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    Originally posted by Satchmo Distel View Post
    Sam, I'd welcome your detailed thoughts on Jazz.
    Satchmo, in light of the recent discussion on how we don't do enough threads in Books, I've done a new thread for my thoughts.

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      Finished The Midnight Library last night, and very good it is too. Have now started Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.

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        I forgot to take my newspaper with me on Saturday on a short weekend trip to Cologne, so I bought The Weekend by Charlotte Wood at the station, which is about three quibbling old Australian female pensioners and an almost dead dog clearing out a dead friend's house. Devoured it in a couple of days - superb writing.

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          David Park-Travelling In A Strange Land. Slight literary meditative tale of narrator seeking redemption for family loss which held attention without offering anything but a predictable narrative or conclusion. The strange land is a reference to car journey from Belfast to Sunderland.With lots of snow.

          Lauren Oyler-Fake Accounts. A slog from start to finish. Somewhere in there is a story that piques interest. Facile media obsessed girl chances upon fact her boyfriend is running a conspiracy theory website. Contrary to everything she thinks she knows about him. Without spoilers this is never developed. Nor is the story or narrative. Guess it is a satire on 21 century mass media and need to engage every aspect of life through it. Being 59 years of age am probably not the target audience. Last couple of pages werent too bad but not enough to salvage it. But at least finished it.

          Rock Me On The Water-Ronald Brownstein. 12 calendar months in 1974 Los Angeles with central premise being a one off cultural domination of the city which bridges the failure of the 1960s ideals with the forthcoming shift in 1980s US society. So TV represented with Saturday night lineup of All In Family (Till Death Us Do Part imported) Mary Tyler Moore & MASH. Cinema with Chinatown & Shampoo. Music with Eagles Ronstadt & Jackson Browne. Politics with Jerry Brown & Jane Fonda. All of these are presented as massive radical shifts in US consensus of what was previously popular. Personally not a subject of which have contemporary familiarity so as work of history it was interesting. Even if never going to make me listen any more closely to the musical acts than have previously.

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            I am currently entranced by Eleanor Henderson's novel Twelve-Mile Straight.

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              Currently reading "Blood and Guts in High School" by Kathy Acker. I've always been aware of Kathy Acker, especially around the early 90s and actually hear her read at the Scala way back when. But I haven't read anything of hers, until today, when I got through half the book this afternoon (it's pretty short).

              It's alright, I can't understand how you are supposed to know the protagonist is 10 years old and that her father is her real father and not a sugar daddy type figure. I only found out after reading a bit more into it this evening. I've read she had a hard time getting it published. but I can't understand how it could possibly be published unless Acker was quite a name by the time of its publication, which I guess she probably was. How you could possibly read the first 20 pages and thing "this is a total post-modern classic, it's a feminist punk masterpiece" is beyond my comprehension. It's totally readable, far better than my dabble with William Burroughs last summer, but I struggle to find greatness in it.

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                Nearing the final act of Rebecca now, and I know this isn't the most earth-moving statement in the history of literary criticism but it really is a belting novel. A lot of the first third feels rather slow but then the first big revelation is made and you realise loads of what you've read until that point wasn't as it had seemed. Later, the 'mystery' is introduced almost in the same moment it's solved, in a way, but the tension doesn't ramp down at all once that's happened. Oh, and if you happen to read the pivotal couple of chapters by torchlight* in the middle of the night while there's a howling gale outside it really adds to it. Doubt I'll finish it tonight, given how late it now is, but then there's a good chance I'll just be unable to put it down and plough right through ...

                *OK, by the light of your phone screen. Same difference but sounds less romantic.

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                  I also love Rebecca, and just about everything else by Daphne du Maurier. It wasn't long ago that I read one of her short story collections, the one where The Birds is the title story. All the stories in it are superb, with Kiss Me Again, Stranger perhaps the best of all.

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                    Originally posted by steveeeeeeeee View Post
                    Currently reading "Blood and Guts in High School" by Kathy Acker. I've always been aware of Kathy Acker, especially around the early 90s and actually hear her read at the Scala way back when. But I haven't read anything of hers, until today, when I got through half the book this afternoon (it's pretty short).

