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Old 03-29-2008, 12:54 AM   #31
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Re: What Are You Reading Right Now?

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Originally Posted by Avptallarita View Post
Also, well done on joining the circle of pretentious wankers who have read Ulysses.
I'm thinking about joining this circle very soon. But is this circle an upgrade from the pretentious wankers who have read Gravity's Rainbow circle, or roughly on the same level?

By the way, my pretentious wanker circle is a pretty awesome one to be in, though it is only for those with a high tolerance for excessive erudition and scat.
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Old 03-30-2008, 03:06 PM   #32
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Re: What Are You Reading Right Now?

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That's an interesting theory you got there. Personally, I haven't read a lot of epics, but the one I'm quite familiar with, which is Journey to the West (which I definitely recommend, especially if you want to understand some part of Eastern culture), isn't quite as idealistic as heroes from Odyssey. Sure, the four main characters have superpowers, but each of them has their own weaknesses. Son Goku is too impatient. Cho Hakkai is a hedonist. Sa Gojo is hideous. And Sanzo has no superpower at all.
It’s not just a theory, actually. Greek mythology shares with other cultures the idea of better ages that came before ours. They call them explicitly the Golden Age and the Silver Age, which is where those expressions come from, and refer to their own present as the Iron Age (supposedly, these materials describe what men were made of or made from according to the period). Homer’s epics are set in the Golden Age, and its characters behave accordingly. I can’t remember whether they occur that often in the Odyssey, but the Iliad is full of expressions like “and with one hand he lifted a rock so heavy that four men of our age could not have shifted it.”

When reading Homer, the ‘idealism’ that you mention is actually part of the appeal for me. Not because I think it makes for great storytelling, but because it is a highly primordial form of writing – the Odyssey and the Iliad are unsullied by the tides of literary history, a writing which came before there was an institution of writing, and which is thus extraneous to our usual experiences of reading. Interpretation of a modern text is a form of archaeology, but with Homer, this process is impossible: not (only) because there are no other texts that preceded it, but because the very notion of text did not exist back then, since his stories were transmitted through oral tradition. The forms of writing that we find in the Odyssey and Iliad are pure, almost transcendent (as are those we find in lyric poetry or Attic tragedy, to name a few other). Finding them, and seeing how they reoccur and form the foundations of so many other, later texts, how they remain the core even of the great melting pot of forms that is modern literature and culture, is a process I find highly rewarding. It is with this spirit that I read the Iliad and the Odyssey.

Regarding the question of whether these concepts hold across epics, I’m not surprised to hear that the epic you mention (which, I regret to say, I had never even heard about… btw, Son Goku??) does not conform to them. In truth, the problem here is how we want to classify an epic. The term is usually employed as jargon for either a long verse narrative, or, more generally, a story of great magnitude and import. But the fact is, this genre that we usually classify as the epic includes texts of staggering diversity. Lord Byron’s ‘Don Juan,’ for example, is a parodic, comic epic which actually subverts all the usual traditions of the genre. Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’ falls out of any epic canon, already in the title (a comedy?), and in fact is so unique that it almost constitutes a genre of its own.

Actually, Homer’s work bears closer resemblance to Beowulf – another primordial, archaic text – than it does with, say, the Aeneid, its declared successor from the already much more heteroglossian society of Rome, a text which looks conformingly ‘epic’ on the surface, but which turns out to be an extraordinarily subtle, highly complex and ambivalent piece once it is examined at the level of language.

What fascinates me about the epic is precisely its relationship to the primordial level of language. And in this, I do hold that archaic epics share some common features, among which is the tendency to discuss the past in terms of a golden age that shall never come again. The drive behind this was the same drive that led to writing and saving texts in the first place: an embryonic society’s need to stabilise and organise itself over some common grounds. Original epic and religious texts provide the ethical, historical and often legislative bases to do that. Heroic narratives, like that of Odysseus but also like those of Gilgamesh and Soundjata (who are not even Western), necessarily portray humans better than we are, because the role of these characters was not that of ‘entertaining’ an audience, but of giving them role models to look up to and aspire to as something better than themselves.
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Old 03-30-2008, 03:08 PM   #33
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Re: What Are You Reading Right Now?

