What are you currently reading? (part 2)

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

Postby linguoboy » 2020-03-30, 15:58

I feel like I should be getting much more reading done than I am. I did manage to get through Oliver Sacks' autobiography, On the move, which was a really good read. He had a nimble mind and was an incredibly prolific writer. The book discusses all of his major published works plus several more which never made it to press because of one mishap or another. It's sort of amazing to realise there are entire manuscripts of his out there which could yet be rediscovered and published posthumously.

I still haven't finished Un nos ola leuad, though the end is in view; I'm down to just about 40 pages. I think I'm averaging about 5/day, so that's another week of reading unless I have a sustained push in me. Sometimes the going feels easy and sometimes I stumble over words I have no excuse for not knowing. I have a feeling that narrative is about to take a turn for the worse.

I started El amor en los tiempos de cólera and quickly made it about a hundred pages in before stalling. I just don't have a lot of patience for these intense adolescent infatuations which pass for great romances. (Opera is lousy with them.) García Márquez has a terrific facility with language and a wicked sense of humour, so I still think it's worth reading, but maybe after I'm done with the Welsh.

As a palate-cleanser, I read Emma Donoghue's The wonder, which was enjoyable but felt pretty light compared to her Room. (Of course, nearly anything would have.) The ending is literally escapist, but maybe that's not such a terrible thing these times. I also have some short stories I've been reading in English, including a volume of Primo Levi's. A mixed bag, as you'd expect, but fine for falling asleep to.
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons

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

Postby Yasna » 2020-04-25, 22:19

I finished The Federalist Papers, which was eye-opening. The country had constitutional concerns that were at times radically different from those of today. For example, one of the biggest concerns was whether the US would in fact be too large to be successfully governed as a republic.

I'm now reading a collection of short stories with parallel text called Garde à vue/ In Gewahrsam to prepare me for reading La peste by Camus.

linguoboy wrote:I started El amor en los tiempos de cólera and quickly made it about a hundred pages in before stalling. I just don't have a lot of patience for these intense adolescent infatuations which pass for great romances. (Opera is lousy with them.) García Márquez has a terrific facility with language and a wicked sense of humour, so I still think it's worth reading, but maybe after I'm done with the Welsh.

That's on my pandemic reading list as well.
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 linguoboy » 2020-04-26, 1:39

Yasna wrote:
linguoboy wrote:I started El amor en los tiempos de cólera and quickly made it about a hundred pages in before stalling.

That's on my pandemic reading list as well.

JFYI, you'll have to read at least 150 pages before there's any mention of cholera.

I wish my concentration were better. I keep getting frustrated, setting it down, and picking up some lesser work that I can speed through much more easily. That's how I ended up reading two disappointing novels in the past week, Bharati Mukherjee's The holder of the world and Perihan Mağden's Ali and Ramazan.

The former felt like sort of a bait-and-switch. The blurb promises elements of scifi, but they're only nominal; what it really is a work of historical fiction, bordering on historical fantasy. (Nothing truly supernatural happens, but there are lots of contrivances, coincidences, and overblown descriptions. Not to mention that the principal setting is a completely invented Indian kingdom.) It reads strangely like fan fiction. The main character is an improbable heroine with connexions to both Nathaniel Hawthorne and the Mughals. I didn't hate it, but I didn't take any time to savour it either.

The latter I summed up as "breathless homophobic tragedy porn". Mağden says the inspiration came from "a line in the newspaper" and, honestly, for all the time she spends describing them and their situation, her characters don't register much more deeply than that. Despite all the grittiness (and named Istanbul locales), the narrative doesn't feel especially grounded in reality. You know from the start things are going to end badly and it's not all that interesting getting there. And the constant railing against "queers" probably accurately reflects mainstream Turkish homophobia and is consistent with the principals' fucked-up upbringing, but it gets pretty tiresome. I have a gay friend who loves to read who I've given some fairly mediocre titles and I wouldn't give him this.

On the plus side, I did finally finish Un nos ola leuad. After all that effort, the conclusion felt a bit disappointing, but I have no regrets about reading the book. In more than 30 years of studying the language, it's only the second Welsh-language novel I've read to the end, and the other one was abridged for learners. I'm keen to read some others but I'm taking a bit of a breather while I try to focus on the García Márquez.
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons

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

Postby linguoboy » 2020-05-18, 20:20

García Márquez is still on hiatus. Turns out I'm just not that into descriptions of adolescent sexual experiences, even colourful and humourous ones.

I'm not sure where I got the notion to read Olga Tokarczuk, but I'm glad I did. I picked up the English translation of her 1998 novel Dom dzienny, dom nocny (House of day, house of night) at a booksale at work a few years ago and it's been collecting dust. But between her Nobel and a friend's recommendation (plus a short story I read in a collection), I thought it was worth giving her a shot. I wasn't wrong.

"Novel" is really an odd description of her work. There's no single unifying narrative to House, just a unifying narrator. More than that, it's the locale--Nowa Ruda in Upper Silesia and parts nearby--that gathers the different strands together. It's a loose weave and I'd probably have to read it a couple more times to really tease out the interrelationships. Her prose (at least in Lloyd-Jones' translation) really flows well and she has a wonderful imagination. I'm now really interested in reading her other books.

First, though, I've picked up Slumberland. Paul Beatty's gotten a lot of attention for The sellout, which won the Man Booker in 2016, but it's Slumberland, which is set in Berlin right around the time of my first visit there, that spoke to me more. The man can certainly write. Sometimes he gets a bit too carried away with his technical brilliance and I end up needing a bit of a break, but more often he sweeps me along. At times, it's difficult to tell where his savagely satirical descriptions give way to flights of fancy. Halfway through and I'm not sure yet where he's going, but it's an interesting ride.
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons

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

Postby TheStrayCat » 2020-06-06, 13:46

I am reading Referendum for Murder by Mickey Polansky, which I bought at a street sale for a dollar a few months ago. It is easy to read and has a pretty exciting plot as for an apparently amateur author, but the amount of orthographic and punctuation errors I keep finding in the book is truly disappointing.

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

Postby Yasna » 2020-06-17, 20:33

I finished reading 黑暗森林 (The Dark Forest), which blew me away. The imagination and execution are as good as any I've ever seen. The first book in the series had a number of flaws, such as a plodding flashback to the cultural revolution, but I'm so glad I kept going with the series. Looking forward to reading the third part.

I'm now reading Geschichte der Ostsee: Handel und Kulturen by Michael North.
Ein Buch muß die Axt sein für das gefrorene Meer in uns. - Kafka


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