Greg (gsm235) in 2021

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Greg (gsm235) in 2021

Editado: Feb 13, 8:39pm


Books: 16
Pages: 5,379

Print: 3
Digital: 6
Audio: 7

Literature: 8
Non-Fiction: 5
Genre: 3


001 La Perra by Pilar Qunintana; fiction, digital, 128 pages
002 Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris; non-fiction, audio, 792 pages
003 Diary of a Man in Despair by Friedrich Reck; non-fiction, print, 244 pages
004 Night Theater by Vikram Paralker; fiction, digital, 224 pages
005 The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carington; fiction, print, 210 pages
006 Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky; fiction, audio, 558 pages
007 Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors by Susan Sontag; non-fiction, audio, 192 pages
008 The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham; science fiction, digital, 256 pages
009 The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds; science fiction, audio, 563 pages
010 The Liar's Dictionary by Eley Williams; novel, digital, 288 pages
011 Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler; mystery, print, 292 pages
012 The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X by Les Payne; biography, audio, 601 pages

013 Tender Is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica; fiction, digital, 223 pages
014 Dangerous Religious Ideas by Rachael S. Mikva; religion, audio, 264 pages
015 At Night All Blood Is Black by David Diop; fiction, digital, 160 pages
016 The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni; fiction, audio, 384 pages

Dic 31, 2020, 7:04pm


Ene 1, 3:48pm

welcome Greg. Curious what will show up here.

Ene 1, 8:12pm

I finished my first book of the year: The Bitch by Pilar Quintana and translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman. A grim, short novel set by the edge of the jungle on Columbia’s Pacific coast. A childless woman rescues an abandoned puppy and things don't go well. It’s not going to be an easy book for people squeamish about animal suffering. I thought it was evocative of place, poverty, and the decline of mental health. It was a 2020 National Book Awards Translated Literature Finalist and won the prestigious Colombian Biblioteca de Narrativa Prize.

Ene 1, 8:52pm

>4 gsm235: That sounds like a very interesting read, definitely going on the library list.

Ene 1, 9:19pm

>4 gsm235: Yeah, I'm staying away from that one just because animal suffering/cruelty is something I just won't take on in my reading. But I've heard good things about it from folks with stronger constitutions than mine.

Ene 2, 5:34am

Welcome to the group, Greg. I remember first hearing about La perra during the online ceremony for the National Book Awards last year. I'll keep an eye out for it.

Ene 2, 4:49pm

Finished Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris. This is the second of three volumes in the Roosevelt biography. Excellent overall, but I have to give a slight preference to the first book. There is a lot of good history and details here, especially on the building of the Panama Canal. Strange as it may be, but I think the life of Roosevelt is more interesting when he isn’t actually the president. I’m definitely going to pick up the third volume.

Ene 2, 4:54pm

Welcome, Greg. Will stop in from time to time to see what you are reading. Hope you can get around and find some interesting readers to follow.

Ene 3, 8:27am

Nice to see new folks around this year! You started the year with some interesting read, and I think I'll keep a close look at your thread.

Ene 3, 10:42am

Happy Reading in 2021. I'll look forward to following your thread. Cheers!

Ene 3, 2:08pm

>8 gsm235: "but I think the life of Roosevelt is more interesting when he isn’t actually the president" : ) Thinking for a moment and I realize most of what I hear about him in references or notes here or there seem to be on the non-presidential stuff... other than "talk softly..."

Ene 3, 2:41pm

>4 gsm235: Not that I'm into animal suffering, but I've taken a book bullet on that one. Looking forward to the rest of your reading.

Editado: Ene 4, 8:09pm

Diary of Man in Despair by by Friedrich Reck

Mixed bag. There is no doubt the author was both foolish and brave for committing his staunch anti-Nazi statements to paper and there are some parallels to our contemporary authoritarian leanings for the modern reader, but it’s dry history. Mostly plan and matter of fact with a good tidbit of analysis on weakness of spirit that could allow such men to take over a country like Germany. The author is mostly just a witness, often secondhand, to what happened; he did mention going into a bad neighborhood of Berlin in 1932 with revolver in his pocket, encountering a cartoonish caricature man, then leaving without incident. Five years later he regretted not having the foresight to shoot the man. Guess who?