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Originally Posted by Snack Eater View Post
I'm thinking about joining this circle very soon. But is this circle an upgrade from the pretentious wankers who have read Gravity's Rainbow circle, or roughly on the same level?

By the way, my pretentious wanker circle is a pretty awesome one to be in, though it is only for those with a high tolerance for excessive erudition and scat.
From what I’ve been able to garner, it’s exactly the same club, except that the Pynchon card is not as internationally valid. Joyce is an institution in Europe as well as in the rest of the world, I think. Pynchon shares that status in America, but he’s widely unknown and not much discussed outside it, with the obvious exception of specific (usually American-based) academic circles. As an icon, I think he’s not so much on the plane of Joyce as of Robert Musil (and if you’ve never heard of him, that proves my point).

Also, same advice as to Shun. If you’re going to read Ulysses, make sure you’ve read the Odyssey first.
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Old 03-30-2008, 09:13 PM   #34
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Re: What Are You Reading Right Now?

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Originally Posted by Avptallarita View Post
From what I’ve been able to garner, it’s exactly the same club, except that the Pynchon card is not as internationally valid. Joyce is an institution in Europe as well as in the rest of the world, I think. Pynchon shares that status in America, but he’s widely unknown and not much discussed outside it, with the obvious exception of specific (usually American-based) academic circles. As an icon, I think he’s not so much on the plane of Joyce as of Robert Musil (and if you’ve never heard of him, that proves my point).

Also, same advice as to Shun. If you’re going to read Ulysses, make sure you’ve read the Odyssey first.
I personally think the Joyce club's a bit more academic and grounded while the Pynchon one's more idiosyncratic and possibly stoned.
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Old 04-01-2008, 10:24 AM   #35
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Re: What Are You Reading Right Now?

If by "academic" you mean drinking like an Irish student, then I'd be inclined to agree... There was more white wine flowing at those Finnegans' Wake reading groups than in half of Southern France. Personally, from this point of view I much prefer Pynchon to Joyce, but you know how they say: it can't hurt to mix.
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Old 04-22-2008, 09:07 AM   #36
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Re: What Are You Reading Right Now?

Been reading a lot. I still haven't finished that massive Pynchon book, but I've been reading a lot of shorter stuff. I read Animal Farm, Cat's Cradle, The Metamorphosis, and Notes from the Underground in the last two weeks, and now I'm reading Portrait of the Artist, etc. (which I like so far, ).
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Old 04-22-2008, 01:21 PM   #37
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Re: What Are You Reading Right Now?

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...and now I'm reading Portrait of the Artist, etc. (which I like so far, ).
Portrait of the Artist is fantastic, if one of your leg-tables is too short and you need to balance it out with something.

If you're into people jerking off in their own mouths, make sure not to miss the other great classic of literary masturbation.
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Old 04-22-2008, 09:36 PM   #38
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Re: What Are You Reading Right Now?

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Originally Posted by Avptallarita View Post
If you're into people jerking off in their own mouths, make sure not to miss the other great classic of literary masturbation.
I don't really agree with this assessment. Sure, Joyce had a monumental ego, but Portrait describes a lot of universal childhood experiences, sometimes right down to exact thoughts, in an organic, kind of revelatory way.
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Old 09-27-2010, 08:47 AM   #39
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Re: What Are You Reading Right Now?

Partially reread The Third Twin by Ken Follett yesterday. (the beginning, the end and the main events to get the story; might have been half of the pages)
Interesting topic but it was much better in my memory, now i found it very B-action-movie like.

Previous read was Neuromancer by William Gibson last week.
The actual story was rather strange (a little pointless at the end) but the future he described is still fascinating, and obviously inspired many (maybe even reality).
Ordered the sequels directly.

The pricing of digital books is still too high. Kindles Count Zero would only have been cheaper if €/$ would reach again 1,6 rate (and Mona Lisa Overdrive would not be available at all).
For environmental reasons i would happily change my reading to digital, but as long as the offer is at it is i refuse to pay effectively more for getting no book in my hand.
Kindle or Nook or Oyo or Sony PRS or ... have to work on the terms a little more.
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Old 09-30-2010, 09:21 PM   #40
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Re: What Are You Reading Right Now?

