader. (Max summarizes an essay by A. O. Scott where, Max writes ”Scott also accused Wallace of fencing off all possible objections to his work by making sure every possible criticism was already embedded in the text.” I find this one of the most penetrating comments about Wallace, even if it doesn’t fully appreciate the contradictions that allow that kind of sense to come out of Wallace’s writing.) Wallace’s ideas were sometimes basically stolen from other writers, or were imitations of them, and he went through efforts to conceal this too (It seems the critics are harder on him then the writers). But mostly he took things from real life and fictionalized them, offending a number of people along the way. The most hurtful was surely his portrayal of his mother as Avril in IJ.

Despite all of this something special came out of Infinite Jest. Wallace had hit his personal bottom in drug/alcohol addictions and had come to new perspective on what to write... he found a real humbleness, and found himself in a search of a spiritual peace. (Raised atheist, Wallace never considered the idea of theism in any seriousness, even if he did look into becoming Catholic). Infinite Jest reflects all of these aspects of his personality. His life stories are in the book. His ambitiousness and his efforts, no, his obsession with trying to write something that would break the bounds of fiction is all there. The book is immensely complex, and sometimes maybe only for the sake of being complex…or maybe not. But yet, as Max puts it, ”This book is redemptive, as modern novels rarely are.” It has a soul to it, a purpose that can reach any reader.

There are many possible reactions to DFW. How many people will read this book and find themselves turned off of Wallace for his real ethical crimes? I don’t see it that way myself, partially because I’m driven more by fascination than judgment, but also because he was unique. There was something special about him. He pushed himself so far for his literature, literally broke himself. I think Infinite Jest is something of a masterpiece, something that couldn’t have existed in any other way except from the life the Wallace led. I haven’t exactly forgiven Wallace, but I do feel his flaws were somehow very human. I closed the book with a real sadness about his tragic end, with a layered sense of awe and loss.

Feb 5, 2013, 2:50pm Top

That is a wonderful, thoughtful review, Dan. I didn't get the sense of incoherence at all. DFW... well, I don't know what to think of him, if I'm honest. Which I probably am not. I dislike the ethical crimes, as you put it, but I also don't want to stand in judgement. His death seems to be a real enigma; I watched George Saunders talk about it on Charlie Rose, and he also seemed unsure how to address it. Perhaps suicide is always like this to both the people close to the dead, and, in the case of famous people, to the fans and critics.

Feb 5, 2013, 3:03pm Top

Great review, Dan! I've put it on my wish list. Wallace's description in Infinite Jest of how it feels to be in a depression was so raw and painful and obviously from experience that I can't help but think of it whenever I think of his suicide.

Edited: Feb 5, 2013, 4:50pm Top

Fabulous review of Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story, Dan! Yours is the first review that has made me want to read this biography, or Infinite Jest for that matter.

Feb 5, 2013, 5:31pm Top

Great stuff on Every Love Story is a Ghost Story and the effect it had on you Dan, A riveting review

Feb 5, 2013, 6:36pm Top

Speaking as someone well into IJ, I appreciated the comments on his biography.

Edited: Feb 5, 2013, 7:16pm Top

Very fair & balanced analysis of a difficult topic and complicated figure, Dan. The bio removes all mystery & mythology about this too often over-idealized & over-championed man and writer (I'm guilty!) like nothing else ever has. You captured the tension that existed between Wallace the human being with a debilitating mental illness that ultimately killed him, and his "cool, hip, earthy" persona -- that "authentic" legendary writer he was rarely comfortable being -- really really well.

I enjoyed reading Infinite Jest better when Wallace was still alive, still a myth, when the book, I presumed, was just very well researched, made up stuff, than I do now knowing intimately, thanks to D.T. Max, its hyper-autobiographical basis.

Feb 5, 2013, 7:39pm Top

Just catching up, and never having read any DFW (sorry, EnriqueF!), I have no context for your review, but it was fascinating.

Feb 5, 2013, 9:13pm Top

The Flannery O'Connor quote is great. It sums up what makes it so difficult to write reviews of good books while writing reviews of bad books is easy. Separating the aspects that make the book great don't work if the book is a whole composition rather than a mixture of different parts. It's like trying to take the eggs out of chocolate chip cookies. They are in there, but they are impossible to remove. Trying to remove them would only result in destroyed cookies.

Feb 5, 2013, 10:43pm Top

Dewald, Chris, Darryl, Bas, Kay, EF, Rebecca - thanks for you comments about the DFW biography...thanks for reading the whole darn review...

#126 - Dewald - Max demystifies his suicide to some extent. Max interviewed Wallace's wife who appears to have talked openly about it.

#127 - Chris - were weaving about around DFW, it seems. Hope you can read this.

#128 - Darryl - I'm flattered. IJ is not your normal kind of book, I think, but worth a try. Remember you need to read the whole thing at least twice...

#129 - Bas - much thanks.

#130 - Kay, nice to know, thanks!

#131 - EF - I was waiting for your comments, since, for many reasons, including your review of this book, you are my prime inspiration for reading this...and IJ too. That's too bad on how it affects your take on IJ. I would be surprised if it did the same thing to me. I think IJ is such a big book, that a little discouragement can go a long way. But I can't help but imagine that knowing the real life stories behind the fiction could really enhance IJ for me when I re-read it. I hope to find out...

#132 - thanks Rebecca!

#133 - Pat - I can only agree.

MJ - thanks again for #111. Lots of discussion and thoughts coming from this post.

Feb 6, 2013, 4:51am Top

What a very insightful review, Dan! I may not be planning to read any of DFW's books soon, but I know I will at some point.

Feb 6, 2013, 8:07am Top

Great review of Every Love Story is a Ghost Story, Dan. I did finally decide to download Infinite Jest and am even more interested now, having read your review. I'd like to read Max's book also. Which would be best to read first?

Feb 6, 2013, 8:17am Top

thanks deebee.

Linda - There is no right answer. IJ takes some work and will benefit from some mental prep...which might argue for reading Max first to give you some context. But, if IJ works for you, then you will want to follow it up with reading more about it...which might argue for reading Max afterward. Personally I'm glad I read IJ first.

Feb 6, 2013, 10:19am Top

Great review of the DFW bio. Reminds me i should start Infinte Jest soon. I'm sure I'll find your review very informative as I make my way through that tome.

Feb 6, 2013, 11:19am Top

Great review of the DFW bio. When he was still alive, I once had copies of his books, including Infinite Jest. They were borrowed before I could read them and were not returned. I still want to read his novels in the future, but I'm thinking how reading expectations were changed, when a posthumous cloud goes with the words.

Feb 7, 2013, 3:36pm Top

Fascinating review of the Wallace bio. (To me, of course, "DFW" is an airport, not a person.) I read Infinite Jest a couple of years ago, enjoyed it very much, and would have been surprised if it weren't the work of someone with a lot of personal afflictions and transgressions. It doesn't bother me that a writer (or other type of artist) whose work I admire isn't someone I would want to marry my sister, etc..

Feb 7, 2013, 8:11pm Top

Wonderful and thoughtful review, Dan, but I'm still not inspired to read IJ, I'm afraid.

Feb 7, 2013, 10:42pm Top

#138 - Kevin - Thanks and good luck. Are you planning to read with the group read in Infinite Jesters Group?

#139 - Rise - I think you would get a lot out of it...but I'm wondering in what manner your expectations changed.

#140 - Steven - A couple years ago...was that before LT and reviews?

#141 - Jane, of course you get a pass.

Feb 7, 2013, 11:45pm Top

I think the word should be "perceptions" rather than "expectations". I will now be approaching the book with the added context of the writer's death.

Feb 8, 2013, 12:29am Top

142 - A couple years ago...was that before LT and reviews?

I became active on LT in 2009 and finished Infinite Jest in October 2010, but I wasn't writing reviews on everything then. I don't remember why I read it at that particular time--I wasn't involved in any group discussion that I can recall. I didn't join Club Read until 2011.

Feb 8, 2013, 11:40am Top

>142 dchaikin:: I've been lurking and following those threads. And i've read the first chapter before being side tracked. I think it's going to take me the better part of a year to get through IJ, it's not a book I would typically read and Imagine it's going to take me while to wrap my head around it.

