libraryperilous stars in Peril! On Mount TBR! (out now on LT Talk)

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libraryperilous stars in Peril! On Mount TBR! (out now on LT Talk)

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1libraryperilous
Mayo 15, 2019, 6:31pm

Okay, I caved. It turns out that I like shitposting about my latest reads on LT.

I revamped my LT account and deleted quite a bit of fluff. I'm happy with the new layout, even though I now am a Person Who Uses Many Collections. A few titles were nuked by accident in the Great Power Edit Lightning Strike of May 2019. I'll spend the next few days cleaning up the account.

I'm excited to use LT again! It had become a morass. I couldn't find the titles that I wanted to remember. My new plan is to catalog only the books I love and want to reread or those I'd like to use as memory prompts because they have sentimental value. I'm throwing everything I read in a secondary account, imperiledreader.

I'll try to catch up on some of your threads this week.

She-Wolves: I don't fully buy Castor's main thesis, but this is an interesting biography of four fascinating women. Castor's most valuable contribution is her insistence that the women acted politically for political reasons. Their emotions are viewed within political frameworks. It's sad that this still is a revolutionary take. One only has to look at the invidious ways female 2020 POTUS candidates are treated to know it's a revolutionary—and necessary—framing. Matilda, of course, remains robbed. Robbed, I tell you. Robbed.

D-Day Girls: I like this book, but it's a flawed and imprecise popular history. It shades to the rah-rah side of things and is a romanticized look at what spying entails. Rose argues that the tawdrier aspects are important, and she probably is right, to a certain extent. She does not prove this thesis in D-Day Girls. Did a woman who fell in love with a fellow agent have a slightly less fraught, less lonely life behind enemy lines? Maybe, but that isn't why she was able to do her job so well. What was, in reality, an extraordinarily lonely, scary, and often monotonous life gets held up as something only extraordinary women did. Rose mistakes a highly trained select cohort for a Hollywood casting call. I wish we also liked to read about the drudgery, loneliness, paranoia of life behind enemy lines. Accurate pictures ultimately are the most helpful pictures. If you know how ordinary extraordinary people really are, it makes it easier for you to be brave when the time comes.

Aside: Rose makes no mention of the controversy surrounding who betrayed a number of the SOE agents on assignment in France. There's some evidence the man eventually outed as a double agent may have been a triple agent working for a higher branch of the UK government. Déricourt may have been ordered to betray agents to the SD in order to distract from the Nazis' hunt for intelligence on what became the D-Day invasion. I wish Rose had at least mentioned this. The cheapness of life on all sides of a war, even a necessary war, is not romantic at all.

One Hundred Twenty-One Days: This is perhaps the finest war novel I have read. It certainly ranks with The Order of the Day as a favorite. Audin is one of a handful of female Oulipo members. The narrative explores the various ways people and institutions archive memories and materials. One person's ephemera is another person's palimpsest. The subject matter demands a lack of Oulipian frippery. Audin delivers a lovely, restrained text that obeys the spirit of Oulipo without demeaning her topic.

Our nameless historian narrator traces the interpersonal relationships of some people who knew or knew of each other during WWII. She explores the way collaboration—and tolerance of collaborators—is a kind of evil itself, one that leads to the same kinds of bigotries: "They tried, a little more each day, to apply the bans that affected Jews on the other side of the Rhine as well. Since Jews were the enemy of Hitler, they were called warmongers." Her research proves that the insular nature of the well-educated, upper middle class allowed collaborators to return to society with little repercussions, while so many lives were destroyed by them and the Nazis.

I also read and loved:

The Bell at Sealey Head, for its slice of life views of a nineteenth-century seaside village. I especially would like to stay in a faded, book-filled inn overlooking cliffs with waves crashing on them. The Priory of the Orange Tree is high fantasy that lives up to its hype. Creative dragon mythology and evocative descriptions of food, terrains, and fashions left me a craving a Baedeker guidebook to this world. Speaking of guidebooks, brb I'm booking a trip to Arranmore. Not the real one, but the sentient, storm-wracked island of The Storm Keeper's Island. Here, a storm keeper guards collective memories, controls the weather, and lives with "the sea rushing through his veins, leaving salt crystals in the lining of his heart." House of McQueen: "I knew it was the dress. / That saved her. All the rest was just a story." Long before feminism became a label slapped on any and all fashion designs, Alexander McQueen was out there doing the hard work of seeing women as badasses, not princesses. Valerie Wallace celebrates his life and work in this wonderful, unique poetry collection. "Nasty is gorgeous when you work it." Finally, Way Station is a pastoral about a solitary man operating an "inn, he thought, a stopping place, a galactic crossroads." Enoch Wallace has one foot on earth and one foot in the Milky Way. He longs to share his alien friends' cultures with humans and needs relief from the loneliness of his task. When events spiral beyond his control and humans might find out about the aliens, Enoch must decide where his loyalty resides.

2LolaWalser
Mayo 15, 2019, 7:28pm

Great stuff! Thanks so much for putting Audin on the map.

Was McQueen a "disciple" of Vivienne Westwood or did I mix him up with someone? For some reason I associate the two.

So good to see you again. :)

3drneutron
Mayo 15, 2019, 7:53pm

Welcome!

4libraryperilous
Mayo 16, 2019, 11:07pm

>2 LolaWalser: Hi, hello! :)

I'm still thinking about the Audin book, and I think it will pay on rereads. The US publisher, Deep Vellum, is an interesting source for translated works.

re: McQueen, afaik, he and Westwood didn't like one another. Westwood referred to McQueen as a hack, and McQueen thought Westwood was a fake punk. I believe at least one McQueen collection was a response to some of Westwood's (in McQueen's eyes) cultural appropriation. The tartan one, iirc. I think it's a case of the the two of them having more in common than either would have liked to admit. They actually have similar design aesthetics, and I've always associated them, too.

>3 drneutron: Thank you!

No reading was accomplished in the last two days, but I have almost finished the revamping of my LT account. Exciting!

5LibraryLover23
Mayo 17, 2019, 3:33pm

Glad to see you back posting again! I'll be happily keeping an eye on your thread. :)

6curioussquared
Mayo 17, 2019, 6:11pm

I've had my eye on Priory of the Orange Tree -- glad you think it lived up to the hype! I enjoy Shannon's other series starting with The Bone Season, but I do hate waiting for every book in a seven-book series to come out.

7reconditereader
Editado: Mayo 17, 2019, 11:14pm

Fortunately, The Priory of the Orange Tree is standalone, but it's a huge one. (Because the author specifically didn't want to have it be a series)

I'm looking forward to starting it!

8kidzdoc
Mayo 18, 2019, 6:04pm

Great to see you back, Diana!

9libraryperilous
Mayo 24, 2019, 10:51am

>6 curioussquared:, >7 reconditereader: Oh, I hope you enjoy it! I'll look forward to your thoughts.

>5 LibraryLover23: Yay, you popped in! :)

>8 kidzdoc: Thanks, Darryl. I'm glad you stopped by.

So, not much reading. I'm in the middle of a few different books. I normally only read one book at a time, but I'm trying this to see how I react to it. So far, I don't like reading this way.