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Originally Posted by Snack Eater View Post
Been reading a lot. I still haven't finished that massive Pynchon book, but I've been reading a lot of shorter stuff. I read Animal Farm, Cat's Cradle, The Metamorphosis, and Notes from the Underground in the last two weeks, and now I'm reading Portrait of the Artist, etc. (which I like so far, ).
You have great taste. I just finished reading all of Dostoyevsky's major works a short while ago, including Notes from the Underground. It really is a favorite of mine along with Crime and Punishment. The Idiot, The Double, The Possessed, The Gambler and The Brothers Karamazov were incredible too, as was The Adolescent, which is unfortunately overlooked by many readers.

I am now reading Dead Souls by Gogol. It is also very good, and it's clear he's had a great influence on Dostoyevsky. Very interesting characters. If you like psychological novels, there's also The Red and The Black by Stendhal; it is outstanding.
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Old 10-08-2010, 07:36 AM   #41
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Re: What Are You Reading Right Now?

I'm currently reading Shadow of the Wind from Carlos Ruiz Zafón, after pretty much everyone I know (who is reading books on a regular basis) read it already. It's written in a brilliant way and now that I'm halfway through I'm actually sad that it's going to end soon. This is the book I'm reading at home on my cosy sofa with a cup of tea, during travels I currently read The Immoralist by André Gide.

Last couple of books I was reading were:
Lord of the Flies (William Golding) which I liked but was expecting a bit more. The Wasp Factory (Iain Banks) which I found brilliant, Brave New World (Aldous Huxley) which I liked very much indeed and the quite interesting book "Die Glut" by Sándor Márai. I don't know if the last one got translated into English, the original (Hungarian) title is "A gyertyák csonkig égnek".

Next books will be "Bekenntnisse eines Bürgers" by Sándor Márai (again, I have no idea how this book got translated into English if it got translated in the first place) and Evolution by Stephen Baxter.
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Old 10-08-2010, 07:40 AM   #42
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Re: What Are You Reading Right Now?

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Portrait of the Artist is fantastic, if one of your leg-tables is too short and you need to balance it out with something.
lol

My thoughts exactly. I bought it years ago and still haven't finished it. Probably it's still lying in one of the cardboard boxes I used for moving the last time.
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Old 10-12-2010, 11:36 AM   #43
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Re: What Are You Reading Right Now?

Currently reading Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns". Bought it years ago, read it, and wasn't impressed. I'm assuming my younger age just didn't have the patience for it, as this time round I'm finding it one of the most entertaining Batman stories I've read in a while.

That said, I'm still not that impressed with that art. It's sufficiant, but it's a bit minimalistic and sketchy for my tastes. I like lots of detail and deep colours.
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Old 10-29-2010, 11:11 PM   #44
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Re: What Are You Reading Right Now?

JLB1987, have you read Watchmen by Alan Moore? If you like gritty/pessimistic comics on super heroes (much like The Dark Knight Returns), it got you covered. It takes some time to unwind, but the story and characters are amazingly complex and interesting; it all pays off in the end.

Also, the art is detailed and features vibrant colours, which should please you.
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Old 10-31-2010, 03:53 PM   #45
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Re: What Are You Reading Right Now?

Yep, I wouldn't qualify myself as a huge Alan Moore fan, but I have a few of his books (Watchmen, V For Vendetta, and my favourite comic book of all time, The Ballad Of Halo Jones), and he is fantastic. I thought Watchmen was a little over-rated, but it was absolutely great despite being slightly under-whelmed. You're right about the artwork, too; Certainly the thing I remember the most.

I'm interested to see the film based on it. I tend to avoid films based on comic books, but my friend described how they got out of the alien scene near the end of the book, and it sounds intriguing.

Going to re-read "The Dark Knight Strikes Again" soon, and hope that lowered expectations from reading it a while ago work for this one, too
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