Feb 9, 2013, 8:36am Top

Like you stretch I have come to a halt after the first chapter, but I intend to read it this year.

Feb 10, 2013, 10:48pm Top

#143 - Rise - makes more sense now. Sadly, I think his suicide was part of what motivated me to read IJ.

#144 - Steven - Seems like a long time ago that I quietly read books without talking about them with anyone.

#145/146 - Kevin & Bas - What is it about that first chapter?

Feb 11, 2013, 6:11am Top

Dan, I have not read any further than the first chapter, but it feels so self contained: like a satisfying short story.

Feb 11, 2013, 6:45am Top

Bas, that's the prefect description of the first chapter. I don't know why, but the 1st chapter feels complete in of itself.

Feb 11, 2013, 2:42pm Top

>dan belated appreciation for such thoughtful comments on the DFW bio. I read ~200 pages into Infinite Jest with the group read a couple years ago and this year decided to begin quietly from the beginning again and join the group when I get past p200. I first approached the novel avoiding spoilers etc but the joy of the novel is so much in the journey that I'm happy to take in anything and everything peripheral about it during this reading. I'm glad to have read the bio and its discussion of IJ in between.

Feb 13, 2013, 9:17am Top

128>I echo kidzdoc, and will put IJ and the biography on the list. Great review.

Feb 13, 2013, 1:48pm Top

MJ - This was such a nice post to read. Thanks for the comments, and glad it contributes in some way.

Lisa - Thanks! Same reminder applies (See comment to Darryl in post #134)

Feb 13, 2013, 4:37pm Top

>106 dchaikin: Enjoyed your notes on the the Lit 'zine, I recognize quite a few of the poets from my own reading (I have an anthology of American poets of the 1990s..I suspect many of them are included though I haven't checked).

I heard an interesting edition of "Fresh Air" on NPR this afternoon while out doing errands. It was on the Dead Sea scrolls and I thought it fascinating. The scholar talked about the history of the scrolls and the controversies around them. Also interesting was who got to interpret them and when, and what they might have been looking for out from them (and how that may have affected what they chose to reveal ... or didn't). Anyway, you came to mind.

Feb 25, 2013, 4:57pm Top

Lois - I'm a bit slow to respond. I think I might be interested in your anthology, I seem to have some kind of attraction to the 1990's. I'll catch that Fresh Air soon. The Dead Sea scrolls are such a wonderful find. I know only hints of the controversial history.

Edited: Feb 25, 2013, 5:09pm Top

5. 1 & 2 Kings (86 pages, read Sep 22 – Jan 28)
from The HarperCollins Study Bible : New Revised Standard Version, Fully Revised and Updated
edited by Harold W. Attridge

I've gone though this at enough depth that it's actually hard talk about. I want to jump ahead and assume you have already read this. Anyway, again I'm too long again. My review focuses on the historical aspects.

Kings is a systematic historical narrative that, through a formulaic language, traces the Israelites from their historical high point under King David and the young, temple-building King Solomon through to the split of their kingdom into two and, finally, their separate falls. The Israelites will be wiped out by the actions of a larger history and will find themselves exposed as just one tiny people in a big world.

The book marks a transition in time from an era of local and mythical dominance to one of where Israel has a very small and temporary historical relevance. David and Solomon are myth. But various Mesopotamian archives and other archeological artifacts mention northern Kingdom of Israel kings Omri, Ahab, Jehu and southern kingdom of Judah kings Hezekiah & Manasseh. It’s likely that Ahab (c 869-860 BCE) ruled something of an empire, his northern kingdom dominant over the southern Kingdom of Judah, but also several surrounding areas, possibly even reaching Damascus. The Assyrian empire merely sweeps the northern kingdom aside in 722 BCE, wiping out its leadership. The southern kingdom of Judah will also be devastated, but survive. In the 605 BCE, the Battle of Carchemish will see the Babylonian empire decisively defeat a combined Assyrian and Egyptian army. By 586 BCE the kingdom of Judah, caught in the middle, is wiped out; its leaders have begun their time in exile, the Babylonian Captivity, and Solomon’s temple lies in ruins

"Surely this came upon Judah at the command of the Lord"

How to write a history of your own fall? The Israelite narrative is one of religious failure and divine punishment. The fall begins with Solomon who had too much and drifted from the God who gave him his great wisdom (in this case, “wisdom” having a meaning maybe closer to knowledge, then to our sense of smarts). Each successive king failed to maintain felicity to the Israelite god. The northern kingdom abandoned Solomon’s temple and worshiped golden calves. Its low point would be the Baal worship promoted by the evil Jezebel, wife of the hated Ahab. The book conjures (?) up awesome profits, Elijah and Elisha, to warn these northern kingdom kings, to no avail. The kingdom of Judah had its own trouble, but also had religious heroes in kings of Hezekiah and Josiah. Josiah would lead reforms that culminated in the discovery of the “Book of Law” where he discovers all the laws Israel was not following and then the curses they will suffer for not following these laws. (This is likely the Book of Deuteronomy, and its reference here may date the composition of much of the Old Testament to this era)

"Surely this came upon Judah at the command of the Lord"

Is this an explanation or overt sarcasm?

The one thing that most strikes me is how transparent the text is. It says one thing, yet blatantly hints at something else. Leave Solomon and early united kingdom to myth. The text makes clear that the northern kingdom was the power center of this small stage, and Judah merely a vassal state, committed to provide military assistance. Ahab, the greatest villain, becomes a focal point because he is obviously the high point of the northern kingdom. Only when the northern kingdom falls does the strong fortress city of Jerusalem gain prominence. Hezekiah, in his new found wealth and prominence, redefines the religious nature of his country and boldly and disastrously rebels against Assyrian, apparently with some kind of religious conviction of success. He lives and Jerusalem survives, barely, but the rest of Judah is devastated. The next king, Manasseh, is a bit more realistic, and gives in to Assyrian vassalage, and opens the religious tolerance. Thing are good for his 45 year reign. He is remembered as evil. Josiah then becomes king on high notes. There is peace. Assyria is reeling (because of Babylon’s rise). Josiah sees his moment. The religion is drastically reformed, again. And driven on a wave a religious zeal, Judah expands. But they forgot they are a small piece on a big stage. The upstart Josiah is quickly dispatched by an Egyptian leader, and Judah is left as spoils to the victor.

History is always a story, and never truly accurate even if all the collected facts are perfectly true. It's just simplification that follows from some perspective, and, typically, provides some meaning. There are two histories here. The one that explains everything as gods plan and, while maybe logically consistent, is entirely ridiculous. And, also, another one about a small state that who had its moment in the sun, briefly, built on the rubble of its fallen neighbor. Both these histories are there in the text, the later is overtly denied by the text, but covered over so lightly that is quite obvious. In both cases the facts reported are the same, and this book here is our primary source.

Feb 25, 2013, 6:18pm Top

How to write a history of your own fall?

I like this: it makes the struggle to make meaning psychologically real and sympathetic, instead of the all-too-easy dismissal of the motivations of the writers as this kind of religious zealotry born out of its own cloaca. Nice review, Dan.

Feb 26, 2013, 6:45pm Top

Martin - thanks!

Mar 8, 2013, 8:46am Top

A review of Beloved is coming... I hope. I liked the version I wrote last night, but it was over 900 words...and that was just part 1.

Mar 8, 2013, 10:27am Top

I liked the version I wrote last night, but it was over 900 words...and that was just part 1.

I'm sure you could sell it on the internet to students who don't want to write about the book.

Mar 8, 2013, 10:37am Top

LOL! A back-up career.

Edited: Mar 8, 2013, 11:43am Top

I'm sure you could sell it on the internet to students who don't want to write about the book.

That set me to wondering how many of the reviews we have posted here have turned up in classrooms.

Mar 8, 2013, 11:10am Top

I say just post it! I, for one, will read it.

I'm sure you could sell it on the internet to students who don't want to write about the book. Too funny...I'm not reading it for a class, really!

Mar 8, 2013, 11:16am Top

Thanks Sassy! First I'll try to shorten it...

