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11-1-2017 15:26:58  #1


Books, books and more books!

Too many typewriters around, and it´s time to talk about something related to them: literature.

What are your favourite books? Or authors? Or genres? Do you agree with "best evah" lists? Are there any books that you have read more than once? Too many questions to be asked, and only one limitation: Fiction only, please.

To start with something, I´m a big fan of horror literature, but I´ve read a little bit of everything. Blame the university, where I was forced to swallow angry bricks like Pride and Prejudice (how I hate it... though I´ve to acknowledge how damn well written it is!) and extremely enjoyable works like The Odyssey. When you´re forced to read something, many times you end up hating books that you´d otherwise enjoy (like Alice´s Adventures in Wonderland), but sometimes it´s good to be pointed in a direction.

Right now, I´m reading The Night Land, by W.H. Hodgson. Not bad, but it´s a mixed bag. In some aspects it is waaaaay ahead of its time, but in some others it´s aged badly.
 


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11-1-2017 18:12:02  #2


Re: Books, books and more books!

One of my all-time favorites in book--as well as movie--was "Fantastic Voyage."  I think I read that Isaac Asimov book a couple or three times.  Jerry Sohl's "Costigan's Needle" is another favorite.  I've also read several books (titles forgotten) by Harold Robbins--a little out of my league, but very interesting reading.


Underwood--Speeds the World's Bidness
 

11-1-2017 19:03:22  #3


Re: Books, books and more books!

I have read the Narnia series many times and collected Sherlock Holmes only slightly less times - all except the last volume of the C.S. Lewis which I could not stand and have never finished as many times as I have read the first books. Voyage of the Dawn Treader may have been my favorite. I've read Lewis's adult fantasies several times, ditto the Hobbit but the Lord of the Rings trilogy only once, I think. I made it all the way through War and Peace (enjoyable reading, just a lot of it) and maybe 2/3 of the way through the Mahabharata before I just lost interest - part of the fun was reading it on the subway on a pocket PC if you remember how tiny their screens were! I finished Remembrance of Things Past under assignment, Madame Bovary and Pride and Prejudice and such ilk because I was told they were great; they were OK but none of them ever equaled a good quick run through a C.S. Lewis children's book. Recently I tried some Henry James but I could not stand it and it was not the sentence structure but my annoyance at being made to follow the doings of the characters whom I would only want to avoid if I knew them personally. Oh yeah, Lovecraft - but today I have joined the American way, and stopped reading! Instead of the Mahabharata I just crank up some Russian pop and zone out into a fantasy of what I am going to do at work... err... "planning". I don't speak Russian and that makes the pop much better.


"Damn the torpedoes! Four bells, Captain Drayton".
 

12-1-2017 13:38:18  #4


Re: Books, books and more books!

I think Madame Bovary is one of the best written books ever. I mean, technically is a wonder to behold. Flaubert manages to keep alive a novel just by itself. In fact, how can you write a novel without plot and without author? In any book, you can see the hand of the author, the style, the unavoidable autobiographic hints... That sort of things that always remind there's someone behind the story, but not in Mme. Bovary.

Maybe it sounds easy, just put some distance between you and your work, but nope. It's easier to kiss a boar to death. You have to be a master of your trade and know how to restrain yourself. Even worse: it's not a matter of hiding behind some formulae or tricks, it's a matter of making the story (not the story in this case, explanation coming up!), making "it" flow. Madame Bovary is seamless, smooth and flowing, and the paradox is that you need An awful lot of work to make it, but at the same time that work is masterfully concealed.

So well done that the book doesn't even need a plot! It's such a simple thing that it isn't any kind of story: a bored and nerve raking woman (yep, I can't stand her). Flaubert could have chosen something more interesting... At least at its time it was quite ground breaking because women were not supossed to be like Madame Bovary, but that plot is secondary to the main objective: create a novel which exists by itself. Flaubert intended to do so and succeeded.

After all this, one could think that I like Madame Bovary, right?

Well, no. I am awed at how damn well written it is, but I didn't enjoy it. I wouldn't read it again, and I recommend it not as an enjoyable book but as a technical masterpiece which maybe bores you to hell.