                    It's alright, I can't understand how you are supposed to know the protagonist is 10 years old and that her father is her real father and not a sugar daddy type figure. I only found out after reading a bit more into it this evening. I've read she had a hard time getting it published. but I can't understand how it could possibly be published unless Acker was quite a name by the time of its publication, which I guess she probably was. How you could possibly read the first 20 pages and thing "this is a total post-modern classic, it's a feminist punk masterpiece" is beyond my comprehension. It's totally readable, far better than my dabble with William Burroughs last summer, but I struggle to find greatness in it.
                    I took this with me on a camping holiday in Scotland in 1985, famously the wettest Scottish summer since 1897. The longer the holiday went on, the wetter and more battered the book became, pretty much like me and the two mates I was with. This gave me a good excuse to chuck it out when I got home, half-read and under-appreciated. In short: unreadable shite. 20-year-old male was possibly the wrong market.

                    I remember it as being a pretty thick volume - it was a Picador edition. Maybe they put a proper editor on it and reduced the text and illustrations by three-quarters, which was the very least it needed.

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                      Quite enjoyed the high school part with The Scorpions, but has been a massive struggle from the story of the bear, monster and beaver onwards. The Kindle version is short, hopefully finish it and get it out of the way by tomorrow. Reminds me quite a lot of Breakfast of Champions, without the wit.

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                        Finished Rebecca earlier this afternoon. Have just finished reading the afterword (my edition, bought on my Kindle, is a tie-in with the recent Netflix film and I actually wanted to read it partly because, having always been curious about the book, I want to watch said film so thought I'd better get it read at last first), and am surprised but not surprised to find that it wasn't particularly well regarded critically on its release. It's really good, but there's so much about the form of it that obviously either went over the heads or offended the sensibilities of people reviewing books for newspapers in the late 1930s. If we overlook the fact that it takes place in an English country house with live-in staff, it's a novel that feels remarkably up to date with a lot of conversations that have gone on over the last few years.

                        I've got an hour or two of work to do now, so a gap between books. Will have to work out when I go to bed what to 'pick up' (select from my home screen) next.

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                          Classic book, like you I came to it late and devoured it. The Netflix film is an absolute clunker, though - seriously, don't bother.

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                            I had a feeling it might be. We're both suckers for anything gothic and wrapped in mystery though, so will probably still watch it to be honest with you. From what I've read about the changes made in the Hitchcock version (due to it having been made in the Code era – something the writer of the afterword I read last night didn't seem aware of) that sounds like it'd be a bit pants as well.

                            I am now reading Leonard and Hungry Paul by Rónán Hession. Glad we're on the new board with its fancy diacritics now!

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                              Well, if you enjoy laughing at really crap movies then you might get something out of it.

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                                I'm currently reading Dr. Kate Lister's 'A Curious History of Sex', which is as well as being a laugh-riot, is informative and occasionally gruesome. You can follow her Whores of Yore research project here https://www.thewhoresofyore.com/about.html or on twitter https://twitter.com/WhoresofYore

                                Bought Dr. Alice Bell's history of climate change yesterday 'Our Biggest Experiment' which I look forward to reading, as well as Juliet Jacques' book of short stories, 'Variations'.

                                The book i've most enjoyed this year was Ann Petry's 'The Street'. There's a good article about it here https://www.theguardian.com/books/20...uge-bestseller

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                                  A few non-fiction pieces I have enjoyed lately.

                                  1) Charles Freeman's A New History of Early Christianity. The first 200 pages or so is a really interesting story (with lots of philological detective work) on how the Jesus sect came to have a set of canonical texts and a hierarchical format. Last 100 pages or so is about what happened after Constantine, which I find less interesting, but still overall a good and accessible work.

                                  2) Alan Taylor's American Republics. Taylor writes from a continental perspective, which really changes the way you think about American history. So it's American history 1783-1850, but framed in a way that includes Quebec, Mexico, the "pays en haut" of the First Nations, the Caribbean and above all, Haiti. Great stuff.

                                  3) Michael McDonnell's Masters of Empire, which is about the Anishnaabe Indians and particularly those of the Odawa tribe which lived around the Sault (where Lakes Huron, Michigan and Superior meet), and the way they spent the 17th through 19th centuries playing off different colonizing nations (France, Britain, Spain America) off against one another.

                                  4) Michaela Wrong's Do Not Disturb, about the RPA, Rwanda and the Kagame regime. It is not her best work - I Didn't Do it For You (Eritrea) and It's Our Turn to Eat (Kenya) were both significantly better books, if you ask me. But still excellent.