Ene 5, 4:52am

>14 gsm235: Diary of a Man in Despair that looks interesting.

Ene 5, 5:17pm

>14 gsm235: I don’t know anything about Reck. Can we trust him? Does he fictionalize? Is that important either way? (You don’t have to answer, just thinking out loud.)

Ene 5, 8:14pm

Hi, greg, coming by to "meet" you, and dropping a star, as well. That first group seems a little masochistic to me. I'm very pleased to read your comments on those, but what do you read for relaxation, the light stuff? I read serious and classic authors for my first 40 years or so, but the last 25 I seem to only want to read genre fiction and old favorites. I'll be watching your thread. Happy New Year!

Ene 7, 4:22am

>14 gsm235: That sounds like an interesting book. I will have to check it out. It sounds like the original was written in German.

Ene 9, 4:30pm

Hello Greg and welcome. It looks like some interesting books will be discussed here this year. Like Alison, I'm not into animal suffering, but I added your first book to my wishlist as well.

Editado: Ene 10, 3:57pm

>16 dchaikin: I've read comments elsewhere that Reck may not always be completely reliable. I'm not enough of a historian to say one way or another, but my impression was that he really hated what the Nazis were going to Germany and that was his main focus.

>17 sallypursell: I try to keep a balance between reading serious fiction, genre fiction, and non-fiction, the weight tends to skew towards literature.

Finished Night Theater by Vikram Paralkar. A strange tale of a rural surgeon in India who is visited by a dead family recently murdered. If the doctor can fix their wounds, a rebel angel who, going against established procedures in the hereafter, will restore them to life. There are three general ways an author can write about religion in a novel. Matter-of-factly, this character belongs to this religion and does this or that in accordance or contrary to the faith, proselytizing to the reader, or allegorically. At first, early in the novel, I thought the author might be trying to preach, and I was ready to toss the book aside, but it turned into a bizarre allegory. This is not a novel huge on plot. The descriptions of the surgeon's operations can be visceral. It’s title when originally published in India was The Wounds of the Dead.

Ene 10, 5:27pm

>20 gsm235: Is Night Theater a new book? I'm intrigued and curious if it goes into Indian or Hindu mythology.

Editado: Ene 10, 7:14pm

>21 dchaikin: Night Theater was published in India in 2017 and doesn't go into traditional Hinduism. The author was born and raised in Mumbai, but is currently a physician-scientist at the University of Pennsylvania.

Here is a brief quote from the novel. The dead man is talking to the doctor about the afterlife.

“There are religions in the afterlife, Saheb. Just not the ones from earth. Even those who were faithful believers in life have to wonder how their priests and holy books could have been so wrong. But that has only led to new religions, made by stitching together shreds of the older ones. Some of the dead claim to be prophets and sages—men of God. They say they can hear His voice, that they want to spread His words to everyone who hopes to be reborn. I don’t understand what they get out of this. There’s no money or land or gold to gather there. Maybe it’s just the sense of power.”

Ene 10, 7:18pm

>22 gsm235: thanks for the posting the quote!

Ene 11, 7:17pm

Welcome Greg.

You mentioned having copy of Clarice Lispector's complete stories on another thread, and I wanted to let you know that a few people are reading it ( 1 story/week). If you're interested, hopover here.

Ene 16, 8:11pm

The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carington

What a delightfully weird novel. A toothless and hearing impaired ninety two year old woman narrates a story of being forced into a bizarre retirement institution which will lead her to tale of a cross dressing nun, the Holy Grail, the apocalypse, a wolf-head woman, and Lapland. There are few novels, that I can think of, with elderly female characters—only Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead comes to mind—which is a pity because it was a refreshing and entertaining voice.