In the meantime, my dad had both a new set of tires put on his SUV at a tire shop and some brake and heater core work at another garage that does that kind of repair work. Now the Jeep is pulling severely to the right and shaking when I drive it over 50 mph. I called the tire shop, because sometimes balance can cause this, and to find out if alignment is something they can check/do. I started there because, you know, tires commonly cause this. Instead of helping me, the dudebro who answered refused to look up the work order, said they don't do alignments and so it wasn't their problem, and then called me "pissy" when I asked for his name and to speak to his manager. He refused to give me his name and hung up on me. All of this was punctuated with sighs, a whiny tone voice, and the comment, "I don't remember doing this work." (As if I'd called the wrong number!)

Yes, he actually used the word, "pissy," in a sentence. He accused me of being rude to him first. Yes, I was. I was rude because he refused to take me seriously and wouldn't consider that I had a problem that needed a solution. So yes, I was rude, and I'm not sorry about it. It's amazing the number of times women become rude to men because we're being treated as subhuman and the dudes are all, "Oh, see? Emotional women!!!!! They're stupid aliens."

All of this could have been avoided if he had listened to my problem, pulled up the work order, and thought about whether or not the problem might be related to the tires. That would require seeing women as people, though, not "women."

Whatever. Can men just not exist anymore? I would be fine with that, I think.

tl;dr: Definitely moving back to a walkable city so I don't have to buy a car! Who needs this stress? :)

10kidzdoc
Mayo 25, 2019, 5:32am

>9 libraryperilous: Yikes. What a 🤬!!! That happens to women far too often, and given that they comprise half of all drivers it's completely inexcusable (then again, even if there was only one woman driver on the planet it would be inexcusable).

Is it okay if a few of us guys are allowed to exist, if we promise to behave like decent human beings? 😉

11reconditereader
Mayo 25, 2019, 6:29pm

>9 libraryperilous: Living in a walkable place is fantastic, except it's hella expensive.

Maybe worth it to not deal with dudebros, though.

12libraryperilous
Editado: Mayo 27, 2019, 6:58pm

I feel a bit vindicated, because it turns out that the tires needed balanced, plus the other repair garage had messed up the brake job they did, and the Jeep was out of alignment. (That happens to older vehicles, sure, but I'm going to go ahead and think that the tire place did it when they replaced the tires. After all, they didn't bother to balance them properly.) Anyway, it's almost like I called both places because I knew it might be two separate problems under two separate warranties. The second place was nice and fixed the balance and alignment at no extra charge. I suspect they wanted to keep their customer happy, and my dad already was irritated that they had spent two weeks on an 8-hour job. Unfortunately, my dad's SUV still is not right because there was smoke coming out of the brake area by the time he got home with it. Bring on the walkable city!

>10 kidzdoc: I'll have to ponder further. It's almost summer, so I'm leaning toward being charitable. :)

>11 reconditereader: Yes, I think I've been priced out of moving back to New York. I'm hopeful that I'll be able to swing Philly or Baltimore. I have a few other cities on my longlist, but only San Antonio seems like it might be doable without a car. The cost would be so worth it though, not to have to deal with that particular brand of dudebro again.

I have forty books out from the library, forty-five books on hold, and over 200 unread books of my own haphazardly shelved at my dad's. So what did I read yesterday? Why, naturally, I reread Jenny and the Cat Club. This collection of stories featuring shy little cat Jenny Linksy and her bright red scarf is one of my all-time favorite books. Kind Captain Tinker tells Jenny they must always be best friends. "That made Jenny's heart beat fast."

Will Jenny find the courage to join the Cat Club? Will she get her scarf back from Rob the Robber Dog's den? Will Captain Tinker let her bring home two homeless cats? Find out as Jenny traverses Greenwich Village, scarf billowing behind her. Friendships shall be forged! Fish shall be eaten! Greenwich Village shall be explored!

13libraryperilous
Mayo 28, 2019, 1:43pm

I abandoned Emily Eternal, one of my most-anticipated sci-fi releases of 2019. The author raises interesting questions. The writing is pacey. Emily's voice initially feels fresh, although it turns into the usual snarky, feigned detachment that's popular at the moment. The book also invests heavily in its romance plot, and it's a creepy, stalkerish kind of crush at the beginning. The sci-fi elements are a jumble and feel like red herrings the author uses to drive the narrative when convenient. This reads like domestic fiction with speculative elements, and I usually end up abandoning those. I think Mermaids in Paradise is the only one I've finished, let alone liked.

The concept is cool, the cover art is pretty, and Emily's a great protagonist—when she's not creeping on her PhD student crush. I suspect Emily Eternal will tick boxes for people who like Station Eleven or other novels that focus on the emotional aspects of cataclysmic events.

14curioussquared
Mayo 28, 2019, 1:49pm

Ugh, sorry about your experience with the tires guy. Some people are the worst.

Priory of the Orange Tree was on sale for Kindle yesterday for $1.99, so I snatched it up. Excited to get going!

Oh man, I had totally forgotten about Jenny and the Cat Club, but you brought back so many memories. I'm going to have to reread it, too.

15libraryperilous
Mayo 28, 2019, 2:04pm

>14 curioussquared: Hee! I love Jenny so much. I reread Jenny Goes to Sea yesterday. It always makes me want to book passage on a freighter and just drop out for a year and see the sea and all the ports everywhere. Fingers crossed you like Priory! What a steal, $1.99 for an 800+-page book. I'm going to reread it soon, and I'll definitely look for your review.

16libraryperilous
Mayo 28, 2019, 4:20pm

Also, please enjoy this Twitter link to the only cat thread you will ever need.

17libraryperilous
Mayo 30, 2019, 9:13pm

Still no real progress on reading. I'm a third of the way through Murmur, an Early Reviewer win. It's a beautifully written, philosophical novel. I find it thought-provoking, but I also find that I'm not in a hurry to finish it.

A few weeks ago, I finally worked up my nerve to delete almost all of my TBR titles. I'm down to less than 100 books on the TBR list, plus an additional twenty-five UK middle grade novels that I've put in a separate collection. Those I can order for around $8 each from Book Depository. I'll order them a couple at a time when I feel the need for a book splurge.

It's very liberating. I feel much less pressure to read certain books, a certain number of books, or books from certain genres. I mean, my reading tastes and hobbies haven't changed. I just feel less like I'm proving a point with my reading and more like I'm, well, happy when I'm reading. I also returned all but five books to the library and deaccessioned around 45 off my shelves. I feel freeeeeeeee!

This feeling has occurred in the past when I made TBR or other reading life changes. It doesn't usually last. I'm hopeful it will stick this time. Does anyone have any tips or tricks to keep from feeling too much pressure to keep up with the reading Joneses?

The Walter Scott prize will be announced in the middle of June. The website has posted a series of interviews with the shortlisted writers. I think Michael Ondaatje has earned the right to be this succinct.

The Wainwright longlist will be announced next week. I'm curious if Our Place will make the list. The prize typically eschews manifestos, but it really was one of the best books of nature writing published in the UK last year. We shall see.

Those are the only two prizes I follow and about which I develop opinions. I check the Jefferies shortlist as well.

18LolaWalser
Mayo 31, 2019, 11:52am

>17 libraryperilous:

If there is any point to piling on burdens large and small, reasonable and un-, it must be for that liberated feeling when we toss them aside. :)

19kidzdoc
Jun 3, 2019, 7:48am

>17 libraryperilous: Thanks for reminding me about Murmur, Diana. I'll want to read it soon, as it was the winner of this year's Wellcome Book Prize, and I'll add it to my list of books to get to in July.

