Author Topic: What have you read lately?  (Read 9068 times)

Anselm

  • Guardian against dark psychic forces
  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 151
  • CHE Posts: 3500
Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #180 on: March 24, 2020, 11:27:47 AM »
Recent news events gave me the idea of maybe rereading A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman.

I just want to know when people start doing the crazy dances.

apl68

  • Senior Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 340
Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #181 on: March 24, 2020, 12:43:44 PM »
Recently finished Simon Sebag Montefiore's comprehensive history of Jerusalem.  What an awful spectacle that city's history has made!  It reaffirms me in my desire never to make a pilgrimage there.  It seems like representatives of all of the Abrahamic faiths (With a few honorable exceptions--the Spaffords' American Colony, for example) tend to be at their worst there, rather than their best.  Somebody once pointed out that a worshiper of one God treating a city as "holy" sounds a lot like idolatry.  I think that sort of idolatry explains most of the problem right there.

mamselle

  • Use your wit and intelligence to figure out how to be kinder
  • Distinguished Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1824
  • Wondering, Wandering Sr. Member
  • CHE Posts: 4,618
Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #182 on: March 24, 2020, 06:02:44 PM »
Recent news events gave me the idea of maybe rereading A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman.

I just want to know when people start doing the crazy dances.

I read that straight through the week after I finished my MA thesis (which included work on 13th c. church history).

Do you mean "St. Elmo's Fire," the tarantisms, or the dance manias?

A lot of that has been debunked as anecdotal.

M.
Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.

Reprove not a scorner, lest they hate thee: rebuke the wise, and they will love thee.

Give instruction to the wise, and they will be yet wiser: teach the just, and they will increase in learning.

Anselm

  • Guardian against dark psychic forces
  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 151
  • CHE Posts: 3500
Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #183 on: March 25, 2020, 09:44:43 AM »
Recent news events gave me the idea of maybe rereading A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman.

I just want to know when people start doing the crazy dances.

I read that straight through the week after I finished my MA thesis (which included work on 13th c. church history).

Do you mean "St. Elmo's Fire," the tarantisms, or the dance manias?

A lot of that has been debunked as anecdotal.

M.

I was thinking about the dance manias.  I read the book back in 1994 and have since forgotten many of the details.

ab_grp

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 180
  • CHE Posts: 7,653
Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #184 on: March 26, 2020, 10:19:25 AM »
We're still enjoying Straight Man (Russo) very much.  He has a way with describing people and scenes.  We nearly couldn't get through one of the scenes (filming the news of the new campus building), we were laughing so hard.  Definitely good timing for this book.

ergative

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 216
  • CHE Posts: 1949
Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #185 on: March 26, 2020, 10:43:52 AM »
Just finished Wolf Hall. It was an enormous slog. Nothing wrong with it, but it just didn't work for me. Next up is Myke Cole's coastguard-in-space Sixteenth Watch, about which I know very little; I just like watching him swear at cute animals on twitter and bought his book on the strength of that.

ab_grp

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 180
  • CHE Posts: 7,653
Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #186 on: March 26, 2020, 10:56:07 AM »
I felt similarly about Wolf Hall.  I had really been looking forward to it and am always interested in that era, but there are many more interesting books on the topic out there.  It did feel like a drag, unfortunately.  I have a couple of Mantel's other books but haven't dug into them yet for that reason.  Have you read any of the others?

Morden

  • New Member
  • *
  • Posts: 44
Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #187 on: March 26, 2020, 01:00:18 PM »
I enjoyed Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies. Wolf Hall was more daring in terms of narrative structure (you weren't always sure who was speaking of what); Bring up the Bodies was easier to follow. I have just got the third and am looking forward to it. A Place of Greater Safety, about Robespierre and the French Revolution, was very good.
« Last Edit: March 26, 2020, 01:14:00 PM by Morden »

sinenomine

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 74
  • CHE Posts: 707
Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #188 on: March 26, 2020, 01:48:43 PM »
I’m reading a collection of short stories by Daphne du Maurier — quite diverting!
"How fleeting are all human passions compared with the massive continuity of ducks...."

ergative

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 216
  • CHE Posts: 1949
Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #189 on: March 26, 2020, 02:07:17 PM »
(you weren't always sure who was speaking of what)

That drove me wild.

Vkw10

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 188
  • Adequate sleep increases productivity. Good night!
  • CHE Posts: 1,228
Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #190 on: March 27, 2020, 08:24:37 PM »
I just acquired three books from my "broaden your horizons by reading something a student mentioned" list.  Red, white, and royal blue appears to be a rather lighthearted gay romance. Any old diamonds appears to be a gay mystery/romance, possibly set in the 1920s. A history of the United States in five crashes appears to be pop economic history.

I wish I remembered who said what about each of these books to inspire me to add them to my list. I'll try the mystery/romance first.
Enthusiasm is not a skill set. (MH)

nebo113

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 198
Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #191 on: March 28, 2020, 05:40:18 AM »
Listening to Anna LeBaron's  The Polygamist's Daughter, after having read Educated by Tara Westover.  LeBaron's book isn't particularly well-written but does offer insight into the horrors that cults inflict upon children.

polly_mer

  • Smiling and Waving
  • Senior Moderator
  • Distinguished Senior Member
  • *
  • Posts: 1880
  • Welcome! So nice to see you here.
  • CHE Posts: lots!
Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #192 on: March 28, 2020, 06:49:13 AM »
I just finished Vox by Christina Dalcher.  I probably would have liked this novel more if I had read it when I was younger and knew far less.  The basic idea was interesting and the writing itself was an engaging style.

However, I just keep mentally tripping on:

* a nearly complete lack of awareness about what happened in Iran in my lifetime as Iran went from a modern country, albeit not democratic, to a theology that sent modern professional women back into the home.

