Author Topic: What are you reading?  (Read 33196 times)

Jubal

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #165 on: June 27, 2019, 06:51:00 PM »
Let me know what you think if you ever do :)

I just finished reading Shalimar the Clown, in what I guess is a slightly similar genre in some ways, though it's much less heavily magical realist and has more political/thriller elements to it. It's by Salman Rushdie and it's very intense, with the various characters being pulled apart both by their difficult (and, often, violent) personal lives and by political turmoil, especially the war in Kashmir though numerous other 20th century conflicts also make important appearances. Rushdie isn't really a thriller or plot-centric writer, and he's much more about characters and storytelling than about plots and pacing, and it's definitely at its best when exploring the relationships between the characters, their psychology, their history, and the history and folklore of their backgrounds. If anything I'd have liked that to come through more strongly at the tail end of the book, but that's a minor flaw - there were certainly moments where the emotional weight of the book really hit through in a way that not many books manage, and it's that narrative method of essentially binding together pain and brutality with history and narrative in a way that makes it almost, but not quite, comprehensible that I think this book does really very well. Very powerful read.
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Jubal

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #166 on: September 22, 2019, 02:23:44 PM »
My read for this trip to the UK was Lud-in-the-mist by Hope Mirrlees - which I absolutely loved. It's a 1920s (I think) piece of fairytale/fantasy writing, involving a land on the borders of faerie and the attempts of its people to avoid falling under the spell of fairy fruit. It was apparently quite influential on Neil Gaiman and I can see how, it's a very good piece of fairy-story fantasy. I probably enjoyed it more than most things I've read in quite some time.
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Tusky

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #167 on: October 31, 2019, 03:28:45 PM »
I am re-reading the dragons of autumn twilight at the moment. It must be 20 years since I read it, but still enjoying it. Still, amazed at how much I remember from it!
I can't tell if it's because of nostalgia, or it is actually a good fantasy tale. I think it's latter, but as I say I can't tell how much I'm being biased.

Has anyone read the dragonlance chronicles as an adult who can cast their opinion?

« Last Edit: November 03, 2019, 08:44:19 AM by Tusky »
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Jubal

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #168 on: November 07, 2019, 11:30:49 PM »
I've never read Dragonlance - should I?

What I have read recently is a book of Georgian folk tales, which was excellent and also bizarre. I really now want to read some Armenian, Azeri, and Russian tales for the comparisons... there are some fascinating tropes I've not come across elsewhere, the usual cast of kadjis and devis (as Mountain Leopards readers will know of) but type characters like the "beardless deceiver", an apparently human trickster figure distinguishable for not having a beard. And some interesting cultural tropes - the desire of people who get good fortune to invite the King to dinner, even though this inevitably goes badly for them, for example. All very interesting stuff :)
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Jubal

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #169 on: December 08, 2019, 11:04:35 PM »
Recently finished Always Coming Home, by Ursula Le Guin, which Glaurung lent me after some discussion on my article about writing places that feel alive. It was every bit as good as I might have hoped, and I found it fascinating and would definitely recommend it to others.

The 'main plot', to the extent that the book has one, is the three parts of the story 'Stone Telling', named after its protagonist, but really this is just one part of a very cleverly built evocation of a place and people and culture to which any specific narrative only serves to build the world, rather than the world serving mainly as backdrop to the plot. It is an exploration of an imagined future people called the Kesh and their ways of thinking and acting, which for Le Guin are a sort of near utopia. The Kesh are presented as something of an embodiment of mindfulness and coexistence, with a highly ritualised society that places heavy emphasis on community and connection, but little on narrative.

The strangest thing about the Kesh, and the thing that made them most alien for me, is their lack of a strong narrative sense of past or future, of what sort of world they wish to live in as separate from the one that they do live in. For Le Guin, this is a utopian element: a society that has evolved beyond the sense and need to record and explain and plan, that is unafraid of its own mortality and unconcerned with eternity, and can get on with living and caring and being, perhaps discovering things that had already been discovered generations before with fresh eyes, but not attempting to build on one discovery with another beyond their existent, modest technological level. Some elements of the Kesh society, their core rituals, seem unchanging, and some stories are passed down between generations, but much poetry and creativity is ephemeral and appreciated as such. Perhaps it it just in self-justification, as a historian and a writer, that this belief in the virtues of ephemerality clashes with my own belief in the eternal possibility of progress and the reimagining and reinterpretation of what has gone before.

The charm of the Kesh, for all that I could not quite imagine myself among them, was nonetheless absolutely there. The intricate structures of Lodges, Houses, and Arts that made up their society, with a central double-spiral motif at the heart of their belief system cropping up in all sorts of places, is the sort of thing that appeals to my brain's love of reimagining systems and how societies could work differently. The egalitarian, non-hierarchical nature of the Kesh was an element that I'm sure I found as pleasantly utopian as the author wanted me to. My own love of both a feeling of connectivity to nature, and its expression through poetry, was also well catered to, as well, and stories short and long alike were very much enjoyed. Much of the Kesh ritual I could imagine with much of the fondness of the rituals I remember from childhood (or perhaps more so, for I have no need to feel conflicted about the organisation of Kesh life in the way that I am about the institutions of state and church that were responsible for most of my own childhood rituals on some level or other).

All in all, would absolutely recommend this as a read - it's certainly a book I'd like to come back to at some point and think more about.
The duke, the wanderer, the philosopher, the mariner, the warrior, the strategist, the storyteller, the wizard, the wayfarer...