Well done on your TBR purge! I'm long overdue for a serious cull of my books, although it will take quite some time to rid myself of the books that I'll never get to. I first have to figure out what to do with them: donate them one by one to the Local Free Library that is next to the metro station I use to go to work, donate them to the public library or the Emory University library system, or sell them to a local secondhand bookshop.

Have you read or do you own any of the books that were selected as finalists for this year's Walter Scott Prize? I liked Warlight, and I haven't yet read The Long Take.

20libraryperilous
Editado: Jun 3, 2019, 4:26pm

>18 LolaWalser: Ha, yes! I also have been known to add a completed project to a to-do list, just so I can get the warm fuzzy feeling of accomplishment in marking something off the list.

>19 kidzdoc: Murmur is a lovely novel, and I'll look for your review of it. I admire the way the author has chosen a nontraditional structure to raise challenging questions—without descending to a gimmick.

Yes, culling my personal library is my next goal. It's a bit more difficult than deleting titles from a TBR list. Good luck! In addition to what to do with one's discards, it also is interesting to ponder what kind of personal library one wants to have. One with favorites you reread frequently? Books you read and liked but won't crack open again? How many unread books staring out at you from the shelves? How many that you feel a well-stocked personal library should have at hand? Since I doubt I'll ever live in a large apartment, or even a house, I have to factor limited space as well.

re: the Walter Scott prize, I love The Western Wind and have read it twice. I'd like to read it again this month. I own a copy of Now We Shall Be Entirely Free, and I have plans to read Warlight soon. The other titles don't interest me that much, although its noir theme makes me think I should try The Long Take. I was more smitten with this year's supplementary reading list, as one of my all-time favorites, Never Anyone but You, is on it. I own a couple of the other supplementary titles and one of the longlist titles, Dark Water.

ETA: Oh, I also own another longlisted title, Little.

21libraryperilous
Jun 3, 2019, 4:37pm

The Hobbit: It's been five years since I've read the loose prequel to the Lord of the Rings series. I enjoyed The Hobbit then, and I believe I even set off on a journey to find some additional 'cheerful adventures,' as I'd dubbed it, to read. I've increased my star rating from four to five on this reread. This time, I was both caught up in imagining the goings-on of the story and also aware of the subtler threads.

Perhaps it's the timeline in which we're mired, or perhaps it's that I've fallen so hard for Tolkien's LotR books, but Bilbo's adventures seem more toothsome this time. It's not grim and sad like the Ring books (those really are sad: the elves' fate, my goodness!), but it's not as whimsical as remembered. It's a gentler story and the writing is pacey. There also is an elegiac undercurrent that provides some bite. This is perhaps the wrong lens, because I'm certain Tolkien intended The Hobbit as an adventure of the happier sort. But the real world shall intrude, both within the text and without, even as we wish Rivendell were a real place.

22libraryperilous
Jun 9, 2019, 1:33pm

The reading slump continues ... Also, I own 154 unread books. This is about 125 too many.

So: I recruited my dad to make me a TBR jar. I gave him twenty-five slips of paper, pulled up my LT account, and asked him to write the name of one book on each slip. I told him not to spend time worrying about subject, genre, or variety. I don't know which books he's picked, so this perhaps will spur me to take it a bit more seriously. I knew if I picked my own twenty-five, I'd end up overthinking it or be grumpy about which one I pulled out of the jar.

I'd like to get through as much of my tsundoku as possible before I move. I have 200+ books, and that's too many to have shipped. Plus, I likely will live in a sweatbox studio with limited wall space for bookcases.

23LolaWalser
Jun 9, 2019, 5:20pm

Ohh, I could talk for days about libraries, (dis)organising books and whatnot... but with dubious profit to anyone else, I'm afraid!

If I have one advice I'd feel free to offer to almost anyone, it's not to do things that hurt you (annoy, upset etc.) and to take all such feelings of discomfort as a primary guide in what to do or not do. All intellectual rationales for doing something ought to take a back seat to this, because without this control they only turn into sources of guilt and anxiety.

As for the TBR category, I offer this perspective (which may or may not apply to others...): the unread books in my library ARE my library, not a chore. Technically, yes, one could say they are "to be read", but I don't feel the mental pressure as I would faced with an urgent task (fortunately--I'd go bonkers with 9K+ books "tbr"). They are there for me to choose FROM.

It all depends on what type of book person one is. There are hoarders (I mean this coloquially, not pathologically) who like having tons of books around. Others prefer a well-ordered accumulation of books they've read, be it small or large. Some book people furnish with books, others prefer to live in surroundings less like a bookshop. For instance, even when I lived in a tiny studio in Manhattan I filled it with more than 4000 books. I managed because I was okay with books in kitchen cabinets, under the bed, inside the suitcases in the closet and lining every bit of wall.

Someone else would not have found that bearable--regardless of how much they loved books.

So it's all about where your comfort and limits place.

24curioussquared
Jun 9, 2019, 11:38pm

>22 libraryperilous: Love the idea of the TBR jar. I hover around 300 unread books -- really trying to make a dent in it this year with a goal of reading at least 50 off my shelves. That's more books than I typically buy in a year, so hopefully I can actually lower the number.

>23 LolaWalser: Don't get me wrong, I love having my books and having my unread books to choose from, but I know if I don't make a conscious effort to read them, my fickle self will just keep checking random books out from the library and never read the ones I actually own. The library due date makes those books automatically have higher reading order priority, so I try to give my own books a reason to have priority, too.

25libraryperilous
Jun 19, 2019, 1:48pm

>23 LolaWalser: Same. Even when I have no plans to implement another way of organizing my books, I love exploring the different ways people construct their libraries.

I think one of the reasons I'm a bit stressed (? annoyed?) with my unread books is that, while I'm the same avid reader I always have been, I'm no longer the same kind of book collector. I used to own around 2.5K unread books and that was fine for me then. I've shifted my idea of what I want my personal library to be over the last few years, but, since I won't have my own space until later this year, it doesn't quite reflect anything right now. Perhaps that's the true stressor.

Haha, I like the idea of visiting a home that has books in kitchen cabinets and in suitcases in the closet. :)

>24 curioussquared: Yes. And, so far, since I have actual no real motivation, the TBR jar mostly is forlornly wondering when I shall visit it.

re: unread books being one's library, that's an excellent frame. After all, one goes to a public library to borrow unread books to read. Why shouldn't people go to their own shelves for that, too?

I currently am rereading the Lord of the Rings books. As I've mentioned, I think it's a sadder series than people might realize, but it's a favorite comfort read. I also just adore the friendship between Legolas and Gimli.

I also am reading a chapter or two of Pandora's Star at a time, usually while listening to the Mets lose. So far, I'm unimpressed with Peter Hamilton's sexism and his simplistic political binaries. I feel like I'm reading an undergraduate thesis interlarded with descriptions of far future techbro toys. I like the story arc enough to keep going, for now, but it's a 980-page novel. Reviews indicate that the novel ends on a cliffhanger and that the sequel is 1000+ pages long. I can't imagine I'll care enough to read the sequel. Fingers crossed I don't!

26LolaWalser
Jun 20, 2019, 2:53pm

>24 curioussquared:

Oh, I too borrow books from the library all the time, but that changes nothing.

