Author Topic: What are you reading?  (Read 107207 times)

BeerDrinkingBurke

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #225 on: September 17, 2023, 07:01:20 AM »
That sounds fascinating!

I am reading Fool's Fate, Book Three of the Tawny Many trilogy. I finished book two a couple of weeks ago, and marched right on to book three. I've decided to then push ahead with the rest of her books that are set in the same world (The Realm of the Elderlings).  So, 4 Rain Wild Chronicles books, and then the Fitz and the Fool Trilogy. Reviews are a little mixed on the Rain Wild Chronicles, but the agreement is they deliver a lot of background world lore that is really important for Fitz and the Fool, which is very highly regarded. It seems that the very final book in this 14(!!) book series is extremely highly regarded (4.65 on good reads!), so that is what pushed me to accept the time commitment needed to get there. I'm really enjoying Hobb's writing. Particularly the character of Fitz. I would need to think on it a bit and write some reviews in the future.
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BeerDrinkingBurke

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #226 on: September 19, 2023, 08:00:17 AM »
Today I am also reading this long form essay by Doc Burford on writing. It includes a great quote by Terry Pratchett.https://docseuss.medium.com/refuting-the-bullet-so-you-wanna-write-an-interesting-story-but-dont-know-where-to-begin-c67003cce233

Quote
>
O: You’re quite a writer. You’ve a gift for language, you’re a deft hand at plotting, and your books seem to have an enormous amount of attention to detail put into them. You’re so good you could write anything. Why write fantasy?
 

Pratchett: I had a decent lunch, and I’m feeling quite amiable. That’s why you’re still alive. I think you’d have to explain to me why you’ve asked that question.
 

O: It’s a rather ghettoized genre.
 

P: This is true. I cannot speak for the US, where I merely sort of sell okay. But in the UK I think every book — I think I’ve done twenty in the series — since the fourth book, every one has been one the top ten national bestsellers, either as hardcover or paperback, and quite often as both. Twelve or thirteen have been number one. I’ve done six juveniles, all of those have nevertheless crossed over to the adult bestseller list. On one occasion I had the adult best seller, the paperback best-seller in a different title, and a third book on the juvenile bestseller list. Now tell me again that this is a ghettoized genre.
O: It’s certainly regarded as less than serious fiction.
 

P: (Sighs) Without a shadow of a doubt, the first fiction ever recounted was fantasy. Guys sitting around the campfire — Was it you who wrote the review? I thought I recognized it — Guys sitting around the campfire telling each other stories about the gods who made lightning, and stuff like that. They did not tell one another literary stories. They did not complain about difficulties of male menopause while being a junior lecturer on some midwestern college campus. Fantasy is without a shadow of a doubt the ur-literature, the spring from which all other literature has flown. Up to a few hundred years ago no one would have disagreed with this, because most stories were, in some sense, fantasy. Back in the middle ages, people wouldn’t have thought twice about bringing in Death as a character who would have a role to play in the story. Echoes of this can be seen in Pilgrim’s Progress, for example, which hark back to a much earlier type of storytelling. The epic of Gilgamesh is one of the earliest works of literature, and by the standard we would apply now — a big muscular guys with swords and certain godlike connections — That’s fantasy. The national literature of Finland, the Kalevala. Beowulf in England. I cannot pronounce Bahaghvad-Gita but the Indian one, you know what I mean. The national literature, the one that underpins everything else, is by the standards that we apply now, a work of fantasy.
 

Now I don’t know what you’d consider the national literature of America, but if the words Moby Dick are inching their way towards this conversation, whatever else it was, it was also a work of fantasy. Fantasy is kind of a plasma in which other things can be carried. I don’t think this is a ghetto. This is, fantasy is, almost a sea in which other genres swim. Now it may be that there has developed in the last couple of hundred years a subset of fantasy which merely uses a different icongraphy, and that is, if you like, the serious literature, the Booker Prize contender. Fantasy can be serious literature. Fantasy has often been serious literature. You have to fairly dense to think that Gulliver’s Travels is only a story about a guy having a real fun time among big people and little people and horses and stuff like that. What the book was about was something else. Fantasy can carry quite a serious burden, and so can humor. So what you’re saying is, strip away the trolls and the dwarves and things and put everyone into modern dress, get them to agonize a bit, mention Virginia Woolf a few times, and there! Hey! I’ve got a serious novel. But you don’t actually have to do that.
 

