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    I'm glad I wasn't the only one underwhelmed by Conversations With Friends.

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      I'm halfway through Six Easy Pieces by Richard Feynman. It's a distillation of some of his lectures but could have done with some editing (like taking out all the comments like 'We aren't going to look at that now...' ).

      RobW If you want Discworld recommendations I would advise Mort and Guards! Guards! Those are two early ones. The world becomes much more concrete as the series goes on, less fantastical and more like a medieval / steampunk locale. Moving Pictures is funny too.

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        Originally posted by Incandenza View Post
        There are so many jaw-dropping things in the book.
        Third for Bad Blood. 80% of the way through and it's just astonishing what went on. She's an utter sociopath in every respect. And the Board of Gullible Suckers that passed for responsible oversight? Fuck me...

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          Also, knocked off A Serial Killer's Daughter by Kerri Rawson, daughter of BTK. Excellent insight into him and the havoc he wreaked not only on his victims, but on the lives of his extensive family.

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            After finally ploughing through Le Guin’s Earthsea novels - which are finely written with enough philosophical musings to keep me interested, albeit a bit too many wizards and dragons for me - I decided to revisit a couple of Chandler’s Marlowe books for a bit of light relief. Like Wodehouse, I never tire of re-reading them.

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              Really loved Samantha Harvey's the Western Wind - set in a fictional Somerset village in the 15th century over the course of four days preceding Shrove Tuesday. It's told in reverse from the discovery of a body in a river, with the local priest ordered to investigate who the culprit is via the confession box.

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                And another recommendation - Broken River by J Robert Lennon. A murder house in upstate New York, internet sleuths, psychotic small-town weed dealers, and then a showpiece dysfunctional family as the main protagonists. With scads of post-modern musings on the role of the 'observer' - the writer or the reader or our overall Creator, perhaps. Insomnia's a pleasure when you've got a book like this to run to in the night.

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                  Originally posted by RobW View Post
                  Really loved Samantha Harvey's the Western Wind - set in a fictional Somerset village in the 15th century over the course of four days preceding Shrove Tuesday. It's told in reverse from the discovery of a body in a river, with the local priest ordered to investigate who the culprit is via the confession box.
                  I followed up by reading Everything Under by Daisy Johnson and enjoyed it at the start. However, as things have progressed my mind has gone blank and i've totally lost what's going on. I'll have to re-read some other time. I got about 150 pages in and realised i've missed something and lost total interest in finishing it at this point. I gather it's a re-telling of the Oedipus myth, and perhaps that has put me off it - though I did enjoy Oreo by Fran Ross which similarly follows aspects of Greek myth, though I think that's the only similarity.

                  Anyway, i've put the book down cos I wasn't enjoying it, and started reading Hangover Square.

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                    Sounds like one for this thread...

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                      Lately I’ve been reading sort of serendipitously, books stumbled across rather than sought out. Most I give up on after a few pages but one or two keep me reading.

                      A Chronicle of Small Beer: The Early Victorian Diaries of a Hertfordshire Brewer I mentioned briefly in the ‘Mundane’ thread a week or so back. I don’t know where it came from, neither does La Signora, but it was on our bookshelf. It’s one of those hobby-books that retired country gentleman once spent their twilight years writing. In this case someone called “Gerald Curtis, OBE, MA.,” whose wife, Decima, (naturally) was a descendent of John Pryor the brewer in question.

                      Pryor was probably a typical member of the early 19th century English squirearchy. He owned a successful brewery in Baldock, and over 300 acres of farmland around Walkern. Married twice he fathered seven children and lived into his eighties. What’s interesting to me is that the times he lived through were dramatic for a social order that had remained relatively unchanged for several hundred years. Land enclosure, the Poor Law, the coming of railways, rural policing, the potato blight are things we learned about in books, but Pryor recorded them, and their immediate consequences, as they happened. The Poor Law, for instance, broke the established, but unwritten, contract between landowner and worker that operated through each parish. Landowner’s would employ locals to work the fields. If they didn’t need them they gave the money they’d have earned to the Parish who employed them on community jobs such as road-building. The same money also provided housing for the indigent poor. After the Poor Law was introduced the parish was required to turn over these funds for the construction of workhouses in urban centres. So, as Curtis notes, “a crippled Walkern farmworker was now required to walk fifteen miles to Hertford, with his family in tow, to seek relief.”

                      The Third Person by Emily Anglin is altogether different. It’s an advance reading copy our local bookstore gave me because I’d bought three books, and it turned out to be more interesting than any of them. Nominally a collection of short stories it is, I think, more an exercise in narrative form. As the title suggests each book is both written in the third person, and the stories involve two people whose interactions are interrupted by a third. However, for me, each story also reads as the first chapter of a longer book. Some may find this frustrating — I did initially — as there’s no clear ending to any of the tales. However I began to see it as a baited hook. A challenge to the reader to take a story and run with it. Anglin’s done much of the hard work, so why not? I confess it’s tempting.




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                        Loved Hangover Square, but wished i'd read it 20 years ago, to shame into drinking less. Not that it will work now. Finished Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith, which was great, though I always struggle with science. Started reading Lucy Davis' The End of the Story.