>25 libraryperilous:

Haha, I like the idea of visiting a home that has books in kitchen cabinets and in suitcases in the closet. :)

The guest armchair bears only a smallish load, removable in no more than fifteen minutes or so, for precisely such visitors. :)

I once had a friend stay in my place in NYC for a month, a conceptual artist who'd snagged an exhibition but not money for lodgings... luckily my vacation overlapped that term. Anyway, I'd completely forgotten that I had various non-food items stuck into the fridge, purely to save space. To this day there's no convincing him there was no deeper meaning behind the umbrella, the porcelain cat (a gift I could neither give away nor display), the dissection kit and the sunglasses in the fridge.

27kidzdoc
Jun 21, 2019, 12:51am

>25 libraryperilous: Haha, I like the idea of visiting a home that has books in kitchen cabinets and in suitcases in the closet. :)

Ha! Until six or seven years ago, when I started cooking on a regular basis and broke up with Marie Callender, three of my cupboards served as additional book shelves. All but 1/2 of one has now been reclaimed for proper kitchen use, and the remaining books will likely be evicted by the end of next week.

28libraryperilous
Jun 23, 2019, 1:56pm

>26 LolaWalser: I could just sit on the arm of the chair and let the books rest in their favorite chair.

And now I want to put an odd item or two in my fridge, just to see which of my friends is the kind to ask me about it and which is the kind to tell stories about it at dinner parties to which I'm not invited. (Although, I suppose I wouldn't know, unless another friend also was invited to the party and provided me with intelligence.)

>27 kidzdoc: Well, I can comfort myself knowing that I always will have space in the cupboards for a few extra books. I think I own one pan.

I didn't know you'd only been cooking for a few years. You certainly are talented at it!

I've reviewed Fluffy's Revolution for Early Reviewers here. My Early Reviewers review of Murmur is here. I loved both of the novels, so I might have waxed a bit poetically in my reviews. I try not to do that, but, oh well.

Of Fluffy's Revolution, I'll say that I adore fast-paced sci-fi adventure stories. I love weighty, social justice-y sci-fi, too, but I think this particular book is enhanced by its brevity. The book could have been more polished, yes. One suspects a real publisher polishing this book would have resulted in a bloated, depressing dystopian novel. Fluffy's feels fresh precisely because it isn't ponderous. I recommend it if you like sci-fi adventures. It's around 150 pages long, so you can gobble it over dinner.

To my review of Murmur, I'll add that it's a novel that rewards multiple readings. It's deeply philosophical and written in an experimental form. I don't have strong opinions on AI, so that part of the novel was less interesting to me than the fiercely progressive politics of the book. On that, I have about eleventy-billion strong opinions, so I highly recommend it to anyone who 1) wants catharsis in this hellfire timeline and 2) wants to develop a more morally rigorous personal politics. This book can help you with both of those things.

The old comp litter in me also loved Murmur for its invocations of other works. It's a Proustian novel, but there also is a specific sentence that's meant to remind readers of Other Voices, Other Rooms. I'm a huge fan of Capote's novel, so I loved that. There also are other passages that aren't meant to invoke specific works but did. Every book partly is its reader, so my interaction with the book was strengthened by these connections. E.g., Pryor's castration makes him feel less human. He compares this new self to an ongoing devolution, finally back to "lime extracted from that buried cliff to make plaster" (41). I couldn't help but compare, in sadness, the hopelessness of this to Sylvia Plath's poem, "Love Letter," in which (socially acceptable heterosexual) love is compared to a blooming, an evolution. Plath's narrator grows from dormant in winter to new growth in spring because of love: "Not easy to state the change you made. / If I'm alive now, then I was dead, / Though, like a stone, unbothered by it."

29kidzdoc
Editado: Jun 23, 2019, 7:14pm

>28 libraryperilous: Hmm. What I said isn't quite true. What I should have said is that I've only been cooking on a regular basis and not relying on frozen foods, soups, etc. for the majority of my meals for the past six or seven years. I did cook semi-regularly when I was in medical school a quarter of a century ago, and I've been making some basic things since high school. All I'll give myself credit for is being able to choose recipes that I think I'll like, follow instructions, and, as of late, make modifications to recipes I've made and haven't to add my own thumb to the pot. I'm not in the same league as my friends who are true chefs and create things from scratch, or are more adventurous than I am, and both of my parents are better cooks than I am (although my mother isn't cooking much any more, due to her progressive dementia).

Great comments about Murmur! I will have to get to it soon.

30libraryperilous
Jun 26, 2019, 9:54am

>29 kidzdoc: I'm sorry to hear about your mom. I knew she'd been unwell, but I don't think I knew she'd been diagnosed with dementia.

I'm too impatient to ever enjoy cooking, I think. I don't even like chopping vegetables to go with my hummus! A friend of mine loves to cook, and her husband is the type to make things from scratch. My mom used to love to bake. I suspect she'd recover some of that enthusiasm if she had better counter space in her tiny kitchen.

I'll look forward to your review of Murmur. It's such a conceptually interesting novel, on top of its political stances.

Macbeth: This was my second pull from the TBR jar. I was obsessed with this play in high school, and I even chose Hecate's monologue for my recitation project. It was super interesting to revisit this as an adult and find out that most of what I was taught about the play in high school is wrong—or, at best, too simplistic to be useful.

I'm haunted by the comparison between the Macbeth and Lady Macbeth's fierce devotion to each other and their fierce descent into murder. If they'd loved one another a little bit less (i.e., more reasonably and less ardently), they might have found a just way to make the witches' prophecies come true. Relatedly, Throne of Blood is one of my favorite films, but I think Kurosawa errs in making Washizu's wife more of an instigator.

Shakespeare was a compassionate author, in the main, and this makes Macbeth a compelling, not sensationalized, tragedy.

31kidzdoc
Jun 26, 2019, 10:40am

>30 libraryperilous: Thanks, Diana. My mother was diagnosed with dementia in 2016. It had progressively worsened until her lengthy hospitalization early this year, but since then she has been doing much better. At the beginning of the year I thought we were going to have to consider placing her in an assisted living facility sometime this year or next, but that seems far away now.

I'm sorry to hear that you don't enjoy cooking. You're far from alone, though; several of my closest friends and partners absolutely hate cooking and are threats to human existence if they try to do anything in the kitchen. One of my classmates from residency, one of the brightest guys I know, nearly burned his house down trying to make microwavable macaroni & cheese, and one of our palliative care physicians who shares an office space with us nearly destroyed our microwave while she was making popcorn! Another partner of mine, who is one of the two smartest in my group, would probably rather have her teeth drilled than attempt to try any of my recipes (she's happy to eat what I make, though).

There seems to be camps of people who enjoy chopping vegetables and find that task a relaxing one (*raises hand*), those who absolutely hate it (including all three people I mentioned), and those who are indifferent to it. It does help that I'm only cooking for one, and that I can usually get four or more meals from whatever I make, so I don't have to cook every day.

I know several other men who love to cook and try new recipes, who are far better than I am. My friend Rachael, the first LTer I ever met in person (in London, appropriately enough), is a good cook, but her physician husband Rupert is absolutely top shelf; he made Sunday roast for us in their home in Cambridge last month, and I would have gladly paid for that meal in a restaurant. (Having said that, I would have paid for the fish tacos I made last night!)

I'll see if I can get to Murmur next month.

Nice comments about Macbeth. That is one of his major plays that I haven't yet seen on the stage, but hopefully I'll do so soon.