Mar 8, 2013, 11:24am Top

That set me to wondering how many of the reviews we have posted her have turned up in classrooms.

Yikes! I never thought of that.

Edited: Mar 8, 2013, 2:48pm Top

still very long...

6. Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987, 275 pages, read Jan 8-30)

Part 1 - General review

Sometimes the books we like the most are the most difficult to review. I have all these notes, a nice outline, all this stuff to write about, but I’m kind of stumped on how to approach this. This is draft four…

I guess the main thing I want to get across is that this is one of the best and most sophisticated novels I’ve read. It’s not an arrogant novel, there are no tricks or authorial cleverness. There is no lurching of the reader into deep philosophy, or great ponderings of the author’s fraught soul. The author isn’t pondering here, she is creating. This is a complex layered work that is also beautiful, the layers flow out of the words. There is a sense that every reconstructed word has been rewritten to add layers or reweave it into the other textures of the book. It’s complex tapestry that sits very simply and very beautifully.

Note - Somewhere in this review there will be spoiler. It’s revealed about a third of the way through the book, but will alter how the book opens for you.

Morrison found this one of her most difficult books to write. She set out write a book that would serve as a memorial to African American slavery…because, as she has said more eloquently then I, if you think about it, there aren’t any. It was meant to serve as work of healing. The reader would be led to confront the horrors of slavery, to really feel like they get a sense that they have looked at the experienced, been horrified by it, because only then can the reader begin to deal with it.

The centerpiece is Morrison’s fictional response to the true story of Margaret Garner. In 1856 Garner ran away from her plantation in Kentucky with her four children. She was quickly hunted down outside Cincinnati. But as law enforcement approached, Garner rushed over to her oldest daughter and cut her throat. As her daughter bled to death, Garner started to try to kill her other children, but was prevented. She was arrested, and charged with damaging property. Repeatedly, in interviews she very calmly explained how she wanted to kill all her children rather then send them back into slavery. Later Garner was sent back to her owner, sold elsewhere and the rest of her life is lost to history.

When Beloved opens, it’s roughly 1874. We meet Sethe, a mother, living in a haunted house in Cincinnati with her eldest daughter. It has been 18 years since she escaped her plantation in Kentucky, with all four of her children. Her eldest daughter is the ghost that haunts the house, never named and known only as Beloved (for the preachers first words at the funeral, “Dearly Beloved…” ). Her two sons ran off as soon as they were old enough. We are told Beloved is a spiteful ghost.

Sethe lives in some kind of state of denial, refusing to look to closely are her past. But when one of the one-time slaves from her plantation visits her, known only a Paul D, memories begin pouring back in. Paul D moves in, somehow chases the ghost away. Shortly afterward a young woman shows up a Sethe’s doorstep without identity or a story. She has a scar across her throat, and she calls herself Beloved. Eventually it begins to dawn on the reader what has happened.

In fragmented way, Morrison works around the story. Characters speak at their own pace, their stories drift in time and topic. Slowly the reader is able to reconstruct what everyone has gone through, and where they are now, what kind of state they are in. It’s a weaving of story, but also a weaving, to an extent, of the whole black experience under slavery. Sethe is forced to confront her own past in the form of her daughter’s ghost, who is in the form of this Beloved, who may not be a ghost but is still a real enough ghost of Beloved. And this Beloved is bitter. She doesn’t understand how her mother could have killed her and yet love her so much. “Your love is too thick,” Sethe is told by Paul D. “Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all,” she responds.

Among the themes built in this are aspects of horror and healing, of history and experience, of truth and perception, of religion and religious ambivalence. The biblical references are sophisticated enough that I’ve written about them in separate essay, a part 2. But the book also reflects African folklore, Greek mythology and oral story telling. And there is a striking criticism of the amorality of Western scientific thinking, the kind of thinking that justified slavery so long. But what really makes the book so wonderful is how Morrison presents all this, how she weaves it together into the little masterpiece.

Edited: Mar 8, 2013, 2:40pm Top

Part 2 On the biblical references in Beloved

It’s not simply that Beloved is full of biblical references, but it’s the way these are used. Morrison is a very deep and sophisticated reader of the bible and she brings in these biblical references in complicated ways that have conflicting meanings and much to ponder about.

The title itself brings up the famous like from the Song of Songs:
I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine. (Song of Songs, 6:3)
The Song of Songs is also known as the Song of Solomon, which is the title of Morrison's previous book.

The books epigraph, however, uses a different biblical line with "beloved":
I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. (Romans 9:25)
Here the word “beloved” is striking and seems to be a clear reference to the Old Testament Song of Songs, yet the word is re-contextualized in a major way. Romans 9 is where Paul preaches that Christians should break from Judaic law. Just a few lines after the epigraph here, Paul says,
But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law.
The point here, that righteous comes from faith and not from blindly following some archaic laws, is a poignant one in the context of legal slavery.

It is perhaps worth noting Romans 12:19:
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
The book itself shows a deeply conflicted ambivalence towards Christianity. The black characters repeatedly discuss how important their church is to them, but of course, the same Christian religion was used to justify American slavery. The character who seems the make up the moral core of this book is Sethe’s mother-in-law, Baby Suggs, who experiences freedom in old age after a lifetime of slavery. In a rush of enthusiasm from her freedom she begins to lead a religious ceremony of sorts. There are no books, it’s not Christianity. She doesn’t preach morals or judgment, but merely life, that one should live what life they have to the fullest. It is fully unchristian.

Near the end of the book, when the community discovers that there is a ghost in Sethe’s house, small group of somewhat insane woman get together to make an attack on the ghost, to perform a somewhat humorous communal exorcism. The Gospel of John opens:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Morrison writes, describing these woman,
In the beginning there were no words. In the beginning was the sound, and they all knew what that sound sounded like.
That sound becomes a baptism for a reborn Sethe:
…the voices of women searched the right combination, the key, the code, the sound that broke the back of words. Building voice upon voice until they found it, and when they did it was a wave of sound wide enough to sound deep water and knock the pods off chestnut trees. It broke over Sethe and she trembled like the baptized in its wash.
When I look at the novel as a whole, I can't help but see biblical themes. A story of freedom is a parallel the biblical Exodus – the escape from Egyptian slavery to freedom. Sethe even must cross a body of water, the Ohio river (while giving birth). And, like the Exodus, Beloved is not a story of happiness and breaking bonds. Instead the transition is strikingly painful, and filled with failures and personal collapses and many many scars. And when I think about the central event, Sethe’s murder of her only child, I can only think of child sacrifice. Beloved’s murder is the sacrifice, in all its gore and gruesomeness, which sanctifies the black freedom.

Mar 8, 2013, 4:04pm Top

Wow! What an excellent review(s). Sounds like an incredible book.

Mar 8, 2013, 4:30pm Top

Thanks avidmom!

Mar 8, 2013, 4:42pm Top

LibraryThing wasn't responding for a while this afternoon. Uh oh, I thought, Dan's posting his Beloved review! And sure enough...

Fantastic review and essay... better than many of the essays publishers choose as introductions. You got much more out the novel than I did, and it's obvious that your bible scholarship contributed a lot to your appreciation of it.

Mar 8, 2013, 4:48pm Top

#169 - LOL! It happened just after I posted. I was wondering if my post would still be there when LT came back up.

Mar 8, 2013, 5:01pm Top

You got much more out the novel than I did,

Yep, that's pretty much what I thought too! I realized that at the time, but I read it on a break in between school semesters and I just didn't need to be giving it the full treatment at that point in my life. I knew it was there for any time I wanted to explore it further so I was happy to just read for pleasure. Great review and comments thought! Well done.

Mar 8, 2013, 5:03pm Top

I have been tempted not to read Beloved. You may be relieving me of that temptation.



Mar 8, 2013, 5:16pm Top

Really terrific, thoughtful review, Dan. Makes me want to go back and read Beloved again.

Mar 8, 2013, 5:20pm Top

Dan, I really appreciated your thoughts on Beloved. I read it in high school and loved it, but I think it is due a re-read, as I'm sure a lot went over my head. I hope I get as much out of it as you obviously did.

