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Thread: What book are you currently reading?

  1. #151

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    It's really odd when you come across something, and then suddenly it starts appearing everywhere. A few days ago, I considered getting a box set of Frank Herbert's Dune books in the near future, and then a day later a friend of mine randomly said something about wanting to read Dune. And now it's mentioned here, too.

    Finished Cormac McCarthy's The Road, Thomas Bernhard's Woodcutters, Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago, Albert Camus' A Happy Death, and a collection of stories by Anton Chekhov in the past two weeks. Also got about halfway through Hugo's Les Misérables.

    I've found that, generally, works that are considered great usually are, but not always. Les Mis is one of those that has disappointed me. I can't help but compare it with Tolstoy and his book, War and Peace. Both are gargantuanly long(Les Mis is ~1400 pages while War and Peace is ~2100), both were written in the 1860's, both are set in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars, and both are national epics.

    Just about everything that Tolstoy gets right, Hugo fails at miserably, at least from a literary standpoint. Les Mis is plauged by incessant digressions, which can go on sometimes for upwards of 100 pages that have little to no relevance to the story. At one point, Hugo writes a nearly hundred page long rendition of the Battle of Waterloo only to say in the very last sentence of the last page that one of the characters of the novel was present. In another, he rambles on for dozens of pages about the history and theological niceties of a particular order of nuns because the protagonist spent the night in a crypt hiding from the cops in a cemetery owned by the order. His digressions mostly center on philosophy, theology, politics, history, and the philosophy of history. These are also all things that Tolstoy incorporates into War and Peace, but unlike that book, Hugo's digressions in Les Mis are very forced and arbitrary and aren't organically woven into the cadence of the novel. They are distracting, overly long, and wearisome.

    There's no doubt that Victor Hugo was a supremely intelligent and knowledgeable man, but a good novel is more than the sum of its components. It's just not a great work of literature, in my view. It may be a great book, but not a great piece of art, not a great piece of literature. That's how I see it, at least. The abridged version, which is about half the length of the unedited book(700 pages), is probably more enjoyable.

    Woodcutters was my first Bernhard novel. A friend recommended the author to me, and I have to say, it's had a tremendous resonance with me. It's a book I can see myself re-reading every year or two. I've seen someone describe Bernhard as "the Shakespeare of the grumps". I don't know about that, but he's definitely made it to my top ten authors, perhaps top five. It's bleak stuff, but I also think there is humor in it from a certain point of view.

  2. #152
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    I think Dune is on everyone’s mind because of the movie coming out next month! I’ve been meaning to read it for a year or two, since my friend recommended it, but the movie release has spurred me to action. I did the same when Cloud Atlas came out - my dad had been recommending that one for a long time and I rushed through that and a re-read of Life of Pi in time for both films to come out.

    I’ve been wanting to read The Road! I swear I have a copy somewhere that someone left behind in a trailer I lived in for work some years back… A couple different people have told me they read that book when they were stationed somewhere kind of isolated and that it was the most depressing experience! I can dig it.

  3. #153

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kisota View Post
    I think Dune is on everyone’s mind because of the movie coming out next month! I’ve been meaning to read it for a year or two, since my friend recommended it, but the movie release has spurred me to action. I did the same when Cloud Atlas came out - my dad had been recommending that one for a long time and I rushed through that and a re-read of Life of Pi in time for both films to come out.

    I’ve been wanting to read The Road! I swear I have a copy somewhere that someone left behind in a trailer I lived in for work some years back… A couple different people have told me they read that book when they were stationed somewhere kind of isolated and that it was the most depressing experience! I can dig it.
    The Road is bleak, but at the same time it's also a book about life and hope.

    This is one of my favorite passages in the book, one of the very few dialogues that aren't between the nameless father and his son:


    You cant go with us, you know, the man said.

    He nodded.

    How long have you been on the road?

    I was always on the road. You cant stay in one place.

    How do you live?

    I just keep going. I knew this was coming.

    You knew it was coming?

    Yeah. This or something like it. I always believed in it.

    Did you try to get ready for it?

    No. What would you do?

    I dont know.

    People were always getting ready for tomorrow. I didnt believe in that. Tomorrow wasnt getting ready for them. It didnt even know they were there.

    I guess not.

    Even if you knew what to do you wouldnt know what to do. You wouldnt know if you wanted to do it or not. Suppose you were the last one left? Suppose you did that to yourself?

    Do you wish you would die?

    No. But I might wish I had died. When you’re alive you’ve always got that ahead of you.

    Or you might wish you’d never been born.

    Well. Beggars cant be choosers.

    You think that would be asking too much.