32libraryperilous
Editado: Jul 7, 2019, 9:37pm

>31 kidzdoc: Glad to hear she's doing better!

Ha, my mom blames my terrible knife "skills" on my left-handedness, but the truth is I just don't care enough to learn. I also once scorched a pan of boiling water. I truly loathe kitchen-related things.

Sounds like you've had good food both on vacation and at home.

Kidnapped and Treasure Island are two childhood favorites. I've read them a number of times as an adult. They hold up well as both rousing adventures and non-smarmy moral tales. I find both of these traits heartening, especially on a reread, so I enjoyed reading them back-to-back. I'd forgotten how intense the coracle scenes are in Treasure Island. You can smell the salt breeze and hear the waves crashing against the little boat.

One of the things Stevenson does well is paint people as average Joes, even when they're doing extraordinary things. I.e., they have foibles and petty moments, and they blunder into good luck through impetuous decisions. It gives one hope for finding adventures in one's own life—which is the point, of course. Stevenson also excels at creating three-dimensional villains and heroes. I mean, the good guys in Treasure Island go off to grab some pillaged treasure because they're greedy. What saves them is that they're less greedy than Silver and his merry band o' miscreants. They also have the benefit of being friends with some level-headed people who don't care about the treasure. And with each other, instead of with world-weary pirates. AD: I find Israel Hands the most well-drawn character in the book. He's a sympathetic character, especially the crushing poverty that drove him to his lifestyle. His utter lack of hope is impactful on readers.

I also read an absolutely delightful middle grade novel, Secrets of a Sun King, which I highly recommend to anyone who likes stories of plucky girls going to Egypt and having adventures amongst the tombs. I can see why people call Emma Carroll the queen of middle grade historical fiction. I read Letters from the Lighthouse in June and also loved it. I'll buy some more of her books soon.

Edited: added a missing preposition



33kidzdoc
Jul 9, 2019, 6:35am

>32 libraryperilous: Thanks, Diana. I'm visiting my parents this week. My mother is doing better overall, but her memory continues to slowly decline. She remembers people and their names, but she needs help recalling recent events and some objects; I had to explain what zucchini was to her last night, a squash that she cooked on a regular basis, and I'm pretty sure she still had no idea what I was talking about.

She and I will cook at least two strawberry rhubarb custard pies together this afternoon, one for us and one for the neighbor who checks in on them at least every other day.

My mother showed me a fetching picture taken of herself when she was a teenager, which I'll post on my thread shortly.

I think it's fair to say that you didn't inherit the "cooking gene", similar to the friends and colleagues I've mentioned, and another friend who says that about herself. They all have plenty of skills and positive traits in other areas, though, and I'm sure the same can be said of you.

34libraryperilous
Jul 15, 2019, 7:29pm

I watch a few BookTube channels that focus on classics. Two of them, Blatantly Bookish and Books and Things, sponsor Jane Austen July. This year, they also made a Jane Austen July tag. I thought it would be fun to answer the questions here.

1) What is your favorite Jane Austen title?: Persuasion. The melancholy thread running through the romance reminds me a little of the film, I Know Where I'm Going!, because the foreshadowing of wartime loss is in both. Persuasion is a more measured novel than anything else Austen wrote. This also serves to make its comedic elements sharper.

2) Who is your favorite Jane Austen protagonist?: Had Elinor Dashwood not fallen in love with a total milquetoast, I'd pick her. Since Lizzy Bennet at least fell in love with a dynamic asshole, I'll say I'm Team Lizzy.

3) Name a book off your shelves you think Jane would wholeheartedly approve of and why: I initially picked The Return of the Soldier, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized Austen probably would view the novel as too sentimental. I've made an offbeat choice: The Idylls of the Queen, for its mordant humor and its commitment to showing how silly and confining chivalry is.

4) Name a book off your shelves that you think Jane Austen would have hated and why: A toss-up between A Christmas Carol, which I suspect Austen would find moral pap, and Peter Pan which I think Austen would find sterile because the narrator's nastiness is nonstop and quickly wears out its welcome. Something Austen does better than about any writer is deploying nastiness at juuuuuust the right narrative moment.

5) Who is your favorite minor Jane Austen character?: Lady Catherine de Burgh. Who doesn't aspire to be that kind of unrepentant bitch in their dotage? But I hope I'll be one who doesn't let an obstinate, headstrong girl get the best of her.

6) Name a book off your shelves that you feel somehow was inspired by Jane Austen's work: The Perilous Gard. I mentioned this on another thread, but I think the romance very much references Pride and Prejudice. Kate and Christopher are proud, stubborn, and prejudiced against each other. One theme of Pride and Prejudice that often gets overlooked is how Lizzy and Darcy both are proud and prejudiced. It's and/both not either/or. Once they realize this horror, they have to work to overcome their embarrassment at this. That's one reason the 2005 film version is my favorite. It really understands this dynamic. There's even a line where Lizzy admits she loves Darcy because, "We are so alike."

7) Which Jane Austen character do you simply love to hate?: I loathe Edward Ferrars. Sense and Sensibility is a tragedy. I will go to my grave thinking this. Put it on my tombstone: "She died knowing Elinor Dashwood married poorly." And Marianne fared no better. But Sense just makes me sad when I read it. So, I'll go with the entirely pedestrian choice of Emma Woodhouse. I disliked Emma and Mansfield Park when I read them fifteen years ago. I suspect I might have been too young to be patient with the narratives.

I'll add one of my own: What's your hottest Austen take?: Darcy is a mansplaining jerk who never quite gets it. His first marriage proposal is supposed to be an ugly, uncomfortable scene, meant to show his unfitness for Lizzy and marriage. It's not supposed to be sold on coffee mugs and T-shirts as a romantic proposal, ffs. You're supposed to grit your teeth at him, not swoon over him.

35PaulCranswick
Ago 5, 2019, 4:01am

>34 libraryperilous: Fascinating. I am nowhere near well read enough, Austen wise, to contribute meaningfully though.

36libraryperilous
Ago 7, 2019, 10:54pm

>35 PaulCranswick: Thanks for stopping by with kind words, Paul! I'm rereading all of Austen's novels this summer and will post my thoughts once I'm finished.

Speaking of Austen, here's my pre-reread ranking of her six novels, in order of my least to most favorite:

Emma
Mansfield Park
Northanger Abbey
Sense and Sensibility
Pride and Prejudice
Persuasion


I also finally am starting a read of the Aubrey/Maturin novels. I'm excited to see if they are as good as advertised. I'm told there's a love triangle. I hope it doesn't drag down the plot too much.

37libraryperilous
Ago 9, 2019, 11:03am

Yeah, so: I have somehow managed to forget my password for Gmail and my laptop. Like, I swear I am using the right one, but ... obviously not. Also, I can't get my laptop to boot in safe mode so I can't even reset it that way. And I'm locked out of my Gmail account because I couldn't remember the month and year I created it, so I am not really me, per Google.

I guess I can look forward to being on the phone with Microsoft for a few hours later today. The lesson is not to use the same password for both, I guess, but really, this is silly.

Does anyone have any extra tricks to try for Windows 10?

At least I'm not locked out of LibraryThing!

38curioussquared
Ago 9, 2019, 12:37pm

>36 libraryperilous: I think my rankings are fairly similar. I can't decide!!

