What are you currently reading? (part 2)

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby TheStrayCat » 2017-03-14, 18:56

Yasna wrote:So many popular non-fiction books display this tendency. Usually I can find an article written by the author on the given topic which contains pretty much all that needs to be said. It saves a lot of time by just reading the article and skipping the book.

I know what you mean, but in this case I found it definitely worth reading - despite this flaw, it has lots of curious stories and interesting experiments which wouldn't fit into a single article, and the topic itself is interesting to me.
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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-03-18, 20:35

Just finished reading Randidangazhi at long last. It has a happier ending than either my dad or I was expecting. I'm not sure what I'll do next.

My dad suggested that I read Verukal by Malayattoor Ramakrishnan, but I think that's longer than Randidangazhi, so I'm thinking of maybe taking a break from Malayalam novels for a while and maybe reading Zhao Ziyang's autobiography 改革历程 in Traditional Chinese instead. And Malayattoor is kind of an asshole anyway. :P I could read Payyan Kathakal alongside 改革历程. Or I could just read book III of Practical Chinese Reader, idk. :lol: (The latest book I have in that series is book V, which is made up entirely of original short stories, each followed by a vocabulary list entirely in Mandarin Chinese, including pinyin for each new term). Or I could read something else altogether in Malayalam, something totally unexpected like, what was that one book called...Kadalasupookkal by K. M. Mathew, better known by his pen name, Ekalavyan. In the end, I suspect I'll end up reading another Malayalam novel anyway. :silly:

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby linguoboy » 2017-03-25, 14:42

Dispensed with the Russians (I very much enjoyed Lermontov by the end) and for Irish Month picked up William Trevor's The story of Lucy Gault. Very well written and very depressing. First time the death of a spouse in literature has moved me to actual tears. There are a lot of uncomfortable parallels between the situation of the characters and my present life.

My big project now is a fat fantastical novel from (Sorani) Kurdish author Bakhtiyar Ali (Bextyar Elî, بەختیار عەلی). Last year I read an article about an upcoming English translation of his Ghezelnus u Baxekani Xeyal/غەزەلنوس و باغەکانی خەیاڵ under the title I stared at the night of the city and thought to myself, "This is the kind of thing I want to see more of". So even though I wasn't sure when I'd ever get around to reading it, I ordered a copy from the publisher. The US edition was delayed, then delayed again, and finally came out last month.

I'm only up to page 80 but imagination looks to be without a doubt the central theme of the work. Because of the disjointed narrative style (each non-chronologically-ordered chapter deals with a different character), I'm going to have to make sure I keep reading it regularly so I don't lose the thread, but it's enjoyable reading. The characters are larger than life but so far their problems are fairly relatable and I never know from one chapter to the next where Ali is going.
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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-03-26, 23:55

I finally managed to move a bit past quatrain #36 in Mayura Sandesham. I was struggling to memorize so many of those lines just because the author kept randomly throwing in the English word boat. It kept throwing me off because it's the only loanword I've seen so far in the entire poem that doesn't come from Sanskrit. Every now and then, when I was struggling to recall some part of a line, the problem often turned out to be simply that the next word was (some form of) boat!

It's also kind of funny to see white people consistently referred to as Huns. :lol:

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby Yasna » 2017-03-27, 19:54

I finally finished Der Zauberberg. It was the longest book I've ever read at 984 pages, and I think it is starting to show its age. Several long sections of the book consist of two intellectuals having esoteric debates, which wouldn't necessarily be bad except one of those intellectuals is very religious, and premises many of his arguments on the existence of a Christian god. To an atheist these arguments just sound silly and make the debate seem way more lop-sided (and thus boring) than I think it was intended to be. The writing is beautiful, and some of the characters are unforgettable (if for no other reason than I just spent a few months together with them). I'm glad I finally read it, as I've seen the book discussed in places as disparate as a Murakami novel and a book about Romania. I'm finally In The Know.

I then picked up The General of the Dead Army by Kadare, only to discover inside a mention that the book had been translated from the French version, which had been translated from the Albanian original. That destroyed all hope I had of reading a book close to the original, so I returned it to the bookshelf. I'll have to hunt down a translation from the original (no, I'm never going to learn Albanian).

Instead I'm now reading a collection of short stories by Sayuri Ueda called 魚舟・獣舟. The eponymous story is about a future society where rising sea levels have submerged most land, and some humans have been genetically modified to be better adapted to life at sea. The relationship between the new species and the original humans is quite complicated.
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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-04-14, 19:51

I had memorized Mayura Sandesham up to (and including) quatrain #38. It feels difficult for me to test my memory of so many quatrains in one sitting even though I'm nowhere close to halfway through the poem. I always wonder how I'll get any further even though I always have so far.