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                                    Originally posted by Anton Gramscescu View Post
                                    4) Michaela Wrong's Do Not Disturb, about the RPA, Rwanda and the Kagame regime. It is not her best work - I Didn't Do it For You (Eritrea) and It's Our Turn to Eat (Kenya) were both significantly better books, if you ask me. But still excellent.
                                    Thanks for the tip - didn't realise this was out, or that she's done a book about Eritrea. It's Our Turn to Eat and In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz were both fantastic books.

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                                      The Eritrea book is at least 15 years old now, maybe 20 (I read it the same month i joined OTF, now that I think about it). But still brilliant. My favourite of hers.

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                                        I've ordered them both. I also noticed she's published a novel embracing African politics.

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                                          A Demon Haunted Land-Monica Blake. Have read a few books on Germany in immediate aftermath of 1945 but this offers new take. Premise is that the defeat displacement & disorientation of war and Allied occupation provoked an upsurge in salvation and relief through sudden emergence of spiritual healers. And accusations of witchcraft. Served to act as distraction from both the guilt of belief in the Nazi support and vindication of settling scores endured during the same period. The eventual foundation of the Federal Republic and its subsequent development ultimately overrides the cult celebrities of the immediate post war period though the author keeps an open mind on their credibility without recourse to accusations of charlatan or fakery.

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                                            Ale: What did you make of her thesis? I wanted to like that book, and there are some aspects which are interesting, but I kept getting the feeling that it was the author trying to fashion 2-3 incidents into one really big metaphor rather than an actual social history.

                                            Imp: yes, the novel is called "Borderlands" and though names have been fictionalized, it's actually about the Eritrea-Ethiopia border dispute resolution commission. It's...ok, but not more than that.

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                                              Recently finished "Lights in the Distance" by Daniel Trilling on refugee migration into (and through) Europe. It's a series of stories about people he met in Calais, Sicily, and Greece, some of whose stories are harrowing (even before they got to Europe) and some whose stories are so harrowing even they won't tell them. It's good to hear from the actual people who are in the middle of this, rather than the more common narrative in which the effects on the receiving (or transition) countries are told, and the refugees and migrants themselves are at best faceless victims (and at worst invaders). But he also looks at the systems and barriers that these countries (and the EU as a whole) erect to deter and harass them.

                                              He's a good journalist and writes well too. Recommended

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                                                Originally posted by Anton Gramscescu View Post
                                                Ale: What did you make of her thesis? I wanted to like that book, and there are some aspects which are interesting, but I kept getting the feeling that it was the author trying to fashion 2-3 incidents into one really big metaphor rather than an actual social history.

                                                Imp: yes, the novel is called "Borderlands" and though names have been fictionalized, it's actually about the Eritrea-Ethiopia border dispute resolution commission. It's...ok, but not more than that.
                                                It's available for 99p on Kindle, or was yesterday.

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                                                  Originally posted by Anton Gramscescu View Post
                                                  Ale: What did you make of her thesis? I wanted to like that book, and there are some aspects which are interesting, but I kept getting the feeling that it was the author trying to fashion 2-3 incidents into one really big metaphor rather than an actual social history.

                                                  Imp: yes, the novel is called "Borderlands" and though names have been fictionalized, it's actually about the Eritrea-Ethiopia border dispute resolution commission. It's...ok, but not more than that.
                                                  AG I thought the thesis was best part of book. Not one that had come across before. However whether it could be sustained across a book of this size without recourse to repetition or affirmation of views previously stated is the tricky balancing act. As you recognise, to bulk out the narrative means shoe horning the material around Bruno Groning in particular. Who to be fair in the early introduction of his background he comes across as a personality which might work to this end. But ultimately am not sure the author gets to grips with him outside of his celebrity status of the period. I certainly came away with no understanding of his motives or reasons for the life he undertook in post war Germany.

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                                                    Originally posted by imp View Post
                                                    Well, if you enjoy laughing at really crap movies then you might get something out of it.
                                                    Ha! I shall report back, if we do indeed go through with it.

                                                    In related news, for quite some time I've been vaguely interested in checking out the relationship between Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. Having now found that Rebecca also has lots of similarities to the latter, I've finally gone ahead and downloaded it from Project Gutenberg and added it to my To Read pile/list.

                                                    Leonard and Hungry Paul is a very different sort of read, but quite enjoyable so far. It's very gentle and nice but there's an undercurrent of just slightly cynical/silly humour which means it doesn't feel cloying. So far (about a third of the way in) it's a Would Recommend.

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