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Thread: What book are you currently reading?

  1. #171
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    bloodmuffins mentioned it in an earlier post on this thread. It's definitely something I'd be interested in!

    Against the Grain, I thought that book sounded familiar. I could have sworn someone I knew recommended that years back, and sure enough, it's in my kindle library, but I haven't gotten around to reading it yet. I find that kind of book very interesting. Coastal marshes were also pretty important as a source of salt. I should finally get around to reading it. That fox book sounds like something I might like too.

    I finished reading Steppenwolf yesterday, and also got through Siddhartha, also by Hermann Hesse because I wanted to further contextualize Steppenwolf. I think I will write an essay on it, it's an interesting enough subject in its own right, although the therianthropy angle on it isn't quite as large as I got the impression it might be from the way I have seen people talk about it in the past, but there is something to be said about ripping something violently from its intended context and interpreting it anachronistically on purpose. That is one of my favorite things to do. I'm actually surprised it's gotten as much buzz as it has from therians over the years because it's definitely *not* a book for a casual reader and I think its cultural and historical context is going to be pretty perplexing to your average reader, otherkin or not. I do remember it being talked about even on the old incarnation of the Werewlist, maybe 15 or 16 years ago, back when it was a different website entirely and had that ugly white or cream color scheme. My work schedule is a real pain, I look forward for the summer to end so I can quit and go back to studying full time. Ordinarily I'd be able to write something up in about a day, but with work getting in the way, a week or a little longer is more likely. There's a strange scene in Steppenwolf where the protagonist goes down a dingy alleyway and sees a locked door, and then reflected in a puddle, sees the words "For Madmen Only" written on the wall, and I was hit with inspiration of a parallel with Kafka's The Trial and the priest's parable of the man from the country. It's purely incidental, there is no evidence Hesse had read Kafka at the time, and The Trial was published only after Hesse started writing Steppenwolf, but it's interesting.

    Tonight I'm starting East of Eden by Steinbeck. It's one of the last novels of his that I haven't read. The only remaining one is his unfinished novel about King Arthur. Well, there's one other one. An obscure bit of literary history: the first novel John Steinbeck ever wrote was a... werewolf novel! For some reason, it never ended up being published, I think the publisher maybe rejected it. It's not uncommon that publishers reject the work of a great author before they're famous. He never got around to publishing it even after he had become famous, and his estate today still staunchly refuses to have it published.. for some reason. Disappointing. I'm sure it would be a treat. Steinbeck is easy, but enjoyable reading. He writes on socially conscious themes in a down to earth style accessible to more casual readers, but without adulterating the substance. It's a rare talent, although he goes under appreciated among academic literati for that reason.

  2. #172
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    I recently bought Non-Places: An Introduction to Supermodernity and Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology, and Lost Futures. They were both recommended in a dissertation that I saw on Liminality (specifically in reference to Liminal Spaces). They've both arrived and I've begun reading Non-Places first. I try to withhold having an opinion on a piece of literature until it's finished, but the first couple chapters have already laid an interesting enough foundation. I'll have more to say when I've finished both of them.

    Ordered (h)Auroræ a couple days ago; it'll get here on the 9th. It appears similar in nature to Alchemy: The Poetry of Matter in that these are explorative works which exist for the sake of exploration. For Alchemy, the narrative only serves as a vehicle for experimenting with different methods of thought. It encourages the reader to discover new means of processing information. Although these are intended to be "spiritual" materials, they're a lot lighter on that side of things than other texts from the same publisher(s). Half spirituality, half philosophy. Which, I guess, you already get with a good number of pre-classical texts. Here's to hoping (h)Auroræ is as good of a read.

  3. #173
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    That sounds like an interesting reading list. Some of it pretty different than the kinds of things I usually read, but that’s good. It’s really boring if everyone reads all the same thing.

    That Non-Places book sounds enticing. Verso published… might grab that at some point. I buy from Verso once or twice a year usually, during one of their big sales. I’m one of those stereotypical left wing nerds with a book shelf full of Verso..