Mar 8, 2013, 5:29pm Top

Thanks for the review of Beloved. I may have to read it finally.

There is excellent software available to help with plagiarizing these days. My students turned their papers in electronically to a service that scanned them and forwarded them to me with quotations highlighted and sources given, so at least the review could only be used once, then it would be in the bank.

Edited: Mar 8, 2013, 6:05pm Top

Interesting review Dan of Beloved. After your bible readings are you finding many more biblical references in the books that you are reading? and if so are these really biblical references or are they phrases/sentences that have become part of everyday speech. I note that you say in part 2 that Morrison is a very deep and sophisticated reader of the bible and so that probably answers my question in this case.

Great stuff on Beloved I love your enthusiasm for the book

Mar 8, 2013, 7:37pm Top

Excellent review! I've danced around the idea of reading Beloved for a while now and so far have not given in, but this review is rapidly changing my mind.

Mar 8, 2013, 9:15pm Top

Fantastic review of Beloved, Dan. Morrison is one of my favorite authors - I'd love to read all of her books some day. My favorite, edging out Beloved by just a tiny bit, is Song of Solomon. Have you read it?

I have a hard time putting into words why Morrison's writing is so impressive and intellectual yet still emotional and approachable and I thought your review was very eloquent.

Mar 8, 2013, 9:54pm Top

Wonderful review. The book has been sitting on my shelf for years. It may be time to pick it up.

Mar 9, 2013, 9:44am Top

Fabulous review of Beloved, Dan! All of your drafts and efforts were well worth it! I read and loved the book years ago, but it has stayed with me and is now enhanced by the background information and biblical references you provide. Somehow it had escaped me (or perhaps my memory?) that it was based on a true story.

Mar 9, 2013, 10:48am Top

It is decades since I read Beloved, or any Toni Morrison for that matter. Your excellent review is making me think it's time to get back to her.

Mar 9, 2013, 11:01am Top

Thanks everyone for all these nice comments. I'm thinking about reading all Morrison's novels this year (I think there are ten), and then rereading Beloved again.

#171 Joyce - i think it works on a causual level too. For me, it helped that I was able to focus on it.

#172 Robert - if I get this right, I am tempting to to abandon your temptation to not be tempted. Good luck.

#173 thanks Chris!

#174 Katie - Enjoy Katie. I plan to retread it in December, if you want to join me.

Oh, Chris...note that too. If you are serious about rereading.

#175 MK - hope you do read this. Somehow i think it fits into your themes.

Edited: Mar 9, 2013, 11:20am Top

#176 Bas - Thanks. That review may be 90% enthusiasm, lol. Reading the bible has changed all my reading. Everything echoes the bible and it's various voices and ambiguities. And when I have read the reference, it is really so much more meaningful. Just a few days ago i came across a reference to the obscure story of Jephthah in Hamlet as a joke on Polonius...who didn't get it.

In Morrison's case, I think it's highly likely all the biblical references are intentional. Her stories echo their mythical sources.

#177 Louie - go for it!

#178 japaul - I love that you called my review "eloquent"! My plan is to read The Song of Solomon this month. I have a copy sitting by the bed.

#179 Nana - see my comment to midnight_Louie. : )

180 Linda - thanks so much! Morrison doesn't openly reference Garner. The story and how Morrison came across it and thought about it for years comes up a lot when you read about Morrison. (One of Sethe's owners is Mr. Garner)

#181 Rebecca - thanks...I'll throw out that December date again...as a possible time to reread.

Mar 9, 2013, 12:16pm Top

Amazing review of Beloved, Dan! I hadn't wanted to read this book, but I clearly need to do so, and soon. Thanks for taking the time and effort to share your thoughts about it with us.

Mar 9, 2013, 4:24pm Top

Wonderful review and excellent part 2 on the biblical references. Although I knew of this book, I had been in the camp that had not been particularly interested in reading it, but you have changed my mind!

Mar 9, 2013, 6:39pm Top

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OMG GUYS so I just started this book review website!!!! pleeeaaassssseee check it out?? so far im the only one reading it... *sobs*

Mar 9, 2013, 11:38pm Top

#184 Darryl - Thanks! Your comments mean a lot, especially after learning you haven't liked Morrison in other books. Hope, if you get here, you do get some value out of it.

#185 SassyLassy - But...you've read like everything. Hope you do read this one Sassy. Thanks for the encouragement to post.

Mar 10, 2013, 7:10am Top

Great review of Beloved. I wouldn't have minded the longer draft. I've read it twice, same with three other novels of hers. So I look forward to your getting on her other works.

Mar 11, 2013, 7:44am Top

I enjoyed your review of Beloved and your comments on the Biblical allusions. A year or two ago, I listened to Beloved on audio, read by Morrison. It was remarkable to hear it in her voice.

Mar 11, 2013, 8:45am Top

188 Thanks Rise. I take it you are a bit of a fan of Morrison.

189 Lois, sounds like a great use of an audio book (After one failed effort, I've never tried them.)

Mar 11, 2013, 10:27am Top

>187 dchaikin: Glad you did post!

(Blushing), if only! I do have some cavernous gaps. The reason I haven't read Morrison is her huge success on the best seller lists. I very rarely have any luck with these books, so tend to avoid them, which sort of explains my reading in other centuries or other continents. I still resolve to read her in this century though, after your review.

Mar 11, 2013, 12:09pm Top

>190 dchaikin: I've had pretty good luck with audio books generally, though I don't listen to them very often since I no longer have a long commute. Most of my experience of authors reading their work is through memoir, i.e. Anita Hill reading Speaking Truth to Power and Madeline Albright reading Madame Secretary, though exceptions would be Morrison and Hosseini (reading Kite Runner).

Mar 11, 2013, 1:25pm Top

I hadn't thought of that with memoirs. Makes a lot of sense there.

Edited: Mar 11, 2013, 1:38pm Top

The reader makes such a difference in an audio book. I have found in many instances the author is not necessarily the best reader for the book. There have been exceptions. Memoir sounds the likely choice.

Mar 11, 2013, 5:38pm Top

>Dan, excellent review of Beloved. I also hadn’t planned to read it but if I do, your comments will enhance it.

>hmm Lois, Morrison’s voice tempts me toward the audio

Mar 11, 2013, 8:51pm Top

Oh, Dan -- great review of Beloved -- I'm so glad you appreciated it so fully. It's the great work of 20th c. American literature -- and Morrison is really only comparable to Melville and Faulkner.

Mar 12, 2013, 8:25am Top

Hi Dan. Enjoying the lovely reviews, the lists, and the conversation in here.

Mar 12, 2013, 10:18am Top

fantastic review of Beloved.

Mar 12, 2013, 11:43am Top

Echoing what everybody says of your review, dan. I don't know why I haven't gotten to this book yet -- my LT library says I actually own it!

Mar 12, 2013, 1:17pm Top

#195 - Thanks MJ. Glad to tempt you...you might even like Morrison.

#196 - Jane - Thanks! And I'm very happy (and maybe a bit relieved) you liked the review. You were my main inspiration/motivation to read Beloved, so thanks for that too. Now I'll have to break down and actually read Faulkner now. It seems that every critic sees Faulkner in Morrison (except Morrison, who denies it...even though she studied Faulkner, along with Virginia Woolf)

#197 - Hey Amanada! Thanks for stopping by.

#198 - Thanks Kevin. Any progress in IJ?

#199 - Thanks Deebee.

As an update, I finished Hamlet this morning. You know...I knew how it was going to end and all...but...

Some random lines that jump out to me, re Infinite Jest

"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark." as a overall theme

And of course, holding Yorick's skull...
"Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow
of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath
borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how
abhorred in my imagination it is! "

Mar 12, 2013, 3:17pm Top

>200 dchaikin:: I'm up to chapter 3 now in IJ. Slow progress i know, I keep getting distracted by other things and want to devote more energy to this, just can't find the time right now.

Mar 12, 2013, 7:37pm Top

Hamlet is one of those plays you can keep returning to --and which can be staged and restaged. My husband played the gravedigger (and Polonius)last year at the Asolo.