(Pauses) That was a bloody good answer, though I say it myself.
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Jubal

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #227 on: September 22, 2023, 03:43:26 PM »
That is a good answer! And I've not read any Hobb and probably should.



My latest read was East of the West, by Miroslav Penkov, a book of short stories about modern Bulgaria which I decided to read on account of being on holiday in Bulgaria. It's excellent, albeit grim, he's a very good writer indeed and can carry me through certain sorts of comically depressing writing that I'd give up on from another author. A lot of his stories shade into semi-absurdities but ones that are still just about believable against the backdrop of late Communist and early post-Communist Bulgaria, and its relationship with the capitalist world it was rammed hard into contact with. Definitely worth reading anyhow.
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dubsartur

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #228 on: September 23, 2023, 04:35:42 PM »
I am re-reading the Flashman novel about the Crimean War.  I feel torn about these books.  George Macdonald Fraser was a careful observer of human behaviour and an enthusiastic researcher who challenges his readers to look up some ridiculous detail and find out that it actually happened.

But Flashman is just such a despicable person.  He is a bully, a rapist, and a slaver, and each of his adventures involve a lot of close shaves and suffering but end with him richer and more respectable than before.  He is not just weak, but actively wicked.  I don't like spending time with him in a first-person voice that is sometimes him and sometimes Fraser.

Jubal

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #229 on: September 23, 2023, 05:41:53 PM »
Yes, I never even started on the Flashman books for exactly that reason, I just took a look and was like "well that character sounds horrible and I have zero wish to hang out with them being a protagonist". Though all these are YMMV, I definitely have some grim authors in the list of people I enjoy (though mostly much older ones, Fenimore Cooper being the obvious).
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dubsartur

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #230 on: September 23, 2023, 08:04:31 PM »
Flashman's depravity also gets in the way of the points about imperialism which Fraser wants to make.  Its hard to believe that maybe the British Empire wasn't so bad when its face is a slaving snobby bulling rapist (and its hard to sympathize with his suffering when the cause of that suffering is 'maybe my wife beds other men like I bed other women' or 'someone I betrayed four books ago is back and has the receipts').

Flandry at least fights for something, and James Bond is an honest thug.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2023, 08:12:58 PM by dubsartur »

Pentagathus

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #231 on: September 30, 2023, 11:25:39 AM »
I've been reading (well listening to audiobooks) the Elric of Menibone saga. Didn't expect it to be my kind of thing but I'm rather enjoying it.

Jubal

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #232 on: November 17, 2023, 11:10:50 PM »
My 12th book - actually reaching my minimum reading target for the year with about forty days to go - was For The Love Of Philae by Christian Jacq. It's a historical novel imagining the final days of the temple at Philae, essentially the last operating pre-Christian religious community in Egypt. Because the author's sympathies are entirely with the Philae community, it's fundamentally a tragedy, most characters are dead by the end etc. It's an interesting concept but a bit of a flawed execution.

I think it probably loses a bit from being a translation, but also generally I found the style a bit tricky. We're sort of half invited into the inner lives of most of the characters: the interest of the book mainly stems from their difficulties as a network of people and their different desires, friendships, and their political, moral and theological positions between Byzantine Imperial, Christian Egyptian, and pre-Christian culture. They end up as position-avatars more than people sometimes, however: for example, the Byzantine general Narses is interesting in that he somewhat falls in love with the landscape as separate to any of the religious positions and ends up with this almost new age meditiative retreat over the course of the book, but that coupled with his generalship is really all he is: he has no relationships or past outside that which the plot demands, which is arguably efficient storytelling but sometimes makes the characters feel a bit singularly obsessive even for characters where not being singularly obsessive is meant to be a notable personality trait. The book takes place over several years, and often is perhaps a bit sparse in its presentation of individual events, preferring to spend time on reminding us of how the characters relate to things around them: the way that the ropes tighten around the community is quite matter-of-fact and slow and bureaucratic, which I get is what the author intended but it can make the whole thing a tad slow at points.