Meanwhile, I've started I just finished writing the introduction for the last chapter of my grandfather's diary. (It was hard to get started tbh). It's about my grandfather being kept in Jhikargacha, which he describes as a village. Jhikargacha is located in what is now Bangladesh near the town of Jessore. This is a video report in Bengali of what I think is a flower garden there. I think it should give you an accurate picture of what it looked like even back then:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REtIOl_gnq0
Some of my co-workers are pretty interested in this diary. Yesterday afternoon, I spent most of my lunchtime talking about it with one of the newer hires.

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby linguoboy » 2017-04-14, 20:23

I finished the Kurdish novel. My interest did slacken a bit about two-thirds of the way in once all the protagonists have been revealed and their conversations begin to get slightly repetitive, but then the plot took hold and carried me through. Really a lovely novel with unusual and memorable characters and a skilled blending of realistic and fantastical elements. It's very interesting to see the perspective of an Iraqi writing about local politics for a local audience while the universal themes keep it from getting mired in minutiae.

During the brief lull in reading Ali, I put away a short novel by Pakistani author and translator Musharraf Ali Farooqi. Called Between clay and dust, it's fable-like in its simplicity, telling the story of an aging pehlawan and tawaif in post-Partition Lahore. Though I found it genuinely moving, I was disappointed by how spare the prose was. It felt more like a study for a novel than a fully-realised piece of fiction.

Now I'm reading The fifth head of Cerberus, a collection of three linked novellas by American science fiction writer Gene Wolfe. I remember reading The death of Dr Island as a tween and being equal parts excited, baffled, and disturbed by it. My understanding of adult themes has come a long way since then, but I still find him baffling and disturbing.

And hoping to find something of the magic of Ali's work, I started a fat novel by Indonesian author Eka Kurniawan. I was laughing out loud on the train reading the first chapter.
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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-04-14, 20:39

linguoboy wrote:Called Between clay and dust, it's fable-like in its simplicity, telling the story of an aging pehlawan and tawaif in post-Partition Lahore.

A wrestler and...courtesan?? :hmm:
And hoping to find something of the magic of Ali's work, I started a fat novel by Indonesian author Eka Kurniawan. I was laughing out loud on the train reading the first chapter.

Cantik Itu Luka (Beauty is a Wound)?

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby linguoboy » 2017-04-14, 21:41

vijayjohn wrote:
linguoboy wrote:Called Between clay and dust, it's fable-like in its simplicity, telling the story of an aging pehlawan and tawaif in post-Partition Lahore.

A wrestler and...courtesan?? :hmm:

Précisement.

vijayjohn wrote:
And hoping to find something of the magic of Ali's work, I started a fat novel by Indonesian author Eka Kurniawan. I was laughing out loud on the train reading the first chapter.

Cantik Itu Luka (Beauty is a Wound)?

Oh right, I forgot to give the name! (I went to check the Wikipedia article so I could give the original title as usual and ended up editing it and forgetting what I went there for in the first place.)

I read Man Tiger (Lelaki Harimau) last year and really enjoyed it. Beauty is a wound is one of the last books my late husband ordered before he went into the hospital, so neither of us has had a chance to read it yet.
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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-04-14, 22:07

linguoboy wrote:
vijayjohn wrote:
linguoboy wrote:Called Between clay and dust, it's fable-like in its simplicity, telling the story of an aging pehlawan and tawaif in post-Partition Lahore.

A wrestler and...courtesan?? :hmm:

Précisement.

How interesting! How does this pehlawan and tawaif self-identify in terms of gender?

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby linguoboy » 2017-04-14, 22:11

vijayjohn wrote:
linguoboy wrote:
vijayjohn wrote:
linguoboy wrote:Called Between clay and dust, it's fable-like in its simplicity, telling the story of an aging pehlawan and tawaif in post-Partition Lahore.

A wrestler and...courtesan?? :hmm:

Précisement.

How interesting! How does this pehlawan and tawaif self-identify in terms of gender?

Ha!

Would it have been less confusing if I had written "an aging pehlawan and an aging tawaif"? (These are two different characters.)
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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-04-14, 22:24

:rotfl: I don't know why I didn't think of that. Yeah, that makes a lot more sense than what I was thinking, thanks! :lol:

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby linguoboy » 2017-04-25, 14:51

I'm a bit more than halfway through Beauty is a wound and I have to say that when I started it I had no idea it would be so...rapey. I mean, I knew that it had a prostitute as its protagonist and I knew that it traversed some pretty horrible times in Indonesia's history (e.g. WWII, the war of independence, the 1965 coup and anti-Communist massacres) but I didn't think he would spend quite so much of the book describing violence toward women. It seems deeply problematic to me, yet most reviews hardly even touch on it. It would be really useful to find a good critical discussion somewhere.