Mar 13, 2013, 2:22am Top

Great review of Beloved, Dan. Almost make me go and finally read it...

Edited: Mar 15, 2013, 9:00pm Top

#201 - Kevin - Instinctively I want to give you advice on IJ. But what do I know. Hope you are enjoying it.

#202 - Jane - Oh, I will do. This was a first read through, and, in theory, only for my Infinite Jest prep. So much Shakespeare ...he needs a least a year dedicated to reading him and about him. I mean I know careers are dedicated there, but for me...a year...some day...

#203 - Thanks Annie!

Mar 15, 2013, 9:03pm Top

7. Stickman Odyssey : An Epic Doodle : Book One by Christopher Ford (2011, 200 pages, read Feb 8)

This stick-figure graphic adaptation was a fun hour or two. I haven't found part 2 yet but will.

It all started with Ice Age III, Continental Drift...a kids movie to put a geologists teeth on edge...not to mention any thinking adult. But anyway, my son had nightmares over the scene with the scary sirens...which led my daughter wanting to know what sirens are...which led to this book...which is only part I and doesn't include sirens anyway.

Mar 15, 2013, 9:22pm Top

8. Parable Hunter by Ricardo Pau-Llosa (2008, 87 pages, read Jan 20 - Feb 21)

I started this with Joan Didion's Miami in mind.

I've wanted to read Pau-Llosa ever since I came across some wonderful poems by him in Florida in Poetry, co-edited by our Jane Anderson Jones. He's a Cuban poet from south Florida, which I think can maybe offer a lot to me since I'm one of those who grew up in south Florida without encountering anything Cuban (except for comments by frustrated non-Cuban adults about how the Cubans should just speak English...). Anyway I'm curious.

This didn't quite fit what I wanted. Pau-Llosa comes across to me as mixed. It starts out with I think some very good stuff that was wonderful to read and think about. My favorite poem, and probably because it was what i was looking for, was titled For the Cuban Dead. It's a long poem that read over and over and got something out of it. That poem comes near the end of the first of four sections. But there isn't much on South Florida after that, and, also he didn't really reach me again. I kind of lost interest. I remember scanning his poems and thinking that he doesn't seem to generate a great deal of rhythm, or at least not that I could pick up. He has a lot of poems based on art work that were hit and miss for me. But that may all just be my inability to get poetry, still. Anyway, it's a 2008 publication. If I try him again, I will try something older, from the 80's or 90's.

Mar 16, 2013, 8:18pm Top

Dan -- try Cuba: Poems -- I think it may be his most personal collection of poems.

Mar 16, 2013, 8:30pm Top

Thanks Jane. I'll skip the one new copy on amazon for...$537.67 (plus $3.99 for shipping)...

Mar 16, 2013, 8:45pm Top


Mar 17, 2013, 9:40am Top

Dan, another poet that has focused on Cuban immigrants in Florida is Richard Blanco (Obama's second inaugural poet). I had the pleasure of attending a talk/reading by him a few weeks ago and am writing up some comments to post, hopefully soon. He is the the child of Cuban exiles and writes with both humor and poignancy about his family and growing up in the insularity of Miami's Cuban community. It's interesting that both you and Blanco speak of a childhood isolation from the other's culture. I am currently reading his latest collection, Looking for the Gulf Motel, which I see Jane has already reviewed. He has two earlier collections also, both prize-winning.

Mar 17, 2013, 11:17pm Top

Linda - "growing up in the insularity of Miami's Cuban community - that's exactly the kind of subject I'm interested in. I have had Blanco in mind, but I'm much more interested now. I'll look forward to reading your comments about him.

Edited: Mar 18, 2013, 8:43am Top

9. The Epic of Gilgamesh (c1300 BCE, 38 pages, read Feb 23)
The version I read is an abridgement translated by E. A. Speiser in The Ancient Near East : An Anthology of Texts and Pictures, edited by James B. Pritchard

I've always thought about reading this. I borrowed The Ancient Near East from my library for curiosity, as it's a collection of writings from around the ancient Middle East that pertain in some way to the Bible, usually as some sort of potential source material for the Biblical authors (presumably in some indirect way). Gilgamesh is famous for having a flood story that parallels the story of Noah and matches almost exactly in few peculiar details. Gilgamesh is about 1000 years older than the oldest biblical works. When I found Gilgamesh in this book and saw how short it was, I figured it was a good a place as any to read it. It was only later that I discovered that the story included was abridged, removing less complete parts and the final book, which is inconsistent with the rest of the story.

It's very laconic, and doesn't seem at first to lend itself to bringing a reader in. So I was surprised when I did suddenly realize I was very involved with the story, and couldn't place when that happened. The story revolves around the friendship of Gilgamesh and Enkidu. Gilgamesh begins a wealthy and wild king. Enkidu is created straight from the mud by the gods in order to distract Gilgamesh. In that sense it's a striking success. They go off on adventures, Enkidu has a long drawn out death scene. Gilgamesh is so wrought by Enkidu's death, that he becomes a wanderer wearing only a tigers skin and having almost no other possessions.

I was also surprised how much of the story revolves around Enkidu and his death and the effects of his death. As for the bible, this The Ancient Near East version highlights lines that relate to creation in Genesis, to the story of Noah, and finally to Ecclesiastes. The story gets philosophical at times—the best parts, maybe—and seems to question the meaningless of life. These are the parts that tend to be associated with lines in Ecclesiastes.

I can recommend this as interesting, and note that it won't take too much of your time.

Only the Gods live forever under the sun. As for Mankind, numbered are their days. Whatever they achieve is but wind!"

Mar 18, 2013, 2:43am Top

A little late, but echoing the chorus on a great review of Beloved. I read Song of Solomon and while I thought it was well-done, I just didn't get into it so wasn't too interested in reading Beloved. Might have to reconsider.

Gilgamesh is also on the list to read - good review.

Mar 18, 2013, 7:29am Top

Many many years ago (i.e., in high school), I read The Epic of Gilgamesh. Naturally, I remember none of it, but I do still have my copy (and know where it is!) and one of these days I might take a look at it again . . .

Mar 18, 2013, 8:56am Top

(fixed a few typos in #212.)

#213 Thanks Maus! I'm hoping I have better luck with Song of Solomon. I should find out soon.

#214 Rebecca - Promise not to quiz you...but please don't quiz me either. I'm impressed you read this in high school.

Mar 18, 2013, 12:29pm Top

There's a rather marvellous poetic translation of Gilgamesh by Benjamin Foster in the new edition of the Norton Anthology of World Literature -- also published as a Norton Critical Edition.

On the creation of Enkidu:

Aruru wet her hands.
She pinched off clay, she tossed it upon the steppe,
She created valiant Enkidu in the steppe,
Offspring of potter's clay, with the force of the hero Ninurta.
Shaggy with hair was his whole body,
He was made lush with head hair, like a woman,
The locks of his hair grew thick as a grainfield.
He knew neither people nor inhabited land,
He dressed as animals do.
He fed on grass with gazelles,
With beasts he jostled at the water hole,
With wildlife he drank his fill of water.

Mar 18, 2013, 5:12pm Top

215 I was fortunate to read a lot of great stuff in high school, Dan, but nobody better quiz me on it!

Mar 18, 2013, 5:35pm Top

>212 dchaikin:

Good review Dan - it tends to creep on you - going from "why should I continue reading" into "and what happens next?" very fast :)
One of those that I should reread in English...
It was part of the mandatory reading in high school and I think I had read most of it in Russian as well (long summers, small library... ended up reading anything I could get my hands on in both Bulgarian and Russian) but never got around to picking it up in English...

Mar 18, 2013, 9:45pm Top

You could go on to listening to the opera "The Epic of Gilgamesh" by Martinu

Mar 18, 2013, 9:58pm Top

#216 - oh...is that what it can sound like. Jane, I need that version. Requested from my library.

#217 : )

#218 - That is funny Annie. I'm certainly not likely to read it in Bulgarian.

#219 - Sure, why not? Whose Martinu?

Mar 18, 2013, 10:11pm Top

Barny Noble has a few CD's of Martinu's opera but no DVD's.