    What’s done is done. Anyway, it’s foolish to ask for luxuries in times like these.

    I guess so.

    Nobody wants to be here and nobody wants to leave. He lifted his head and looked across the fire at the boy. Then he looked at the man. The man could see his small eyes watching him in the firelight. God knows what those eyes saw. He got up to pile more wood on the fire and he raked the coals back from the dead leaves. The red sparks rose in a shudder and died in the blackness overhead. The old man drank the last of his coffee and set the bowl before him and leaned toward the heat with his hands out. The man watched him. How would you know if you were the last man on earth? he said.

    I dont guess you would know it. You’d just be it.

    Nobody would know it.

    It wouldnt make any difference. When you die it’s the same as if everybody else did too.

    I guess God would know it. Is that it?

    There is no God.

    No?

    There is no God and we are his prophets.



    The issue is that death is inevitable and there is no transcendental guarantee of the meaning or significance of our actions. The backdrop of the apocalypse just makes for a more poetic exposition of these real life issues. Why live at all? Why bother with anything if we'll all eventually die without any kind of guarantee of an afterlife and in ten thousand, a million, or a billion years it will be as if we never existed? McCarthy doesn't shy away from those questions, but the response he makes is surprisingly upbeat. His answer isn't resignation or submission, but he just doesn't pull any punches and portrays the situation as it is.

    His prose is really great. It's simple, yet elegant. I've never really been a fan of Hemingway, who is renowned for his concise and simple style, but McCarthy does it for me and I think he succeeds in pulling off what Hemingway couldn't quite achieve(in my view at least). He's definitely one of the very few, truly great living American authors.

    Definitely recommend giving it a try one day! Both times I've read it, it was in a single sitting. McCarthy's physical description of the post-apocalyptic landscape is a lot of fun, if you're into that kind of thing, too.

  4. #154
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    Hey. One of my favourite authors.

    McCormac's The Crossing ends as such:

    After a while he sat in the road. He took off his hat and placed it on the tarmac before him and he bowed his head and held his face in his hands and wept. He sat there for a long time and after a while the east did gray and after a while the right and godmade sun did rise, once again, for all and without distinction.
    If you think that's harsh, then who better to write about the harsh lives of wild wolves?

    I've known several wolf people who I suspect saw themselves in that particular work about a cowboy kid's doomed attempt to carry a wild wolf across the Mexican border into safety. Wish I had a paper copy. He phrased the wolf's passing excellently. As only he could. Found it! This is about the death of a wolf. Enjoy. Paragraph breaks my own:

    The eye turned to the fire gave back no light and he closed it with his thumb and sat by her and put his hand upon her bloodied forehead and closed his own eyes that he could see her running in the mountains, running in the starlight where the grass was wet and the sun's coming as yet had not undone the rich matrix of creatures passed in the night before her.

    Deer and hare and dove and groundvole all richly empaneled on the air for her delight, all nations of the possible world ordained by God of which she was one among and not separate from. Where she ran the cries of the coyotes clapped shut as if a door had closed upon them and all was fear and marvel.

    He took up her stiff head out of the leaves and held it or he reached to hold what cannot be held, what already ran among the mountains at once terrible and of great beauty, like flowers that feed on flesh. What blood and bone are made of but can themselves not make on any altar nor by any wound of war.

    What we may well believe has power to cut and shape and hollow out the dark form of the world surely if wind can, if rain can. But which cannot be held never be held and is no flower but is swift and a huntress and the wind itself is in terror of it and the world cannot lose it.
    Yes. This is good. This is delightful. Shiversome.

    Likewise, I loved The Road as a book, intoxicating and lovely and disturbing in all the right ways.
    Last edited by Coyote Jones; September 13th, 2021 at 02:42 PM.

  5. #155
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    Oh, that’s beautiful. I remember in high school starting to read All the Pretty Horses as my own pick for a novel in class. It didn’t grab me, and after having grammatical and punctuation rules drilled into me, I found the lack of quotation marks distracting.

    I wish I’d stuck with it! Though I did read some other great books for that class.

    My dad swears Blood Meridian is amazing too.

  6. #156
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kisota View Post
    My dad swears Blood Meridian is amazing too.
    Heh... it isn't for the faint of heart. Making a movie based on the book would be nearly impossible. Relentless and senseless deaths. It can be hard to follow the Spanish conversations, especially as they're written without quotation marks. If I didn't have aphantasia, if I could picture things in my head, the novel might have felt more vivid and gripping. Too many characters, too much to have to force myself to remember.

    But it's quite a renowned book. Recommended if you can handle the brutality. (I'm a horror fan. It doesn't faze me.)

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