In the meantime, I keep buying more books (and--for a change--more new books) and not committing to any of them. To balance out the Eka Kurniawan, I just ordered a copy of Lily Yulianti Farid's translated short story collection Family room. I would really like to see some of the same issues he deals with tackled from a female perspective, but that won't be here for a week.
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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-04-26, 5:05

I managed to recall from memory everything except most of the very last line out of the first 38 quatrains of Mayura Sandesham this morning and have started reading quatrains 39-40 (but haven't really started trying to memorize them yet). In this part of the poem, the author warns the peacock about the dangers of being around white men, particularly the Resident of Travancore.

And of course, I have still been working on my grandfather's diary. I think the part I'm working on now may require some reorganization to make sense chronologically, though.

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby Yasna » 2017-05-06, 5:47

I finished reading 魚舟・獣舟. The novella 小鳥の墓 (The Little Bird's Grave) contained in the collection was one of the darkest things I've ever read, about a guy who started assisting in the suicides of young women, driven by the suffering of his depressive mother who was unable to kill herself. Overall the stories were very solid and imaginative SF, but a little dark for my taste.

I also finished The Vital Question, which was one of the best science books I've ever read. It covers our newest understanding of the conditions in which life arose. It's a must read for anyone interested in the origin of life.

Now I'm reading To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf.
Ein Buch muß die Axt sein für das gefrorene Meer in uns. - Kafka

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-05-06, 7:08

I started trying to memorize quatrains 39-40 but have been abandoning Mayura Sandesham for most of the week now. On the other hand, I've been making great progress with my grandfather's diary! I translated two entire paragraphs just today (normally, I only translate one in a week). There are only eight paragraphs left.

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby linguoboy » 2017-05-11, 22:37

So I did start that Ulitskaya I mentioned earlier after all. I've been making decent progress, but it's been hampered somewhat by the heaviness of the material and the annoyances of her style.

Stalin's Russia is not a happy place to read about, but it's not a boring one either. Ulitskaya is a good writer and she has a knack for characterisation. The problem is that she lets that get away from her sometimes. I feel like too often it comes at the expense of forward momentum. Her digression on the picaresque survival of an intellectual with terrible instincts was defensible because it helps explains the career-saving decisions made by the protagonist in the next section. But when she brings the narrative to a complete halt to give me twenty pages of backstory on a minor character who is leaving the narrative, it just makes me roll my eyes and say, "There she goes again!"

This is the reason why I ultimately found Medea and her children (Медея и ее дети) unsatisfying. There was no real arc, either thematically or in terms of plot, just a bundle of interconnected character sketches. I only agreed to read this novel because I was told it doesn't have those flaws--though that is apparently primarily true of the later sections, which I haven't gotten to next.

So as palate-cleanser, I've been toting around Wladimir Kaminer's Russendisko. It's his first book of stories (and his only available in English so far), which explains why it feels somewhat less assured than Schönhauser Allee. I like that it fills in some background on the main characters of that work, however, and guides me through some of the twists and turns of the immigrant experience at the time of the Wende. It's also good to be reading something in German again (as annoying as it is to see a fellow L2 speaker with better diction and grammar than I'll ever manage).

My nighttime reading is I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more by Ethan Mordden. It's an odd thing to revisit a book that had a significant impact on your life choices thirty years ago, so I think I'll just limit myself to saying that the stories hold up better than I might have feared. Some turns of phrase have me laughing out loud and the references are so much more meaningful due to all the high culture I've consumed in the meantime. I guess I've gone some ways to becoming the kind of gay man this book made me want to be.
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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby TheStrayCat » 2017-05-12, 16:26

linguoboy wrote:So I did start that Ulitskaya I mentioned earlier after all. I've been making decent progress, but it's been hampered somewhat by the heaviness of the material and the annoyances of her style.

Stalin's Russia is not a happy place to read about, but it's not a boring one either. Ulitskaya is a good writer and she has a knack for characterisation. The problem is that she lets that get away from her sometimes. I feel like too often it comes at the expense of forward momentum. Her digression on the picaresque survival of an intellectual with terrible instincts was defensible because it helps explains the career-saving decisions made by the protagonist in the next section. But when she brings the narrative to a complete halt to give me twenty pages of backstory on a minor character who is leaving the narrative, it just makes me roll my eyes and say, "There she goes again!"


I remember trying to read her "Green Tent" ("Зелёный шатёр") about four years ago by my mom's recommendation. The first part was very interesting and insightful, and even sentimental at times, but I gave up on the book in the middle for the same reasons - too many descriptions and unnecessary plot lines which made it hard for me to keep a clear picture of what was going on.
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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby md0 » 2017-05-18, 9:33

Academic literature is literature, right? :)

I started Gender, language and the periphery : grammatical and social gender from the margins, after this thread made me want to find a common ground between feminism and linguistics.
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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby plengfruit » 2017-05-18, 12:02

So I'm rereading Neil Gaiman's "Neverwhere", oddly enough it's the first time I read it in English. Last I did was in Polish, back in 2006 I think. It aged well.
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