Mar 18, 2013, 10:13pm Top

It's not an opera but an oratorio if I remember correctly which makes a CD the best format...

Mar 19, 2013, 2:21am Top

>220 dchaikin: - Bohuslav Martinu is the #2 Czech composer of the 20th century. Didn't know he did an Gilgamesh oratorio - will check it out on YouTube. I like his Symphony #6


it has a fantastic opening.

Mar 20, 2013, 9:49pm Top

Thanks for that really great review of Beloved! That's a book I've been wanting to read ever since I read Song of Solomon years ago. I love your in-depth analysis, especially your comments on the Biblical references.

Mar 26, 2013, 2:33pm Top

Lol Dan, I caught up on an earlier visit but forgot to mention how I smiled when I noticed in msg#1 that you were then reading Driven to Distraction ... and 8 other books! (sigh) at least you seem to be continuously dipping into most of them, while I’m currently just setting book after book aside.

Mar 27, 2013, 9:25pm Top

I don't think of myself as someone interested in poetry and rarely seek it out (except picking up some Mary Oliver. I would probably say I just don't get most of it. Recently however, when I was having a hard time reading anything, I found myself remembering snippets of some favorite poems from when I was about 20. How funny. and it made me happy. I still loved the snippets. Wonder where on earth that came from!

Mar 27, 2013, 10:44pm Top

neglecting my own thread...

#221/2/3 - Derrick, Annie & Maus - Thanks for the opera/oratorio encouragement.

#224 Thanks Rachel, appreciate your comments. I was supposed to read Song of Solomon this month...but I'm kind of out of month.

#225 Oh, MJ, been there. My mind plays lots of tricks on me. For me the answer is finding something I'm curious about...or just doing something completely different. Graphic novels have helped. As for Driven to Distraction...learning about my newly diagnosed ADHD...who knew?

#226 Merrikay - I'd be happy to encourage you to become interested in poetry, if you wanted me to. Those poems you are/were remembering, they seem to have left a striking impression of some kind.

Mar 30, 2013, 7:14am Top

Dan, There are more and more books appearing at the start of your thread

Mar 30, 2013, 7:35am Top

I'm late to the chorus as I've not been very active lately but really a great review of Beloved and Kings. For the record I really enjoyed the Song of Soloman though it's been years since I read it.

Mar 30, 2013, 8:58am Top

#228 - I really should finish/review some of those...

#229 - Thanks Yolana. I expect to start Song of Solomon soon, today? (Because, per my post 1, I'm clearly not reading enough books)

Edited: Apr 1, 2013, 8:44am Top

10. Toni Morrison's Beloved : A Casebook by edited by William L. Andrews, Nellie Y. McKay (1999, 223 pages, read Feb 7–25 )

Well…my comments here read more like book report than a review for Club Read. Please don’t feel obligated to read my comments below as they are more for me than for a reader. What I can say in summary is that this was valuable but difficult and not recommended unless you are doing a research paper. Some essays were excellent, some were jargony and unreadable, some were boring but usually with something of interesting to me. I read it stops and starts, fighting through tough essays, and enjoying others. They did overall add to my appreciation of the book and also contributed a lot to my review of Beloved above.

Nellie Y. McKay : Introduction
After reading several painful jargony intros to books about Toni Morrison, this stood out as interesting, informative, and comprehensible. So, that is why I read this particular book.

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper : The Slave Mother: The Tale of Ohio
A poem about Margaret Garner

Samuel J. May : Margaret Garner and seven others
An 1856 account of Margaret Garner, based on accounts from Cincinnati news papers. It’s not clear how much is fact, certainly not all of it.

Ashraf H.A. Rushdy : Daughters signifyin(g) history: the example of Toni Morrison's Beloved
The first essay I started taking notes on. It brings up many basic aspects of Beloved, and some interesting details. She (?) highlights the healing aspects of Beloved, that Morrison is not trying to capture history, but freely creating it. Morrison’s purpose is to give the reader a format to confront very dark aspects of the abuses of slavery in order to begin to come to terms with it. She also discusses the “illusion of oral narration” in Beloved and goes into the coded languages in the book, which is maybe the most interest part of this essay. There are several instances of different code languages.

Karla F.C. Holloway : Beloved: a spiritual
My notes say “an insecure essay that relies on jargon". Not sure that is fair, but this was almost unreadable, and not pleasant. She discusses the myth making in Beloved and how the “orature” contradicts appearance.

Mae G. Henderson : Toni Morrison's Beloved re-membering the body as historical text
The first essay that I actually enjoyed and it kept me reading this book. She adds in a couple interesting maybe trivia bits that kept me thinking. The comments in my review on the book’s epigraph come from here. My notes say: Romans 9 is a re-working of history, and a change in the religion from binding laws to faith without laws. Extrapolate to the end of slavery.

*Linda Krumholz : The ghosts of slavery: historical recovery in Toni Morrison's Beloved
This is a fantastic essay that cuts deep into the text. It could stand on its own as one review all readers of the book could gain from. There are several themes. One of the more interesting is how Morrison attacks the Western reliance on scientific values. Krumholz argues the Morrison shows knowledge is multiple, context dependent, collectively asserted and spiritually derived.. This is shown in the book in many ways, as black culture tries to find a place of dignity for itself in the midst of a world that has broken the race down, scientifically, into literally the value of their human and animal parts. The American culture has had a moral collapse perfectly defended in scientific terms that can’t see the immorality. Or, in another sense, how Morrison allows the reader, through the story, to experience history in way that a perfectly accurate history could never capture.

Krumholz then goes into how the “post modern” fragmentation of the story forces the reader to actively reconstruct what has happened, and leads the reader to vicariously parallel the psychological flow the main characters…and thereby to obtain the same healing by confronting the horrors directly. Krumholz breaks down how the book is structured to accomplish this.

She also goes into the biblical imagery – such as the four slave catchers acting as the four horsemen of the apocalypse from the Book of Revelation. Or how Morrison works in an ambivalence with regards to Christianity. The comments in my review on opening words from the Gospel of John come from here.

There is much more here.

Trudier Harris : Beloved: woman, thy name is demon
Another excellent essay, that begins with a feminist theme. Early in the essay Harris writes: ”We could document a host of additional persistent and often destructive images of women; underlying these notions is a basic clash between the masculine (those who have the power and voice) and the feminine (those who are acquiescent and silent but potentially destructive), which is also worked out in Morrison’s novel.”

But what I really like about this essay is how Harris discusses Sweet Home, the name of the farm where Sethe was a slave, the only woman slave along with five men slaves. It was first run by a radical slave owner who educated his slaves, gave them freedom on the farm, allowed them to use guns, and listened to their advice. He claimed he made them “men”. He later dies (or is killed) and is replaced by his brother-in-law, known only as schoolteacher, who is purely calculating and must break the overly enlightened slaves. There is a great deal of complexity here that gets lost, or overshadowed by other aspects of the book. Harris really brings this all alive, and especially the rebellious slave Sixo, who refuses to learn English or be educated in any white way, who fails in his escape and is lynched—laughing. Sixo didn’t make my review, but he’s a gem within the book.

Lori Askeland : Remodeling the model home in Uncle Tom's cabin and Beloved
I don’t’ know much about UTC, and had no clue how sophisticated a work it was (according to Askeland), so I didn’t get a great deal from this essay. But it does include this wonderful line, summarizing another essay by Elizabeth Ammons:
As Elizabeth Ammons puts it, Stowe’s radical version of the domestic ideal converts “essentially repressive concepts of feminity into a positive (and activist) alternative system of values in which woman figures not merely as the moral superior of man, his inspirer, but as a model for him,” while she remains in a separate domestic sphere. The vulnerability of this domain, however, must not be overlooked; the house remains a sheltered “feminine” space, that is, a hus for true spiritual growth, which by virtue of its enclosure in the “masculine” domain of materialism and commercialism, always remains in danger of being invaded and corrupted by it.
Askeland’s point here is that Morrison uses the story in UTC (there are several parallels, including location and a murder of a child) and remodels it in such a way as to avoid the “patriarchal power”.