>37 libraryperilous: Nooo. When I was in high school my Gmail was hacked and stolen in order to steal my pretty awesome Neopets account that I had built up in middle school. I bargained with the person who bought my Gmail (by emailing my account, lol) and got them to agree to give me my email back if they could keep the Neopets account. Got my email back, immediately changed my password and added 2-factor authentication with my phone, and then promptly reported my Neopets account as stolen. Felt good. So, no tips aside from "bargain with them and lie that they can keep your Neopets account,"unfortunately, but fingers crossed you get back into everything!

39libraryperilous
Ago 9, 2019, 1:07pm

>38 curioussquared: I'm very excited to see if mine change after my reading project is over! I'm especially curious to see if I have a more favorable impression of Northanger Abbey. I found it rather silly when I read it the first time.

Oh nooooo, sorry for your lost Neopets account. Or did you get it back after reporting it stolen? (Love that you reported it, btw, after bargaining with the jerk.)

Password update: Much like the pink elephants psychology experiment, I obsessed over remembering it, and tried multiple variations. I had everything right except the number combination. Once I stopped thinking about it for a long enough time span, my fingers remembered their way.

It was pretty stressful, because Windows 10 password losses are rather dire if, like me, you've been irresponsible about it.

40curioussquared
Ago 9, 2019, 1:43pm

>39 libraryperilous: I think Northanger Abbey is intended to be pretty silly! I definitely enjoy it more when I read it as a satire.

Never got the Neopets account back, but I was happier losing that than my Gmail :)

Hooray for remembering the password! It's weird how much muscle memory is in my fingers.

41norabelle414
Ago 9, 2019, 2:06pm

I use a password manager to generate and store random passwords for all my passwords except Windows and the password manager itself. Not sure how I'm supposed to manage those!

Maybe we've come full circle and the safest way to keep your Windows password is handwritten on a post-it stuck to your desk.

42curioussquared
Ago 9, 2019, 2:27pm

>41 norabelle414: I've actually heard that recently; somebody told me password managers themselves can be hacked. The most up-to-date password advice I've seen is writing them down and sticking them in a safe or filing cabinet. Lol.

43norabelle414
Ago 9, 2019, 4:11pm

>42 curioussquared: Of course nothing is fully impervious to being hacked, but a good password manager with two-factor authentication is as safe as it's going to get.

44libraryperilous
Ago 9, 2019, 5:50pm

>41 norabelle414:, >42 curioussquared: I'd be lying if I said I hadn't raced for a pen and paper after I remembered it.

After the password incident, I logged in to Reddit for the first time in a year, noped out, and finally decided to download Chrome so I could download Nuke Reddit and auto-delete my comments before I delete the account. I did skim some of my prior comments before doing so, and well ... I read once that people are less than half as funny as they think they are. Can confirm.

I should post something about what I actually have been reading!

I'm working my way through a reread of the Holmes short stories. Currently on The Return of Sherlock Holmes. As always, I'm charmed by the Holmes and Watson friendship. And I always chuckle over how emotional Holmes can get, especially as I think it's rather unintentional on Doyle's part.

As always, Moriarty is my forever favorite. It's a crushing disappointment he only shows up in "The Final Problem." I mean: "You crossed my path on the 4th of January. On the 23rd you incommoded me; by the middle of February I was seriously inconvenienced by you; at the end of March I was absolutely hampered in my plans; and now, at the close of April, I find myself placed in such a position through your continual persecution that I am in positive danger of losing my liberty." Amazing.

45libraryperilous
Editado: Ago 22, 2019, 4:47pm

Humans often mistake pomp & circumstance for sincerity: drama in interpersonal relationships for love; shouted slogans on a stump for moral authority; breathlessness about a buzzy work of art for good taste. Kathryn Scanlan's Aug 9—Fog is the kind of book that exposes both the hollowness of the publishing industry and its incestuous relationship with book critics. It received heaps of positive advance reviews, will land on numerous year-end best lists, is marketed as innovative and laden with meaning—and manages to be both insubstantial and morally bankrupt as a work of art. There's no reason for it to exist, except to provide critics and publishing industry insiders with fodder to feel superior at dinner parties.

There's the obvious conceit of the project: taking someone else's diary and working it into fiction without acknowledging the original author. Scanlan even writes that "I have possessed this work so thoroughly that the diarist has ceased to be an entirely unique, autonomous other to me. I don't picture her. I am her." Scanlan provides scant detail about the diarist. We know only her age and the years of her entries. The diarist does not merit a first name or a location. Even if the family requested privacy, the original creator of the work is reduced to nothing more than a prop for the quasi-plagiarist's monomania.

There's the banality of the entries themselves. Scanlan and book critics have told us they're supposed to represent the natural course of aging and the way we are reduced (reduced, mind you) to declining health, commenting on the weather, and working puzzles. We don't know how the original diarist felt about her life because Scanlan has oh-so-carefully edited the already brief diary entries. The book only took me 15 minutes to read, and I felt like I'd been hit over the head with The Point every other page. And it's not even a good point!

We also are in poverty safari territory here. The diarist's hardscrabble life is reduced to moral pap for voyeuristic readers. We're meant to take away the lesson that one should be sad about how seemingly content with so few pleasures is the diarist. That poverty is a systemic societal ill—not a series of unfortunate personal choices—is lost on Scanlan. Would the diarist's life have been less hardscrabble if she'd bought some nice clothes on her fixed income? Of fucking course not. But the diarist wouldn't have been any less moral or more at fault for splurging. This, too, is lost on Scanlan, as is the idea that maybe, just maybe, the diarist was content with her life because she'd led a happy one. To be honest, we don't even know that the diarist was poor. We infer it because Scanlan wants us to. Again, biographical data on the diarist would have been helpful here, and it would have rendered Scanlan a more honest intermediary.

Aug 9 is a book written, produced, and marketed to a very specific audience: wealthy white liberals who want to sleep well at night. They'll feel certain they've accomplished something morally good by reading this novel. The rest of us would be wise to heed the original, anonymous diarist, who once "Found condemned bridge & we didn't cross it." Caveat lector.

ETA: Yes, I did spend more time writing this review than I did reading the novel. I am now never going to think of it again.

46curioussquared
Ago 26, 2019, 12:40am

>45 libraryperilous: Yikes. I hadn't heard of this before and I will avoid it at all costs.

47norabelle414
Ago 26, 2019, 4:09pm

>45 libraryperilous: Thanks for taking one for the team!

48libraryperilous
Ago 30, 2019, 6:09pm

>46 curioussquared:, >47 norabelle414: Happy to shield you at any time, but also I owed both of you for recommending (Nora) and seconding (Natalie) Dealing with Dragons. Thank you!

I adored Wrede's brisk fantasy about a Nancy Drew-type princess who uses her wits, imperious personality, and variegated interests to stop dastardly wizardry and rescue her dragon employer. Speaking of Kazul, she's my kind of dragon: kind, but very, very toothsome. I've put the remaining three volumes on my TBR, but I don't want to rush into them.

I also read a brilliant middle grade novel, The Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbs, which is excellent seafaring adventure fiction and also excellent at making the cat, Jacob, very catlike. There are a few occasions, e.g., where he simply must sleep, even when the stakes are high. He's lazy, punctuated by bouts of energy. He plays with beams of light while on a lifeboat.