* very bad mixes of what scientists with various specific expertises would know or expertly defer on knowing.  At various points, I was smacked in the face with the difference between what an MD would have written (love me medical thrillers and read them by the dozen) and what someone who has possibly skimmed some medical thrillers wrote.  Fandom calls certain things Star Trek science; this wasn't even up to Star Trek science in many noticeable places.

* clearly zero experience working in a government classified setting or an industrial/academic proprietary setting.  Yep, that's what one sees in the standard movies, but we all laugh every time.

* lack of creativity that people would exhibit to get around some of the restrictions on "communication".  Yes, a really noisy place for the scientists covers conversation.  Does no one do direct person-to-person tapping in Morse code in the dark?  Finger spelling or Morse code in clasped hands?  Everyone visiting the bathroom to run the water and perhaps draw in the steam on a mirror or large surface? C'mon, PhD holder, you can do better than that.  Even if bees don't really have language and the best one can do is blink to communicate with other possible revolutionaries, you're not limited to one tiny signal that takes the expert quite a while to figure out is a signal.  Even the kidnapped kid on last night's mystery did better than that to communicate in front of the kidnappers.

* lack of creativity on assassination if taking down only a dozen men will restore everything to normal.  You don't need the highly specialized-unique-in-the-world-just-synthesized chemical if you have access to these men by someone they trust enough to bring them beverages or prepare their food who is also on the revolutionary side.  Again, a little experience actually reading and learning from mystery novels would have made those parts less needing-to-scream-at-the-bozos-who-are-doing-it-wrong and more appreciative of the unfolding events.

I'm now sad that I returned Steven King's Sleeping Beauties to the library a few weeks ago after borrowing it for Blocky.  Rereading that probably would have been a more rewarding experience.
« Last Edit: March 28, 2020, 06:55:45 AM by polly_mer »
Do whatever you want--I'm just the background dancer in your show!

ergative

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 216
  • CHE Posts: 1949
Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #193 on: March 28, 2020, 09:25:57 AM »
Just finished Carmilla. I understand that it was the first big vampire book, and the lesbian themes by no means require any turning-your-head-and-squinting to see. These properties go quite a way to justify its continuing fame. Lesbian victorian vampires has a lot to recommend it as a theme. But as a work of literature it also kind of sucks: the chapter breaks and transitions are choppy and weird; everyone is profoundly stupid at not seeing what's right before their eyes; the pacing is terrible; and the narrative frequently does something like this. 'I will now tell you about Y. The next night, X happened. Now, I will tell you about Y . . . '

I find myself regularly struck by the desperate need for editing and revision that jumps out of these Victorian novels. I recognize that hand-writing and re-typing every draft would have made editing much more of a chore without word-processors, but I had previously imagined that this just led authors to do more outlining, planning, or perhaps they were better at keeping track of things in their head. Tut tut, I would have said to myself, see how modern conveniences have damaged mental abilities of modern writers.

But now, I read many of these novels, and I'm constantly gritting my teeth at the odd pacing, the strange chapter breaks, the sloppy transitions, the incoherence of exposition that jumps around from topic to topic without considering how best to introduce new ideas and characters and plot points. Perhaps the tools that make editing easier have also made editing better. Is it possible that modern writing has actually improved, because of the ease of access to these technological advances? Because even leaving aside the sexism, racism, classism, and colonialism that permeates these texts, I'm getting rather tired of having to remind myself to grade these authors on a curve. The curve has bent far enough, and on Carmilla, despite the sexy vampire kisses, it definitely snapped.

polly_mer

  • Smiling and Waving
  • Senior Moderator
  • Distinguished Senior Member
  • *
  • Posts: 1880
  • Welcome! So nice to see you here.
  • CHE Posts: lots!
Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #194 on: March 28, 2020, 03:05:56 PM »
Perhaps the tools that make editing easier have also made editing better. Is it possible that modern writing has actually improved, because of the ease of access to these technological advances? Because even leaving aside the sexism, racism, classism, and colonialism that permeates these texts, I'm getting rather tired of having to remind myself to grade these authors on a curve. The curve has bent far enough, and on Carmilla, despite the sexy vampire kisses, it definitely snapped.

Eh, my bet is that what's improved is much more access to more stories and therefore more good writing is available to those who want good writing as well as a new storyline.  At the time, any new enough story was likely worth wading through not great writing.

I've been disappointed many, many times in my life by finally picking up some beloved-by-a-good-many-people novel and having to sigh heavily about having that particular novel's writing/organization/implementation flaws scream so much at me that I can't go very far in the book.  For example, I know many of the Edgar Allen Poe stories, but I can't say I've managed to reread anything as an adult.  I was more optimistic with more free time as a teenager to read so many and be disappointed very time that I didn't love the execution. The writing is just sooooooo bad, even though the ideas were very new and therefore memorable at the time Poe was writing.  I've never made it through a Lovecraft story yet, although I watch movies based on and read homages/borrowing/reimagings frequently.

I read Frankenstein in high school; now that I've read a lot of freshman prose, I'm perfectly willing to believe this was a story a teenager wrote during a house party.  The ideas are there, but, again, the execution leaves a lot to be desired.

Now that I'm an adult, I better understand why Stephen King is kind of a hack in the "world of literary ideas", but his stories at least move along and it's worth investing a weekend in reading his new book because they are seldom obviously repackaged ideas that have been done to death.  I'm told I would better appreciate Tolkien's work if I didn't encounter it well after I'd already read so many later works that presented similar ideas, but in a much better format.
Do whatever you want--I'm just the background dancer in your show!