Ene 16, 8:11pm

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

I’ve read the novel two or three times before. I’ve read the Oliver Ready translation which seems like a compromise between the dreadful Victorianism of Garnett and faithfully awkward Pevear and Volokhonsky There are many reasons to consider Crime and Punishment one of the greatest novels of all time. There are also many reasons why some readers experience extreme frustration. It’s not a novel for those who prefer a straight forward movie style story telling. It’s dense, convoluted, melodramatic, and digressive; Dostoevsky is, in many ways, an awful writer stylistically, but his power—his white hot verve hooking like a bear trap—is undeniable and griping. I can only read this novel in complete in amazement even though I hate the ending; I don’t buy into the manic religiousness, but it’s Dostoevsky, and I’ll just have to disagree.

Ene 16, 8:12pm

Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors by Susan Sontag

I’ve never read Susan Sontag before. I read the Pulitzer Prize biography, Sontag: Her Life and Work last year, and decided to read sometime. Audible has a few of her works available in the free Plus Premium Catalog including Illness as Metaphor and AID and Its Metaphor . I didn’t know what to accept; but this work is heavily focused on literary criticism about the literature of consumption its Romantic heritage and how cancer doesn’t get the Romantic treatment. (I mentioned this to my wife and she disagreed saying breast can be Romanticized. I’ll to mull over that.) Sontag also laments on how writers metaphorize disease such as (to use a contemporary example): “Trump is a cancer in our government.” I can understand why she doesn’t like the disease metaphor, but I think it’s kind of apt in this case.

Editado: Ene 16, 10:16pm

>25 gsm235: How about this: The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules

It's little old ladies and little old gentlemen behaving badly.

Ene 22, 1:23pm

Just reading your Saturday post. Noting The Hearing Trumpet (>25 gsm235:). I think for C&P (>26 gsm235:) i read a 1960’s translation of some kind. It worked, anyway. Fascinating book. Enjoyed your post. Enjoyed your take on Sontag (>27 gsm235:) and cool that her biography led to this.

Ene 27, 7:42pm

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

One of my all time favorite science fiction novels. I must have read it four times before. Although it may be somewhat dated, it was published in1951, I think the story is still good, and it has one of the best first chapters in the genre. I also like the way the characters deal with the extraordinary calamity. In a typical modern science fiction novel, most authors would probably make the main character some super heroic warrior battling extremely narrow odds—all flash and action--to come out triumphant fit for a Hollywood blockbuster, but here he’s just a bloke.

Ene 27, 7:43pm

The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds.

Perfectly acceptable science fiction, but nothing extraordinary. I’ve read other Reynold’s novel which I thought were better, but I enjoyed listening to this one. I may or may not pick up the second book in the Dreyfus Emergencies; if Audible offers it has a 2 for 1 credit sale, I’ll probably get it.

Ene 27, 10:07pm

>28 sallypursell: I added The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules to my wishlist. Thanks for the link.

Ene 28, 8:41am

>30 gsm235: I read it last year and was surprised how good it was. It was during lockdown when there was nothing on the roads outside and I expected to see Triffids marching over the horizon.

Ene 28, 9:57pm

The Liar's Dictionary by Eley Williams.

While reading this novel I was finding words I didn’t know. I clicked on the dictionary option on my Kindle, but it didn’t know the definition either. Then came the chapter on mountweazels: “Fictitious or fake entries are deliberately incorrect entries in reference works such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, maps, and directories.” One of the story lines is about a rouge lexicographer in the 19th century sneaking his own fake words into a dictionary. The novel is full of fake words for the reader to ferret out. Marvelous and inventive: a treat for people who love words.

Feb 1, 2:50pm

>34 gsm235: clever. (And I’m grateful Nabokov didn’t read it. It’s a 2020 publication.)

Feb 2, 2:00pm

>34 gsm235: Have you read Eley's collection Attrib. and other stories? A friend of mine who's pretty much my reading twin raved about it—I just got a galley released together with The Liar's Dictionary and am very much looking forward to both of them.

Feb 13, 5:26pm

>34 gsm235: The liars dictionary sounds like a lot of fun.

Feb 14, 8:50pm

Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler

Very good hard boiled detective novel. I have read the first Philip Marlow novel twice, but never before have a read any of the sequels despite owning both the Library of America volumes. I don’t have a lot to say about the novel itself, but I think I’ll try to finish some more this year.

Editado: Feb 14, 8:50pm

The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X by Les Payne.