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                          Being trying something different from usual recently,a work colleague loaned me Dubliners by James Joyce and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.
                          Joyce is rightly regarded as a brilliant writer but some of his stuff is pretty impenetrable,Dubliners is his most accessible book,short stories set in the city,mainly concerning deeply unhappy people who want something else in life but mostly have to settle.
                          The Dead,which finishes the book is one of the finest short stories I've ever read.
                          I tried Hosseini's book but could only get halfway through, I know Afghanistan has been a difficult place to live for a long time but the unrelenting grimness and particularly the graphic domestic violence just got to,I speed read through the second half so I know what happened in the end but just wasn't for me.

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                            Just finished Madeline Miller's Circe....The early exposition is worth getting through. Once the story actually gets going it's a bravura retelling of the legend. I was actually disappointed when it ended. I could have kept reading. And I reckon that's a mark of a good book. Keeping with the myth and legend vibe, I'm feeling brave enough to tackle The Once And Future King which has been sitting on my bookshelf for a couple of months now.

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                              Originally posted by elguapo4 View Post
                              The Dead,which finishes the book is one of the finest short stories I've ever read.
                              Yup

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                                Originally posted by gt3 View Post
                                Just finished Madeline Miller's Circe....The early exposition is worth getting through. Once the story actually gets going it's a bravura retelling of the legend. I was actually disappointed when it ended. I could have kept reading. And I reckon that's a mark of a good book. Keeping with the myth and legend vibe, I'm feeling brave enough to tackle The Once And Future King which has been sitting on my bookshelf for a couple of months now.
                                Aaaah, I had never heard of Circe till I went into Foyles yesterday but I was so close to buying it based solely on the blurb. I'll put it on the 'must read' list.

                                Warning - I remember the third section of OAFK, The Ill Made Knight, as one of the gloomiest pieces of literature I've ever read. The first part was mostly a delight, though as I recall the author's high modernist snobbery towards the masses does show through rather in parts (in particular where Wart experiences life as an ant).

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                                  I'm a sucker for myths and sword and sorcery. The legends that Miller fills Circe with were very familiar from my childhood - and John William Waterhouse's paintings so it felt like wrapping myself in a comfort blanket. But I hope that doesn't put you off delicatemoth. You don't have to be familiar with the legends to enjoy the book. The writing is lyrical and full of wonderful moments - "...living with him was like standing beside the sea. Each day a different colour, a different foam-capped height, but always the same relentless intensity pulling towards the horizon..." And the action sequences, the jeopardy and excitement is really well drawn. I looked forward to picking it up.

                                  As for TOAFK, I'm reading it having read H is for Hawk and The Goshawk. So, I'm aware of White's snobbery. But H is for Hawk draws a very sympathetic portrait of White. Wart's and all so to speak! H is for Hawk is well worth a read in any event but especially so for its insight into White.

                                  If you're interested in learning more about the snobbery of the late Victorian/early 20th century writers, I can highly recommend John Carey's The Intellectuals and the Masses. I can't do better than quote from the blurb on the back - "...[Carey] shows how early-twentieth intellectuals imagined the 'masses' as semi-human swarms, drugged by popular newspapers and cinema, and ripe for extermination. Exposing the revulsion from common humanity in George Bernard Shaw, Ezra Pound, DH Lawrence, EM Forster, Virginia Woolf, HG Wells, Aldous Huxley, WB Yeats and other canonized writers, he relates this to the cult of Nietzschean Superman, which found its ultimate exponent in Hitler"

                                  So, I'd submit that White sits within that class (word used in both senses) of early 20th century. And when you realise that, his writing and politics become contextualised.

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                                    Originally posted by elguapo4 View Post
                                    The Dead,which finishes the book is one of the finest short stories I've ever read.
                                    It's also a remarkable film staring Anjelica Houston. Directed by her dad IIRC

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                                      Indeed. His last, as it happened. It must be a remarkable experience to work so closely with a parent just before he dies.

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                                        I've recently finished Väinö Linna's Unknown Soliders, an amazingly honest, brutal, absurd and hilarious book fictionalisation of the author's experiences in the second Finnish-Russian war of the Second World War.

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                                          Originally posted by RobW View Post
                                          Loved Hangover Square, but wished i'd read it 20 years ago, to shame into drinking less. Not that it will work now. Finished Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith, which was great, though I always struggle with science. Started reading Lucy Davis' The End of the Story.
                                          Gave up The End of the Story - so monotonous, really couldn't give two hoots about either of the main characters and devoid of any wit. Started reading Daniel Yergin's 'The Prize' about the history of the oil industry. Think my dad got it as a present 30 years ago, and i've finally been able to borrow it.

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                                            The new McEwan is good. Not Children's Act good, but Solar good at least.

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                                              I’m working on the Dune series.

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                                                Originally posted by Hot Pepsi View Post
                                                I’m working on the Dune series.
                                                Would be interested to hear yr opinion on God Emperor.

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                                                  Originally posted by Anton Gramscescu View Post
                                                  The new McEwan is good. Not Children's Act good, but Solar good at least.
                                                  I'm sayin nowt.

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                                                    Originally posted by Lang Spoon View Post

                                                    Would be interested to hear yr opinion on God Emperor.
                                                    I’m still on Dune Messiah

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