Rafael Perez-Torres : Between presence and absence: Beloved, postmodernism, and blackness
A somewhat interesting somewhat difficult essay that I didn’t actually gain much from.

Barbara Christian, Deborah McDowell & Nellie Y. McKay : A conversation on Toni Morrison's Beloved
An interesting if awkward format. The main thing I got out of this was how much each contributor was awed by all the layers in Beloved, which they expressed in various ways.

Apr 1, 2013, 10:45am Top

I think it's wonderful when a book prompts you to do this kind of background reading. To me, it is a sure sign that the author has had a real impact on the reader. Will this send you off on any unexpected tangents?

Apr 1, 2013, 10:52am Top

Well...I'm reading Song of Solomon...but might have done that anyway.

You right though, it has been special. As for this book, I think it really did enhance my appreciation of Beloved. But at the same, for the most part I didn't enjoy read this itself. But it was worth it. Maybe this is the price to pay to get deeper into literature. Not sure...

Apr 1, 2013, 11:12am Top

227 - Sure I'd enjoy poetry recommendations, thanks! The ones that still float around in my mind after 40 years are St. Vincent Millay, Brautigan, Sexton a few others I can't bring up right now. I started my own little private collection of favorite poems accompanied by stories about their authors 40 years ago. hmmmm it's around here somewhere! and then later on, was introduced to Neruda, a favorite.

I can still hear my sixth grade teacher (would have been 1960) reading in class Vachel Lindsay's Congo! Is that lucky or what? I was VERY lucky to have that man who helped us all fall in love with that poem and some Shakespeare also.

I just subscribed to a daily poem email. Kind of fun.

Apr 1, 2013, 6:01pm Top

Dan, I have often turned to accessible supplementary literature on books or bodies of work that have interested me, most often the Norton Critical Editions, The Cambridge Companions, or biographies, and it usually, but not always, enriches my reading experience. I recommend it. Despite my disenchantment with The Iliad, for example, I am reading The Cambridge Companion to Homer and the novel The Song of Achilles; they all play well together.


Apr 1, 2013, 7:58pm Top

Dan, it's the way to go if you want to read deeply, essays like these can even prompt a re-read.

Apr 1, 2013, 8:29pm Top

Oh dear, Merrikay, I can only handle encouragement, not recommendations. I haven't read that much poetry, and only began to read it regularly maybe two years ago. Haven't a clue where to begin. Actually, you seem like you have read a fair bit of poetry.

#235 Robert - I have noticed your Norton Critical editions. That is maybe a good way to go...I should have looked it up for Hamlet...

#236 - I had this idea I would read all of Morrison's novels, then come back and re-read Beloved. I'm hoping to, I'm mentally primed to read it again. Ultimately, I think rereading is the best way to get deeper into the work, because it's the experience of reading fiction that makes it special, and you have to be reading it to experience that. (See post 111)

Apr 1, 2013, 8:42pm Top

237- I'll settle for encouragement!

Apr 1, 2013, 8:56pm Top

Dan -- I think you've become a Morrison convert ;-

Apr 15, 2013, 8:19pm Top

>231 dchaikin: Please don’t feel obligated to read my comments below as they are more for me than for a reader.

haha every time you warn us off like this, I dig in all the more because you always include such good stuff. This was no exception.

Apr 15, 2013, 10:38pm Top

You made me smile MJ. I actual do feel guilty when I post long reviews. The warning makes me feel a little better about it. : )

Apr 17, 2013, 11:30pm Top

11. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare (c1601, 348 pages, read Feb 25 – Mar 12)
Edited by David M. Bevington & David Scott Kastan, c1980, 1988 & 2005

I don't have all that much to say about this, although I really did enjoy it. This was my first time reading it, and it's only the fourth Shakespeare play that I've read. What caught attention, first, was how much I liked and was actually impressed by Hamlet, the character. That's a bit weird. He does some bad stuff and makes some fatal silly mistakes. The second was that this the first Shakespeare play I've read that used the language as a way to get deeper into the characters. My previous experience with Shakespeare left me with the impression of extremely beautiful and playful use of language. But...that seemed to be the point. Here he used the language as a tool in adding some complexity to the characters, well, at least to Hamlet, and in adding ambivalence to what they say and do and are thinking.

Edited: Apr 18, 2013, 12:16am Top

12. Hamlet, a Guide by Alistair McCallum (2001, 122 pages, read Feb 25 – Mar 12)

Very simple stuff. It was good enough for my reading companion to the play. McCallum summarizes each act, highlights the important lines and adds trivia, usually in the form various quotes about Hamlet & Shakespeare through time.

One I really liked, when exploring what characters Shakespeare may himself have acted:

" tho' I have inquir'd, I could never meet with any further Account of him this way, than that the top of his Performance was the Ghost in his own Hamlet.”

Nicholas Rowe, Introduction to Works of Shakespeare, 1709

Apr 18, 2013, 12:09am Top

14. The Brick Bible: A New Spin on the Old Testament by Brendan Powell Smith (2011, 265 pages, read Mar 1-28 with my son)

Ok, this was an experience to read with my son, who is six. There is blood and gore and killing on practically every page. My son was so excited to see Lego Darth Maul heads on several black lego people. They were charred corpses, victims of one the whimsical massacres by God of Israelites or maybe some other group. In the midst of all those battles and mass killings, at one point my son said, "Wow, they killed a lot of people." It was lot more fun to read than Lego City or Lego Ninjago.

As for the book itself, it's a satire that defends itself by showing things that the bible actually has in it. The bible is actually this gory, and they do kill a lot of people. I get the point, but still cringed at how Smith simplified the story. I actually found myself really sad at how much he butchered the David story in Samuel in Kings. Of course, instead of typical simplifying the bible to gain converts and warp peoples morals or whatever, Smith does it to entertain and repulse.

Apr 18, 2013, 1:10am Top

um, hi Dan. Mid-April and I've only just wandered into your thread. I see some other old friends on here too, which is nice. I'll just perch on the windowsill here at the back.

Apr 18, 2013, 1:42am Top

>242 dchaikin:

Dan, I am envious... you have so much to discover with Shakespeare :)

Edited: Apr 18, 2013, 2:22am Top

Really enjoyed your comments on Hamlet. Hard to even begin commenting on such an iconic work, isn't it! I also read it as an adult (and had the luxury to study as a mature student in university).

What does a mature reader bring to Hamlet? I ask this, after just today reading comments on Hamlet by literary critic John Sutherland on how no generation ever has the definitive answer on it (his subtext: it isn't possible). I don't know, but I think we have a lot to say that perhaps some college student miss.

Of the Shakespeare plays we read that course (there were 6), it seemed the most complex, and was tied with The Tempest for my personal favorite.

What do you think about reading plays? I myself find it very challenging. I just don't find them all that readable. I admire you for reading one . . . I'm not sure I could conjure up the will.

Apr 18, 2013, 7:04am Top

Dan, You have prompted me to plug up one very big hole in my reading experience. While I have seen Shakespeare plays, I have never read one. ...Now hanging my embarrassed face.....

Apr 18, 2013, 7:57am Top

It is so long since I've read any Shakespeare, and I've always felt I should read more, but wasn't sure if I could do it on my own. I will eventually . . . and you are inspiring me.

Apr 18, 2013, 8:35am Top

#245 - Muse, it's spring here. You can open the window too. So nice to hear from you.

#246 - Annie, that's good positive energy. I once convinced myselt it would wonderful to take a year and read through Shakespeare...but I haven't convinced myself to do it.

#247 - Joyce - Ideally, I would like to read a Shakespeare play and then immediately see it. The reading is important, because it gives me time go through the language a few times, to re-read and maybe catch the meaning better and how it contributes to the flow and the multiple meanings. And I don't mind the reading, although it is slow, it's very rich. I tried to do this with Othello. I ended up reading half the play before the show, and it made the performance (which was good, in Houston's Alley Theatre, which has a permanent acting crew) wonderful and memorable. But...reading the 2nd half of play after seeing it was torture...the text was lifeless by itself, in comparison. Not sure how this might apply to non-Shakespeare plays.