The same goes for Pride and Prejudice. I was forced to read it, so I hate it, period. Jane Austen dominates the free indirect speech, does wonderful things with the tenses and so on, but I can't get over it. I prefer Pride, Prejudice and Zombies. I won't read it again either...

And soeaking about repested reading, my most read book is The Silmarillion. Five times so far.


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12-1-2017 21:27:34  #5


Re: Books, books and more books!

Wow Javi. That is an interesting post with a plot twist about a book you say has no plot. You say it is grandstanding technique but somehow falls on its face with you in doing whatever it is a novel is supposed to do. I am not enough of a writer ("zero parts per million" is not enough) to understand the technical accomplishment, and to consider what it is that a novel is supposed to do we will need to take a short walk back to the precambian - oops! - walked too far. Let's go back up to the late paleolithic, where miserable huddled bands of hunter gatherers bunched around the campfire and there was no need to imagine night terrors to accompany the campfire stories when you heard the low throated growl of the night hyena as he prowled just outside the firelight and the old men who had made it past their twentieth birthday told stories and the children looked on with bright shining eyes from their dirt caked faces. It was stories which made the clan into a hyper organism smarter and more resourceful than the predators and evolution encouraged this adaptive behavior the only way she knew how: by making it pleasurable. And today this story telling species has evolved into a new species whose icon would be a bent over upper silhouette holding a shingle before the face, a parasitic external silicon brain whom the new species still followed with pleasure though evolution was getting nothing out of the deal, waiting for the signal to be flashed which would turn all into zombie droids, though they did not have far to go in that direction...

Er, where was I again? Oh yeah, Madame Bovary. Seem to have wandered a bit and there and not enough words left to get back to the trail. 

"It's easier to kiss a boar to death"! That is a great image. Is it a Spanish proverb?


"Damn the torpedoes! Four bells, Captain Drayton".
 

13-1-2017 08:01:15  #6


Re: Books, books and more books!

Repartee wrote:

Wow Javi. That is an interesting post with a plot twist about a book you say has no plot. You say it is grandstanding technique but somehow falls on its face with you in doing whatever it is a novel is supposed to do.

Interesting! I was considering the purpose of a novel only from the technical point of view. In fact, it was Flaubert himself who was poised to demonstrate he could write a novel without a plot, so he displayed an obscene (and hidden) amount of writing technique to do so. But your point is right: what do you want a novel for, then? Just for showing off and tell the rest of the world you da man?

For me, it´s just that I don´t like the setting and Mme. Bovary´s idiotic behaviour. Idiotic meaning bottomlessly egotistical, coming from the Greek ídios (I don´t know if I can write in Greek here, so Roman tansliteration. More Greek to come!). Thing is she only cares about herself, herself and herself. I want to keep this spoiler-free, but it´s quite revealing Bovary´s name itself. She got it by marrying monsieur Bovary, a good and patient man with a taylor-made surname. Bovary comes also from the Greek bous, that is, bull. But Monsieur Bovary is more like a hard working ox, while his notable wife is the exact opposite. Why, in the name of the Minotaur, does she marry him, then?!

And that´s only the beginning of my problems with her. Anyway, if a novel manages to make you so involved that you end up despising a character that means there´s some good work behind it. So good that I won´t read it again because I hate the results, apart from not telling exactly anything. Nerve wrecking novel all the way, yup.

Repartee wrote:

"It's easier to kiss a boar to death"! That is a great image. Is it a Spanish proverb?

Nope. I got it from a comic called Sporty. It´s about a dumb kid playing a lot of sports who always ends up in big trouble, as in being blown up by a bazooka, chased by wild and ferocious beasts or simply beaten up.

Going back to 19th century literature, while I can´t stand Madame Bovary, I found Wuthering Heights more entertaining, and more violent than expected. A surprising one!
 


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14-1-2017 02:15:13  #7


Re: Books, books and more books!

[SPOILER ALERT MADAME BOVARY]

Javi wrote:

For me, it´s just that I don´t like the setting and Mme. Bovary´s idiotic behaviour. Idiotic meaning bottomlessly egotistical, coming from the Greek ídios (I don´t know if I can write in Greek here...