The author died before finishing this book and it was completed by his daughter who also helped him with research; parts of this biography don’t feel fully flushed out (like going from prison to leadership in the Nation of Islam) and maybe the author would have gotten around to filling in the details. However, the polished parts are good. Early in the book, when author describes a lynching and the verve of the mob, it reenforces how the underpinnings of bias that were swarming back then are still alive today.

Feb 14, 8:51pm

Tender Is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica and translated from the Spanish by Sarah Moses

Some people categorize this novel as horror—which is understandable, and maybe even partially true, but I think that is an oversimplification. Then basic premise is that a worldwide virus has made all animals poisonous to humans, so all animals have to be killed. These leaves a gap in the meat industry, so people turn to dehumanization and cannibalism. Governments allow people to replace cattle with some strict rules in place. The truly horrific parts are not the grisly descriptions of meat processing, but how quickly dehumanization and cannibalism become normalized. Given that way the world is normalizing authoritarianism, I could almost see this happening.

I’m undecided about the final chapter. There are things I’d like to discuss with anyone who has read the book.

The is also a science fiction short story from 1972, “In the Barn” by Piers Anthony, where humans are turned in milk cattle.

Editado: Feb 15, 10:14pm

Dangerous Religious Ideas by Rachael S. Mikva

This examination of how religion—especially Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—should be examined pluralistically with open self- criticism, and the author wants to make the case that the truly dangerous religious ideas are not those of ideological extremism. I’m not sure I really buy into all that, but wish it were true.

Feb 14, 8:51pm

At Night All Blood Is Black by David Diod and translated from the French by Anna Moschovakis

"A Senegalese man who, never before having left his village, finds himself fighting with the French army during World War I." The main reason I picked up this novel was because I’m trying to read and book or an author from all the countries in the world and Senegal hadn’t been covered yet. I only finished the book a week ago, but nothing strong or memorable remains. I guess that’s not a very good recommendation.

Feb 14, 8:52pm

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

I would have enjoyed this novel more if I were more familiar with the great Indian classics like Mahabharata or the Bhagavad Gita as this story could, rather flippantly, the greatest hits from those books retold from a women’s point of view. I guess it would be like reading Ulysses without knowing the The Odyssey; it can be done, but it’s incomplete. As just a novel, it was okay. I have a gigantic omnibus of the India classic on Kindle and I should try to find the time read some of the works there.

Feb 15, 1:30pm

These are all new titles and authors to me and most of these descriptions appeal. Interesting reading.

>41 gsm235:the truly dangerous religious ideas are not those that ferment ideological opposition but those that seed self-growth.

This line caught my attention. Trying to make sense of it.

Editado: Feb 15, 10:17pm

>44 dchaikin: That was just a bad sentence. It made little sense to me and I wrote it.

Feb 16, 4:41am

>40 gsm235: I read Tender is the Flesh last year. I was very ambivalent about the ending. It was very abrupt, with no psychological build-up to it. I feel that exploring the way the protagonist stopped seeing a living being as a "pet" or a semi-peer, and started seeing it as "food" again would have been more interesting. Because for sure, people have close relationships with animals, and then kill them for food, but typically, those relationships are not as close as the one between the main characters. When that happens, they tend to have a special status and are spared. It just looked like the author had to find a way to end her book quickly, before it became too long. I should also state that did not like this novel as a whole: it felt too manipulative...

Feb 17, 1:39pm

>43 gsm235: I read the The Palace of Illusions some ten years ago (and it's my first review on LT if I remember correctly!). I loved this book!
It is fairly unique in Divakaruni's bibliography. The Mistress of Spices is also very good if you've not read it (and much better than the film!), but I also like some of her less known works.

Feb 21, 7:15pm

>46 Dilara86: I agree with you about the ending. I thought there were so many more insteresting directions to go. Just to shut those all down for that ending was something of a disappointment.

Feb 21, 8:54pm

>40 gsm235: Horror does not need to be simplistic and not classifying a book as horror just because it does seem to have tentacles (or follow some other pattern like that) is an oversimplification of the genre. It is horror - a good example of what modern horror is really. Even if the vast majority of the genre is semi-pulpy, that does not kick out the minority - as with any other genres :) And a book can belong to many genres.