I think my other issue with the book was that it was so heavily modern. The things that characters in it seem to appreciate about ancient religion are the things that Jacq finds captivating about ancient religion, a sense of mysticism and beauty and antiquity and a feeling that Christianity was a somewhat totalitarian imposition overturning a somehow more tolerant ancient world. Conversely there are important aspects of the whole thing that are uncomfortable to say the least: the Nubian followers of non-Christian faiths are very much a generic externality and their portrayal, even granted that they are nominally on the side of the protagonists, is as a racialised, autocthonous, noble savage type group.

But anyway, an interesting if flawed read.
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Spritelady

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #233 on: November 21, 2023, 05:25:56 PM »
Just a little update on my own reading at the moment, although I don't currently have much to say as I have hit one of my typical reading slumps in which beginning a new book seems rather overwhelming in my current brain state.

However, I am currently two books short of averaging two books a month for this year (though my reading pattern does not in any way reflect this average - I have basically read around 6 books in the space of a week or two, followed by several months of reading nothing at all, followed by frantically devouring books again for a bit...).

I received several books for my birthday over the weekend, and am looking forward to cracking into them when my brain state gets itself back into gear. So I'm hopeful that I will reach, if not exceed, my goal of 24 books for the year. Wish me luck!

dubsartur

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #234 on: December 02, 2023, 05:23:40 AM »
I am reading "A Fool and His Money" by Ann Wroe, a social history of fourteenth-century Rodez in Languedoc, in bits and pieces.  I think that the loosely footnoted style which is vague about what is in the archives and what she imagined works well because most of those sources were either in bad abbreviated Latin or local dialects of Occitan that you can only learn by reading and asking native speakers and reading Catalan dictionaries.  It would be a good inspiration for fantasy misadventures and low drama because nobody is very wicked or very competent (there are some violent criminals).

Someone could easily write gritty noir stories about Ptolemaic or Roman Egypt.

I am trying to find happier things to talk about than current events or the collapse of systems of trusting-but-verifying.
« Last Edit: December 02, 2023, 05:34:09 AM by dubsartur »

Jubal

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #235 on: December 02, 2023, 09:21:08 AM »
Ooh, any particularly good vignettes or stories in the book that you've come across? :)
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dubsartur

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #236 on: December 02, 2023, 07:27:19 PM »
Well, the focus is a court case in 1369 or 1370 where a pewter pot of gold was found in a clogged drain and the question was whether it belonged to the owner who had leased it out, or was treasure trove, in which case the count or the bishop had claims to it.

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #237 on: December 02, 2023, 11:28:18 PM »
I like those sorts of fairly everyday but notable questions. It's the sort of thing that works well in book stories or dramas but I've rarely seen work in a game: in a story, everyone waiting to see what a judge or similar will decide on a point of law is tension building, in a game it feels quite low agency for players I think.
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dubsartur

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #238 on: December 04, 2023, 02:52:39 AM »
She also dug up this unforgettable song.  The language is pretty easy if you know Latin and a Romance language, the most unexpected word is bago "ring."  Supposedly there is another text in the Anthologie des Chants Populaires francais.

Al' pon da Mirabel (On the bridge of Mirabel)
Catarina lababo. (Caterina was washing)

Venguero a passa (Came riding past)
Tres cabelhes d'armada. (Three armed knights)

Lo premier li diguet (The first one asked her)
'Ne ses pas maridada?'

Lo seguon le donet
Uno polido bago.

Mas lo bago del det (But the ring from her finger)
Tombet al fon de l'ayo (Fell in the source of the water)

Lo trosieme sautet
Forget lo cobussado. (Leapt over the parapet)

Mas tornet pas monta (But he did not come back up)
Ne trobet pas lo bago. (Or find the ring)

Al' pon da Mirabel
Catarina plorabo (Caterina was crying)

Jubal

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Re: What are you reading?
« Reply #239 on: December 04, 2023, 11:35:23 PM »
I assume the remaining unbracketed lines in your version would be something like

'Ne ses pas maridada?' (Aren't you married?)

Lo seguon le donet (The second he gave her (donet/donate?))
Uno polido bago. (A ?shiny? ring)

Lo trosieme sautet (The third ???)

The scansion could fit a tune very like Sur le pont d'Avignon, though I don't know if I'm just getting reminded of that due to the vague region of origin.
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