Really, this is a classic children's coming of age story. There's real loss and grief and true peril. Shipboard politics and loyalties are explored, including the discipline required to overcome the boredom and close quarters, as well as the way the close quarters make both friendships and quarrels fiercer. There's a sprinkling of nautical terminology. Jacob and his mother are weather sphinxes, which nets this aching description: "The storm came from nowhere, or so it seemed to the men on board. But to me, and to my mother, it came on slow, and the agony of waiting for it is perhaps the most punishing feeling a true ship's cat can have" (40).

49curioussquared
Ago 31, 2019, 2:21pm

>48 libraryperilous: Yay, so glad you loved Dealing with Dragons. I'm kind of feeling a reread coming on... also nice to know that they hold up to a first reading as an adult -- my experience is tinged with nostalgia as I first read them in second or third grade. My elementary school was really small, and you could see who had checked out a book when you looked it up. I distinctly remember tracking down the girl in my class who had had Calling on Dragons checked out for weeks and asking if she was done with it because I was desperate to read it.

50norabelle414
Ago 31, 2019, 10:39pm

>48 libraryperilous: You're so welcome! There's also a fifth book, Book of Enchantments: Ten Tales of Wonder, which is a companion collection of short stories to read when you're done with the main books.

51libraryperilous
Editado: Sep 4, 2019, 10:04pm

>50 norabelle414: Ooh, thanks for the heads up!

>49 curioussquared: I hope you enjoy your reread. Fingers crossed the Suck Fairy hasn't visited the books. (I don't think she could. There's too much sparkle. A sparkle force field around the books.) Really awesome that you stood up for yourself and tracked down the late returner.

I just wanted to pop in and let everyone know that a number of Cornell University Press titles are free on Amazon as Kindle downloads right now. I don't normally read e-books, but I snagged several. I presume they will stay free for a spell.

ETA: I'm not a Prime member. These aren't Prime-only freebies.

52PaulCranswick
Sep 6, 2019, 9:41pm

>51 libraryperilous: I will have to take my kindle back off Kyran and get some of those free downloads!

Have a lovely weekend.

53libraryperilous
Sep 8, 2019, 3:35pm

>52 PaulCranswick: Thanks, Paul. I hope you've enjoyed your weekend. Fingers crossed you find some books you want to download.

Master and Commander has been on my TBR since the film—an all-time favorite—was released. I can't believe I've waited so long to read it. The Time blurb describes the novel as Jane Austen at sea, and that is both 100% accurate and also vastly undersells it. A truly wondrous read, full of nautical terminology, the natural conflicts that arise from close quarters at sea, plus an adventure-laden plot as the Sophie heads from port to sea to battle for prizes, rinse repeat. The Aubrey-Maturin friendship reminds me of the friendships in Tolkien. It's heavily influenced by British Old Boys culture and ideas of mateship among men.

"You could not explain this maze of ropes and wood and canvas without using sea-terms, I suppose. No, it would not be possible." (110)

I can't wait to read the rest of the series. I gather that the next book, Post Captain, features a love triangle. I'm hopeful that the artificial domestic drama will take a back seat to the inherent dramas of shipboard life during the Napoleonic Wars.

54libraryperilous
Sep 12, 2019, 8:39pm

I saw a fun book challenge on a BookTube channel: A-Z favorites. Rather than list favorite books, I'm going to make my list an A-Z of favorite books on my current TBR. I.e., books I'm most excited to read soon. Maybe I'll even read some of them!

The Wind That Lays Waste (Almada)
Return to the Sea (Berta)
Playing Changes (Chinen)
Courtesans and Fishcakes (Davidson)
The Politics of Fair Trade (Ehrlich)
Vulture (Fallon)
Arctic Summer (Galgut)
Redwood and Wildfire (Hairston)
How To Hide an Empire (Immerwahr)
The Memory Chalet (Judt)
March Violets (Kerr)
Meanings of Maple (Lange)
Railsea (Mieville)
Oceanic (Nezhukumatathil)
Coming Through Slaughter (Ondaatje)
Class Attitudes in America (Piston)
The Song of the Dodo (Quammen)
A Workman Is Worthy of His Meat (Rich)
We Who Are Dark (Shelby)
How They Decorated (Tapp)
Barons of the Sea (Ujifusa)
My Life as a Spy (Verdery)
The Corner That Held Them (Warner)
Knowing the Adversary (Yarhi-Milo)
At the Water's Edge (Zimmer)

I have no books by authors with a last name beginning with 'x' on my current TBR. Suggestions welcome. Suggestions—which books to read and review soon or to avoid cracking open for eternity—are welcome.

55LibraryLover23
Sep 13, 2019, 5:05pm

>53 libraryperilous: I have that one on my TBR list too. Maybe I should bump it up a few notches!

56libraryperilous
Sep 23, 2019, 3:05pm

>55 LibraryLover23: I highly recommend bumping it, if you have any taste at all for salty ocean breezes and the rolling decks of ships. It is full of all the nautical descriptions.

I wanted to like The Ten Thousand Doors of January more than I did. I quickly grew tired of the similes used to describe everyday things and also the loud Message being broadcast on every page. While it's a message with which I broadly agree, it was delivered in pedantic fashion through boring binaries. The author seems unaware that the binaries used also are white, patriarchal constructs that perhaps require a more nuanced excavation.

10K Doors strikes me as the kind of book that benefits greatly from the publishing industry's marketing behemoth. Its reasonably clever plot, purplish prose, and overt progressivism seem designed for the middle class book club set. I suspect those readers will consume it eagerly. This particular reader enjoyed it, but it ran out of steam before it got to the meat of the story. By page 200 of 350+, I just wanted to be able to close the door.

I've done it! I've let go of my TBR entirely. A few scattered titles remained in my head. I've handwritten them in a notebook. Freeeeeeddddooommmmmmm

57libraryperilous
Editado: Oct 3, 2019, 5:57pm

It's 1361, and Oswald de Lacy and his family flee the return of the plague. Oswald's fervently religious friend owns a castle on a remote British island (based on Oxney, now landlocked), is given to eschatological pronouncements, and has invited a motley group to ride out the plague with him—if they don't die of boredom or Roland's zealotry first.

Once the drawbridge is closed for the final time, we're in familiar locked room territory, and it doesn't take long for the castle's owner to bite it. Oswald investigates as the bodies mount and finally realizes he has no choice but to brave the plague-ridden island to find the answer to the murders.

I've been lukewarm on this series, but The Bone Fire is an excellent mix of murder, mayhem, apocalyptic landscape, and medical history. Recommended, especially to fans of The Last Hours or C. J. Sansom's Shardlake series. You won't get the same volume of historical detail—Sansom's a virtuoso—but the attention to it is similar.

Side note: It's so refreshing to just read what I want in my favorite genres. It's been ages since I've read a sci-fi novel, and that's my very favorite genre. Does anyone have any recommendations for recently published sci-fi?

58libraryperilous
Oct 11, 2019, 12:57pm

My longstanding, contrarian opinion on literary prizes (and prizes in general) is that they foremost reflect the tastes, mores, and politics of the committee's members—and any points they are trying to score. They're as susceptible to zeitgeist and personal/sociocultural biases as anything else.

It's important to have better, more diverse representation in them. It also is important to push back through arts and culture in a terrible time. Ergo, the National Book Award's 2019 nonfiction longlist is a useful, albeit small, corrective.