Apr 18, 2013, 8:45am Top

#248 - Nana, please, there's no embarrassment for reading holes...surely not here. Now, if my little blurb inspires you to read your 1st Shakespeare play, I will be immensely flattered.

#249 -R - I'm flattered. I've never read Shakespeare with help (even though I was supposed to read some in highschool). I am dependent on notes and gained a lot from the little guide book (post #243) that I found in my library. One nice thing about Shakespeare is that it's usually easy to find a variety of thin guidebooks for any play.

Apr 18, 2013, 9:40am Top

I had read three of Shakespeare's plays in high school and a couple more on my own. Then, several years ago, I decided to read the rest and set aside Sunday evenings for doing so. My "Sunday Night Shakespeare" lasted almost a year, by the end of which I had read the complete works. It was a very rewarding experience, and regular exposure to the language made it much easier as I went along. It's about time for me to re-read some of my favorites.

Apr 18, 2013, 10:20am Top

My son brought home The Brick Bible because of the Legos, with which he is currently fixated. It's a gore fest. While all that stuff is in there (and was strangely either downplayed, bowdlerized or omitted when I was a church-going lass), I wish that some of the nicer parts had been included.

Apr 18, 2013, 10:37am Top

Ideally, I would like to read a Shakespeare play and then immediately see it.

Yes, that would be ideal! I didn't have that luxury either, although with Hamlet I did see a DVD that was pretty good. It starred Derek Jacobi, and Patrick Stewart played Claudius. I thought the later did a splendid job. I also watched the bombastic Mel Gibson version, which starred Helena Bonham-Carter as Ophelia. If I remember correctly, she was a bit over the top, but I always like her anyway.

Apr 18, 2013, 11:53am Top

Dan, I am still planning to do something similar to Steven's Sunday night readings of Shakespeare, maybe next year. I love reading other peoples comments on the plays.

Apr 18, 2013, 12:43pm Top

#252/255 - Steven/Bas - That's would I had in mind. But, am I willing to make it a reality...and next year? Getting into the flow of the language without so much work would be nice.

#254 - Joyce - I should check some cinema versions. Good call. But I don't want to see Mel Gibson do Hamlet, if I don't have to.

#253 - Allison - You description and wish describe it better than I did. He clearly has an agenda and he's not interested in the nicer parts.

Apr 18, 2013, 4:29pm Top

I've done something like Steven's Sunday night way back in high school - read an act or scene from a play each day (it was a great way to get my English improved anyway...)

I will be up for a rereading if someone need a bit more coordinated effort (so they cannot slack off;) )

Apr 19, 2013, 9:02pm Top

Some of my favorite film versions of the Bard, for what it's worth:

Laurence Olivier's Hamlet, Henry V, King Lear and Richard III -- Ralph Richardson is also fabulous in this one.

Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing and Henry V -- he also did a Hamlet, but if I saw it, I don't remember it.

A Midsummer's Night's Dream with Kevin Kline, Rupert Everett, Stanley Tucci and Michelle Pfeiffer -- utterly delicious

Othello with Laurence Fishburn and Kenneth Branagh

Akira Kurosawa's Ran -- a samurai version of King Lear

Hamlet with Ethan Hawke -- a modern-day adaptation

Zefferelli's Romeo and Juliet -- sweet and sexy (for the late 1960s)

The Derek Jacobi Hamlet -- it's fabulous -- was part a BBC series of all the plays done in the 80's (I think) and is very long at about 4 hours -- no cuts in this production. The series had its hits and misses. I don't know if it's still available on Amazon or elsewhere.

I also love Shakespeare in Love -- it gives such great insight into the workings of the Elizabethan theatre.

Apr 19, 2013, 9:11pm Top

I took "Shakespeare: An Introduction" or some such thing years and years ago and really liked it. We read the plays and then watched the movies (sometimes more than one version). One of my favorites was the Taming of the Shrew with Elizabeth Taylor. The English teachers at the high school where I work show the kids both versions of Romeo and Juliet, the Zefferelli and the one with Leonardo DiCaprio - the Zefferelli always wins.

Apr 19, 2013, 10:57pm Top

But I don't want to see Mel Gibson do Hamlet, if I don't have to.

Indeed! Funny, when I saw it, I thought he was way too old. Part of that is probably that Glenn Close played his mother, which is just an odd casting choice (considering their age differences). But in something from the John Sutherland reading I've done lately, he points out that we don't really know how old Hamlet actually is . . . I think we assume he's 18 - 24, but we don't know. If I ever read Hamlet again, I'll definitely be looking for age clues. However, I know that there's no way Glenn Close could have birthed Mel Gibson ;-)

Apr 26, 2013, 4:19pm Top

>non-Shakespeare plays
I read A Raisin in the Sun last year and I guess it included enough stage direction that I felt it came alive. In fact, the lead male character came through so unlikeably (foolish and lazy) that I couldn't imagine Sidney Poitier in the film role. Of course Poitier's interpretation was much more of desperation, and was fabulous.

Apr 26, 2013, 4:44pm Top

Little did I know when we started this conversation that I would be reading Shakespeare soon too. My daughter is studying Macbeth for grade 11 English, so I'm going to read along with her and we can discuss it. I also found a DVD of the play from the library that stars a young Ian Mckellan, who happens to be one of her very favourite actor.

Apr 28, 2013, 10:47am Top

So much to enjoy here Dan as I finally catch up with your thread. Particularly enjoying your reviews of the biblical reading. Which is the book on the Ark of The Covenant that you're reading?

Apr 28, 2013, 11:48am Top

Glad you enjoyed Hamlet! It has very complex and rich language, doesn't it? I finished a week ago, but I haven't gotten around to reviewing it yet...

Edited: Apr 28, 2013, 3:54pm Top

#257-264 - thanks all for keeping this thread alive while while I neglect it. Real life stuff is just a bit more stressful than usual, which makes a difference to the time I can put in here.

257 Annie - we should coordinate something with Bas, see if we can get interest in a group read, maybe a daily Shakespeare group that commits a month to this (and allows those interested to carry on longer) - or should that be a week commitment, or maybe a one-day-a-week commitment??

258 Jane - I will reference this in the future.

259 - I saw a version in high school of Rome and Juliet that I liked (not he plunked out violent version that came out in the early 1990's (??) but a more traditional version), wondering what it was. This would have been about 1989 or 1990.

260/262 Joyce - pondering his age. He friends all seem young, and he's unmarked and marriage-thoughts play a roll in the play. I think he must be under 30 (unlike Isaac, who is like 40 years old when Abraham is almost sacrifices him, that's just weird - sorry, random bible reference)

Curious on your take of Macbeth.

Apr 28, 2013, 3:53pm Top

261 MJ- as I don't know the play, I can't really comment, but plays each have their own presentation, so there is never a perfect play for any one person, I imagine...while potentially there could be a perfect reading (??)

263 - thanks Paul! I recently finished Chronicles, which was the worst so far because it's just a recap. But had some interesting bits. Postponing the next one - uncertain what books I will read once I finish the latest intro to Wittgenstein. Many ideas in mind. (My 2013 schedules are finally making their way to fantasy land. So, I need to rethink my planning, or just not plan)

264 Hibernator- I look forward to your response.

Apr 28, 2013, 10:43pm Top

Hi Dan! Just trying to catch up... Hope RL slows down for you soon.

Apr 30, 2013, 1:02pm Top

>265 dchaikin:

Count me in for any plan (although considering my crazy travels sometimes, I'd rather do a "read an act/play before a certain day" kind of setup :) But any way - I am in :)

May 4, 2013, 6:44am Top

#258 I'd forgotten about the Ethan Hawke Hamlet which I'd enjoyed immensely. Thanks for the reminder.
Dan, have you read any Marjorie Garber, her Shakespeare After All is a great companion to the plays, much more so for me than Harold Bloom's Shakespeare: Invention of the Human which I know quite a few people adore.

May 13, 2013, 11:51pm Top

Yolana - Apologies for the late reply. Now that I have time to add Garber's book to my wishlist, I will do so.

May 13, 2013, 11:57pm Top

Part 2 is up - link here or just down there.

This topic was continued by dchaikin causes his own troubles in 2013.

Group: Club Read 2013

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