    Liminality is one of those philosophical concepts that I’ve seen floating around otherkin spaces for a while, fifteen year maybe, seems quite relevant to shapeshifters.. of course they hardly invented it. It seems to be rather similar to Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of becoming. That’s something I’d like to read and investigate more on in the future.

  4. #174
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    Quote Originally Posted by TopBrass View Post
    I know it’s been a fair bit since your last post in the thread, bloodmuffins, but you might be interested in a book I led last year which touches on the philosophical, economic and psychological workings of capitalism, Capitalism and Desire by Todd McGowan. I found it fairly thought provoking, and it is a pretty accessible book that avoids going into the opaque forest, to the layperson, of psychoanalytic jargon.
    Thanks for the recommendation, that does sound like an interesting book! I've added it to my list of books to check out.

    Quote Originally Posted by cheetah View Post
    Interesting. Where'd you hear about an otherkin book club? I'd like to see their book list.
    Quote Originally Posted by TopBrass View Post
    bloodmuffins mentioned it in an earlier post on this thread. It's definitely something I'd be interested in!
    Yeah, it's on Discord! Here's the tumblr for more info. I actually haven't ended up keeping up with it, unfortunately. The first book they did was The Last Unicorn, and I bought it and was excited to read it but ended up not reading it during the month they did. They're reading something else now that didn't catch my attention quite as much. Books are chosen through users' suggestions and voting in the server. It's fairly active with ongoing chat, and they have text and voice chat events to discuss segments of the books, too. It's a really neat idea.

    Quote Originally Posted by TopBrass View Post
    Tonight I'm starting East of Eden by Steinbeck. It's one of the last novels of his that I haven't read.
    I read East of Eden in high school and really enjoyed it! Can't remember much of anything about it now, but I remember thinking it was good. Hope you enjoy it!

    Lately I've been reading The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk, which is an amazing book on trauma and healing from trauma. I've heard such good things about it and have been meaning to read it for years, and it's exceeding my expectations. It takes such a lovely interdisciplinary, non-stigmatizing approach to trauma. And I love the way the author balances sharing scientific information with sharing his own narrative journey delving into the study of trauma as the field was developing. I've found it so engaging as I reflect on my own life experiences/mental health and also think about it in the context of clinical work as the trauma-informed approach perfectly jives with my thinking about mental health and therapy. I highly recommend the book!

  5. #175
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    Well, I joined the Discord group, so I guess I'll see what this month's book is. Thanks for the link; I didn't see it earlier upthread.

    I'm most of the way through The Wild Places by Robert MacFarlane. It's good--he's got a knack for vivid descriptions of places, and works in discussion of historical and scientific background information in an elegant way that just flows off the page. It reminds me of Craig Child's The Animal Dialogues, actually (which I highly recommend). All of MacFarlane's visits are to places in the United Kingdom, and I've always had a soft spot for that kind of nature writing coming from Europe, because it's good to remember that even in a fairly developed country, these wild, isolated places persist--at least for now.

    Which is the point of MacFarlane's book, really. He notes in the first chapter how many people have announced the death of wilderness in the United Kingdom. I've noticed the same thing happening on a global level in recent years, often in conjunction with how we need to embrace total control of the planet's ecosystems and create a "Good Anthropocene." But from the start he doesn't accept these obituaries, and after traveling Great Britain, he still doesn't, though his perception of what counts as wilderness does expand. Given how pervasive human influence is, it's good to read a book like this. It's a good counternarrative to talk about absolute control and total loss, especially when those narratives can be so tempting for someone to fall into. After all, when the wilderness is gone, who can fault you for not preserving it?