But there's an inherent elitism in a handful of people deciding what's "best" in a given year, even if they share one's politics and values. That goes doubly for the Nobel Prize, which should be rendered forever irrelevant by its choice of Peter Handke.

Prizes only have value because we assign them as valuable. Perhaps the real conversation should be about that, and about how incrementalism and performative progressivism are pervasive throughout social justice movements, not just in the halls of liberal feminism.

Books:

I'm in the midst of my fall reread of the Cadfael series. Several of the novels rank among my favorites, and Brother Cadfael's Penance is in my top ten. I find that rereading the series in order provides an extra depth. The series takes place during The Anarchy, and Cadfael's own opinions on the civil war become ever more perceptive and nuanced as the series progresses.

I finished Aimee Nezhukumatathil's Oceanic, a collection of poems that explores climate change, marriage, motherhood, immigration, and racism. For Nezhukumatathil, nature is both catholic and specific, and it can be used by or against women of color. The quotidian rubs against the wondrous, and the shared experiences of humans and other species are seen as both.

I was charmed by these lines: "There are not enough jam jars to can this summer sky at night. I want to spread those little meteors on a hunk of still-warm bread this winter" ("End-of-Summer Haibun," 15).

I enjoyed the poems, but I no longer have a passion for poetry. It takes a lot for me to be moved by a poetry collection these days, alas.

59curioussquared
Oct 11, 2019, 1:47pm

>58 libraryperilous: Yikes. I did not know who Peter Handke was until this morning. What the hell were they thinking?

60LolaWalser
Oct 11, 2019, 2:47pm

>58 libraryperilous:

I've only read two of Handke's works, Kaspar and Die linkshandige Frau, probably not enough for a final judgement, but they'd incline me to think "yes, a likely Nobel winner" rather than not.

It seems that every time the topic of the Nobel prize comes up I end up posting the same thing: how it's not about choosing "THE best" (which is a nonsense proposition given there's no way to define "the best") but whoever the committee manages to get a consensus on from a pool of choices that are ALL plausible winners.

The way I see it, it's a prize to people who are very good writers, and are or ought to be important, influential, read writers, at least within the necessarily limited horizon of their contemporaries (people go "but who are these nobodies" about the early Nobels as if it were inconceivable that they were once known and celebrated).

61libraryperilous
Editado: Oct 11, 2019, 5:12pm

>59 curioussquared: Hell of a thing, isn't it? A cynic might say that Sweden's current problems with white, far-right nationalism perhaps render a committee of rich white people from Sweden a wee bit out of touch on the subject matter. What's most interesting to me about this entire debacle is: The committee didn't learn its lesson from last year's flap. Elites are insulated from responsibility for their choices, and that's as true in the arts as it is in politics.

>60 LolaWalser: are or ought to be important, influential, read writers

I see Handke's win as similar to Ellen DeGeneres' friendship with George W. Bush. There's not much difference, to me, between lauding a terrible person and rehabilitating one. It's one thing to be nice to your Trump-voting uncle at Thanksgiving. It's another thing to hand out awards and public compliments to people who condone or contribute to international horrors.

I wouldn't complain if the award had gone to Murakami or another author whose works I think are overrated or vaguely troubling because of casual prejudice. "How terrible is too terrible?" is a subjective question. Everyone will have different bright lines—and those bright lines will be hypocritical in all of us. I love Tolkien even though he's sexist and I can't abide George R. R. Martin because he's sexist. There's not enough else in Martin's novels to attract me. Or, there's Picasso's sexism vs his antiwar art. I don't think his toxic masculinity should be ignored, but I like him as an artist. Someone else might find his entire output positively loathsome because of his strong sexism. My personal thought on Handke is that far-right nationalism should be a bridge too far and render one censured, not lauded.

"The best" is subjective, I agree. We tend to assume a committee is acting in the best interest of the award, not acting upon its members' own quirks and prejudices. Society adds an extra layer and conflates prizes with importance and prizewinning with quality. We don't question whether the definitions of importance or quality are ones with which we agree. I think it's worth pushing back against that elevation of awards, even when I like the list of nominees or agree with the politics, as I did with this year's National Book Award longlists.

Edited: Grammar

62LolaWalser
Oct 12, 2019, 12:51pm

>61 libraryperilous:

I had deleted a post I made elsewhere that touched on the political attacks on Handke because I thought better of going that dismal route (which is, technically, a digression if the topic is Handke's literary worth and import), so I would much rather not take it up in anyone's personal thread. Suffice it to say that the topic is complicated and doesn't merit peremptory dismissal through a few strong, dubiously applied labels.

We tend to assume a committee is acting in the best interest of the award, not acting upon its members' own quirks and prejudices.

And yet it's often our own quirks and prejudices that blind us to how others view matters. If one is convinced that Handke is a "far-right nationalist" who has "condoned and contributed" to "international horrors" one is bound to remain oblivious to what others see in him that is worthy of praise--not unadulterated, blind glorification perhaps, but praise nevertheless.

I would suggest that there is a different view (and views) of Handke and his political engagement that, far from dumbly and criminally agreeing to some "far right" narrative, recognise not just his literary talent (the reason he is deserving of the prize in the first place) but the existence and the importance of the problems he raises--problems whose neglect compromises our own relationship to truth, our own ethical self, our own conscience.

I don't say this to force anyone away from their antagonism, however well or badly founded; merely to note that other opinions are available, not all of which automatically make of Handke's readers or admirers hardcore fascists.

63libraryperilous
Editado: Oct 12, 2019, 1:23pm

>62 LolaWalser: No, and I'm not going to engage further with you. You aren't posting in good faith here, and I've no desire to spend more of my time on it.

one is bound to remain oblivious to what others see in him that is worthy of praise

Seems you're doing this, but from the opposite direction.

While I appreciate that LibraryThing does have a free posting policy, I would appreciate it if no one else on my thread mount a defense of far-right nationalism here, however carefully parsed that defense is.

ETA: Also, I will not be discussing this issue further with anyone. Thanks in advance!

64LolaWalser
Oct 12, 2019, 1:49pm


You aren't posting in good faith here

I would appreciate it if no one else on my thread mount a defense of far-right nationalism here, however carefully parsed that defense is.

What???

65libraryperilous
Nov 7, 2019, 6:04pm

One of the pleasures of rereading is discovering new things about a favorite title. On this reread of The Perilous Gard, I noticed what a classic coming of age tale it is.

In today's bullshit, a gentle suggestion about an accessibility issue I made at my library was met with derision and the implication that the suggestion is not valuable because no one else has made it. The staffer laughed at me when I called her out on her rudeness. Oh, and Tulsi Gabbard has made the next debate but Julián Castro has not. People learned all the wrong lessons from 2016.

I'm not going to be very active on this thread for the remainder of the year. I'm planning my trip + move, plus I hope to do some canvassing in December.

Happy readings! Thanks for stopping in.

66LibraryLover23
Nov 11, 2019, 6:06pm

>65 libraryperilous: Best wishes on your upcoming trip and move!

67libraryperilous
Nov 13, 2019, 5:45pm

68PaulCranswick
Dic 25, 2019, 9:19pm



Thank you for keeping me company in 2019.......onward to 2020.

69libraryperilous
Ene 1, 2020, 5:49pm

>68 PaulCranswick: Thanks, Paul. Happy holidays!

I'm visiting the Green Dragon for 2020. Here's a link to my thread. Feel free to pop in for weekly reading wrap-ups.