Let's give it a try:

ιδυοσυγκρασία

Special characters are treacherous but at least in the previewer that seems to work by cut and paste.

I never suspected a relation between idiot and the prefix of idiosyncrasy but the first etymology I find backs you up though the sense "private person" and "foolish person" apparently parted ways around Old French. (I noticed Old French come up in a second etymology and this raises my suspicions - though France is the closest land of the Romance languages to England). Never noticed the bovine association of Ms. Bovary's name either. Truth I read the book a long time ago (in English) because, as you put it, somebody made me and I may not have picked up on much of anything at all beyond that this was a long sentence hoard, hey!

Despite your assertion Wikipedia claims the book indeed has a plot, skimming which I see everybody dies in the end, heartbroken, despairing and destitute! Ah, no thank you - where was my C.S. Lewis again...? It is perhaps an anti-novel, wherein instead of ending in a marriage it gets those out of the way early and proceeds through the slow disintegration of a marriage. Frightfully witty. I also learn it was Flaubert's first novel and considered his best and serves him right to have gone downhill. It does not raise my spirits to read about miserable people - the odd tragic climax, sure, but steady, grinding meaningless misery? Stow it, Gustave.

Going back to 19th century literature, while I can´t stand Madame Bovary, I found Wuthering Heights more entertaining, and more violent than expected. A surprising one!

Never read Wuthering Heights but on your recommendation will fix that.

Trying to kiss a boar to death sounds right up this Sporty character's alley, since if you tried it not only would you fail to kill the boar but there is no doubt who is really going to die!
 


"Damn the torpedoes! Four bells, Captain Drayton".
 

14-1-2017 07:29:38  #8


Re: Books, books and more books!

Repartee wrote:

Despite your assertion Wikipedia claims the book indeed has a plot, skimming which I see everybody dies in the end, heartbroken, despairing and destitute! Ah, no thank you - where was my C.S. Lewis again...? It is perhaps an anti-novel, wherein instead of ending in a marriage it gets those out of the way early and proceeds through the slow disintegration of a marriage. Frightfully witty.  

Well, it´s a bit of an exaggeration by me saying it doesn´t have a plot. But it´s pretty much like the kind films I hate with strong determination: those in which nothing happens. Those which are just like pointing the camera at nothing in special or just looking out to the street in front of your window and see what happens. There´s a HORRID Spanish film which is about nothing in particular and in split screen format for its entire running time, and that´s the perfect example of a story without plot. Why bother weaving a good story when you can just talk about how booooring daily life can get? This film (La Soledad, in case anyone wishes to torture themselves) is praised as a masterpiece, and IMHO it´s just pretentious. And boring.

Madame Bovary, though, stands as an extremely well done work of art, and achieving that without a plot is even more dificult. It has a plot, yes, but it´s so weak yoou can forget about it. You can summarize it as a woman who´s never satisfied, unable to find satisfaction in anything. The characters keep going forward, and it´s the hand of the writer what manages to hold it together.

Repartee wrote:

Never read Wuthering Heights but on your recommendation will fix that. 

Give it a try! I had a hard time dealing with the servants´ thick accent. I made a bet with my mother: see who could finish it first. She read it in Spanish and I did it in English. I lost.

Repartee wrote:

Trying to kiss a boar to death sounds right up this Sporty character's alley, since if you tried it not only would you fail to kill the boar but there is no doubt who is really going to die!
 

Indeed!
 


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14-1-2017 20:05:15  #9


Re: Books, books and more books!

I don't know about 'yall, but this thread is getting a bit long-haired.


Underwood--Speeds the World's Bidness
 

15-1-2017 00:29:27  #10


Re: Books, books and more books!

Javi wrote:

 I had a hard time dealing with the servants´ thick accent. I made a bet with my mother: see who could finish it first. She read it in Spanish and I did it in English. I lost.

I find Scottish dialect hard going so my hat's off to you for plowing through! I can generally understand it after mentally sounding it out, much like Chaucer, but like Chaucer when I do it always sounds invented. How did the translator suggest regional English dialect in Spanish?


"Damn the torpedoes! Four bells, Captain Drayton".
 

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