    I'm a little bit jealous of this kind of writing, honestly--I'd like to be able to write that well, in that sort of style.
    Last edited by cheetah; May 27th, 2022 at 04:40 PM.
    "If you are worthy of his affection, a cat will be your friend but never your slave. He keeps his free will though he loves, and will not do for you what he thinks unreasonable; but if he once gives himself to you, it is with absolute confidence and fidelity of affection." -Theophile Gautier

  6. #176
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    That sounds like a book I might be interested in reading. It's interesting in that it what really seems to be at stake is a philosophical question: do humans have the right the organize all life on the planet? If it is not a question of ethical right, then it's just a simple matter of methodology. This was brought up somewhere the other day, but the Soviets had the idea of comprehensively organizing the planet's plant and animal life, they called it the "Great Plan for the Transformation of Nature". It was a huge failure and was abandoned not long after Stalin's death, but it was more of a matter of scientific methodology and implementation that brought about its failure than anything else. No deliberate, mass 'sculpting' of the environment has ever been conceived or attempted before or since, but it brings up the question of whether humans have the right to do it. On the other hand, the notion of some innate balance that is disturbed by human hubris also seems problematic in a way when you consider that, in the larger picture, life itself seems to be a kind of cosmic accident and that anything exists at all seems to be sheer contingency rather than the unfolding of some natural plan.

    The question of right isn't an unimportant one, I've just found that I've generally been unsatisfied by most discussions of it I've seen because they take a whole host of issues as a given when there are many background issues that have to be clarified before you can really address the question of human right over the world.

    Currently finishing up a trilogy of history books on the American side of the Pacific theatre in WW2. It's too bad nobody around here really reads that kind of thing, I'm looking to give them away when I finish them, but so far I haven't found anyone who would actually read them!

    Finished The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa the other day. A very depressing book at times, but in this case it helped me confront some of my own issues that I hadn't really thought much about openly before. I think sometimes we shy away from dealing with negative emotions, but sometimes it can be a purgative and refreshing afterwards. That was the case for me with this book at least.

  7. #177
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    Quote Originally Posted by TopBrass View Post
    That sounds like a book I might be interested in reading. It's interesting in that it what really seems to be at stake is a philosophical question: do humans have the right the organize all life on the planet? If it is not a question of ethical right, then it's just a simple matter of methodology. This was brought up somewhere the other day, but the Soviets had the idea of comprehensively organizing the planet's plant and animal life, they called it the "Great Plan for the Transformation of Nature". It was a huge failure and was abandoned not long after Stalin's death, but it was more of a matter of scientific methodology and implementation that brought about its failure than anything else. No deliberate, mass 'sculpting' of the environment has ever been conceived or attempted before or since, but it brings up the question of whether humans have the right to do it. On the other hand, the notion of some innate balance that is disturbed by human hubris also seems problematic in a way when you consider that, in the larger picture, life itself seems to be a kind of cosmic accident and that anything exists at all seems to be sheer contingency rather than the unfolding of some natural plan.

    The question of right isn't an unimportant one, I've just found that I've generally been unsatisfied by most discussions of it I've seen because they take a whole host of issues as a given when there are many background issues that have to be clarified before you can really address the question of human right over the world.
    And it's not just problematic in a philosophical sense. Scientifically, of course, that balance is--while not totally nonexistent, I'd argue, given the existence of alternative stable states--at most only present in the short-term, and within a fairly broad range.

    The discussions I've seen that touch on the question of "Do humans have the ethical right to organize all life on the planet?" have mostly been journal articles about the fights between "new conservation" and "old conservation." Those fights aren't directly about that question, but they do touch on it. And those articles have been enlightening, but like you say, there are background issues that they don't really delve into. People like Michael E. Soulé will argue against Emma Marris' idea of "rambunctious gardens," and from what I've read I agree with his criticism, but his philosophical treatment of what she says is quite shallow. Given that he was an ecologist, that does make sense, but it's a weakness in the dialogue.

    I'm sure there are writings by philosophers that deal with this question properly; I should make more of a point of seeking them out.

    Quote Originally Posted by TopBrass View Post
    Currently finishing up a trilogy of history books on the American side of the Pacific theatre in WW2. It's too bad nobody around here really reads that kind of thing, I'm looking to give them away when I finish them, but so far I haven't found anyone who would actually read them!
    I don't really read much in the way of history books (I have sometimes, but even then it tends not to be military history, I'm afraid), but I am interested in hearing what their thesis was. Did you like them?
    "If you are worthy of his affection, a cat will be your friend but never your slave. He keeps his free will though he loves, and will not do for you what he thinks unreasonable; but if he once gives himself to you, it is with absolute confidence and fidelity of affection." -Theophile Gautier

  8. #178
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    Quote Originally Posted by cheetah View Post
    And it's not just problematic in a philosophical sense. Scientifically, of course, that balance is--while not totally nonexistent, I'd argue, given the existence of alternative stable states--at most only present in the short-term, and within a fairly broad range.

    The discussions I've seen that touch on the question of "Do humans have the ethical right to organize all life on the planet?" have mostly been journal articles about the fights between "new conservation" and "old conservation." Those fights aren't directly about that question, but they do touch on it. And those articles have been enlightening, but like you say, there are background issues that they don't really delve into. People like Michael E. Soulé will argue against Emma Marris' idea of "rambunctious gardens," and from what I've read I agree with his criticism, but his philosophical treatment of what she says is quite shallow. Given that he was an ecologist, that does make sense, but it's a weakness in the dialogue.

    I'm sure there are writings by philosophers that deal with this question properly; I should make more of a point of seeking them out.

    That's interesting! I'm starting to take these questions much more seriously lately. I know very little about conservation as a discipline, but I would like to learn more.

    On the philosophical side of things, I'm still just kind of getting into these things as well. Nokken seems to have read quite a bit about these issues, but they aren't very present here. One book he recommended I just got finished reading the other day, Feminism and the Mastery of Nature by Val Plumwood. It was a bit outside my normal kind of reading, but I was pleasantly surprised by it. There are certain trends in philosophy that tend to be represented by a sometimes opaque and needlessly roundabout prose style, but that wasn't the case here at all; there was a lot of conceptual rigor. I feel like I am just scratching the surface with it, though. And the problem with a book like this is that it already presupposes an extensive, by the layman's standard, knowledge of philosophy. Unless one is comfortable summarizing the ideas of, say; Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, and Kant; then the book would probably not be understandable.

    I'm at home with that kind of thing, but I don't even know how to begin to introduce it to a novitiate. Most of what I know I learned from just diving in, being completely lost for quite a while, and then picking up most of it through osmosis, although I have read most of Plato's works and Kant's.


    I don't really read much in the way of history books (I have sometimes, but even then it tends not to be military history, I'm afraid), but I am interested in hearing what their thesis was. Did you like them?
    There really wasn't an overriding thesis. When it comes to a military history of the war between the US and Japan, it was so lopsided that there is no big, overarching point for historians to argue about. In just a year or two of war, the US produced more warships than Japan did in the entirety of the 20th century. Japan basically lost the entire war in just one naval battle, and it was the very first big one after Pearl Habor: Midway, in 1942. Everything that came after that was a formality.

    It did bring up something I hadn't heard of. When the Americans liberated the Phillipines in 1944 and started closing in on Manila, the Japanese just decided to exterminate the entire civilian population. Crowds of people were herded into buildings and then it was either dynamited or lit on fire so they didn't have to bother with burying the bodies. Anywhere between 100,000 and 500,000 were killed, in the span of about a month. It's the biggest battlefield atrocity I've ever heard of. I don't think anything the Nazis did even came close to that.

    One of the few things that is still debated is how impactful the nuclear bombs were on the surrender of Japan. In recent years, it's been said that the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, which started a few days before, was the decisive factor. The book does go into detail on the last councils held by the Japanese junta, but it doesn't really shed too much light on it. They knew they were going to lose, and they were inclined to fight to the last man, but also knew that this wouldn't achieve anything and that each day they delayed surrender that the Soviets would gain more and more ground in China. It seems to have been a combination of things and it's hard to just say that any one thing was the straw that broke the camel's back. In the end, it didn't even matter because Mao won the Chinese Civil War anyway, but it has been argued that the Soviet occupation of Manchuria in August 1945 was the decisive factor in that as well. The history of the PRC is something I haven't had time to really get into yet, so it's hard to judge that.

    Overall, I don't think it was really worth my time. Military history is, overall, something either for armchair generals or career officers, and is of only marginal interest to serious scholars of history; that's been my view for a while and this series didn't change that. Social, economic, and political history is where the real substance is found.. military history is downwind of all that 99% of the time.

  9. #179
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    Currently about a third of the way through Scarlet Odyssey. It's pretty good, so far. I like reading speculative fiction written by people from other cultures; in my experience it's been a pretty decent way to see some new perspectives.

    Quote Originally Posted by TopBrass View Post
    That's interesting! I'm starting to take these questions much more seriously lately. I know very little about conservation as a discipline, but I would like to learn more.

    On the philosophical side of things, I'm still just kind of getting into these things as well. Nokken seems to have read quite a bit about these issues, but they aren't very present here. One book he recommended I just got finished reading the other day, Feminism and the Mastery of Nature by Val Plumwood. It was a bit outside my normal kind of reading, but I was pleasantly surprised by it. There are certain trends in philosophy that tend to be represented by a sometimes opaque and needlessly roundabout prose style, but that wasn't the case here at all; there was a lot of conceptual rigor. I feel like I am just scratching the surface with it, though. And the problem with a book like this is that it already presupposes an extensive, by the layman's standard, knowledge of philosophy. Unless one is comfortable summarizing the ideas of, say; Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, and Kant; then the book would probably not be understandable.

    I'm at home with that kind of thing, but I don't even know how to begin to introduce it to a novitiate. Most of what I know I learned from just diving in, being completely lost for quite a while, and then picking up most of it through osmosis, although I have read most of Plato's works and Kant's.
    I recently found and have been reading chapters from Conservation: Integrating Social and Ecological Justice, and that does deal with the question of the right to alter nature. It only does so briefly, by drawing parallels between colonialism and the sort of total human control we're talking about, but it does do it. I do think it's an interesting--and defensible--parallel. As David Johns points out, that level of control over the environment would necessarily be a very violent process, and does involve forcefully reordering a self-willed system according to our preferences. An external group (in this case, industrialized humans) is coming in, and exerting control over every aspect of the society (or, in this case, ecosystem).

    That's a fairly shallow examination of the parallels, to be sure, but I think it's a good jumping off point.

    I'll check out the book Nokken recommended; it looks interesting.

    Quote Originally Posted by TopBrass View Post
    There really wasn't an overriding thesis. When it comes to a military history of the war between the US and Japan, it was so lopsided that there is no big, overarching point for historians to argue about. In just a year or two of war, the US produced more warships than Japan did in the entirety of the 20th century. Japan basically lost the entire war in just one naval battle, and it was the very first big one after Pearl Habor: Midway, in 1942. Everything that came after that was a formality.

    It did bring up something I hadn't heard of. When the Americans liberated the Phillipines in 1944 and started closing in on Manila, the Japanese just decided to exterminate the entire civilian population. Crowds of people were herded into buildings and then it was either dynamited or lit on fire so they didn't have to bother with burying the bodies. Anywhere between 100,000 and 500,000 were killed, in the span of about a month. It's the biggest battlefield atrocity I've ever heard of. I don't think anything the Nazis did even came close to that.
    ... Yeah, I didn't know about the Manila Massacre. That's horrific; it really should be being taught in history classes. Actually, thinking back--I don't think we learned much about the Japanese atrocities in World War II at all. We might've, and I might've forgotten it, I suppose, but I was surprised to learn about the Japanese occupation of Korea as well. We did learn about the Nanjing Massacre.
    "If you are worthy of his affection, a cat will be your friend but never your slave. He keeps his free will though he loves, and will not do for you what he thinks unreasonable; but if he once gives himself to you, it is with absolute confidence and fidelity of affection." -Theophile Gautier

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