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Thread: What's the last book you read?

  1. #2326
    ancient savageries Andreas's Avatar
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    I did read some critics that thought the success of the main characters was unrealistic. Intellectually I can see that, but like Kari I was too emotionally caught by the story to really care.

    To me, the Jude's success was an integral part of the story. As I read it, Jude grew up without anything. I don't think he wanted wealth for wealths sake, but I think he craved the security that wealth affords someone with his physical problems. Intellectually, he knew he most likely would only get worse and have special needs. He also expected to live alone his whole life. I also think the book portrayed a very special class of people - Ivy Leagers living and working in New York with all of the connections that afforded them. The book constantly commented on how the circles they moved in were actually quite small, with the same people at all the different parties, at the same holiday spots etc. These were people that life basically gave everything yet none of them were immune to the darker sides of life.

  2. #2327
    ancient savageries Andreas's Avatar
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    OMG that part was so tough to get through. I was literally sobbing on the couch at our family holiday house. The whole last part after the accident just killed me, as did the letter from Harold to Willem that closed out the book.

    I was really confused at first at how JB and Malcolm kind of faded from the story as it progressed, as Jude and Willem took center stage more and more. But your right, it clearly mirrored how they became smaller and smaller parts of Judes life as they all grew older and had careers and stuff. They drifted apart from Jude and Willem (especially JB because of that horrible incident) and so they sort of drifted out of the narrative. But at the end I think I understood why they had gotten chapters of their own in the beginning, since you needed that connection to them for the ending to really resonate.

    The story takes place over approximately 30 years, right? They're in their early 20's in the beginning, and in their early 50's by the end. Yet it all felt like a continous now because she never dates any of the passages with pop culture or fashion or anything like that, and modern technology plays a very small part of the story. I really liked that part of it, it made it less "period" and more immediate.

  3. #2328
    'If you existed, I'd divorce you.' spyk_'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kari View Post
    OH the part of the book that made me cry the hardest (I found the whole quote on the internets)



    I literally had to put it down and just go cry it out for a minute.
    I didn't know anything about this book before reading this thread but that passage is intriguing and beautiful.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Markness View Post
    Say what you want about him but he could write plot like a motherfucker. This is why I feel that it's really important for writers to not turn their noses up at "genre" storytelling. "Literary" fiction may be beautiful and emotional, but so much of it is BORRRRING because it has zero stakes/plot momentum.
    I won't be able to find it now, but a while ago I read a really interesting article by an author with great critical notices but a tiny readership (i.e 'literary'), who signed on to one of James Patterson's 'learn to be a writer' online courses. She learnt that the basic rules he lays out; get to the point, don't use ten words when one will do, give your characters objectives and obstacles etc etc, could also be applied most of the greatest works of literature. I think it's a very general point but the qualities that make a novel a classic are also the ones that make a great genre page-turner. The differences are often minuet - works are considered literary greats because of the time they fall into, their universality or their specificity, and often some tiny creative leap that changes how people think about fiction. Genre-thrillers, for example, tend not to do this, but rather just speak to people's expectations. But that doesn't mean that what makes them interesting is fundamentally different. What I dislike about the branding of literature as 'classic' is that it seems to add layers of dust onto work that could otherwise be perceived as fresh, exciting and relevant. There is so much joy to be had in reading some of the 'greats' and discovering what actually makes them great. I worry that the 'classic' brand might stop people finding out how thrilling Crime and Punishment is, or how fucking weird Moby-Dick is, or how hilarious all of Jane Austen is. But it works the other way too, and people can snob themselves out of reading some really great work because its popularity makes them feel above it somehow. The distinction between popular and literary fiction is nothing more than a product of capitalism, designed to help bookmakers sell people stuff. It has no truth or relevance beyond that. Then there's the whole thing of Shakespeare's appropriation by highly educated posh people, but that makes me so sad and angry that it's best left to another thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Markness View Post
    Finished The Haunting of Hill House and LOVED IT, maybe even a little more than I loved We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Shirley Jackson's writing is surgically precise. I want to write like that. And the story is as much an exploration of trauma and toxicity (and madness?) as it is of supernatural events. It's barely 250 pages but there's a lot going on in it, between the lines and under the surface. Has anyone seen the old movie adaptation? (I've been warned away from the Liam Neeson/Catherina Zeta-Jones travesty).
    I remember loving the Jan de Bont version when it came out (I was 10, and was up for anything supernatural) then I watched it as an adult and good Lord fuck it is awful. I also remember really wanting to read the book but they didn't have it in my tiny local library so I never got to. Reading your thoughts reminded me of it, so I bought it the other day. I've only read the - absolutely brilliant - opening paragraph* but I'm already looking forward to it. I'll let you know my thoughts when I've read it.

    *

  4. #2329
    oh God, Shirley Jackson's prose in The Haunting of Hill House is just...out of this world. The whole thing--plot, characters, line-by-line writing--is fantastic.

    It's funny to read it and realize it was published in 1959, and then chart how BADLY it has been aped in literature and film since then. Her approach and ideas still feel fresh because people have tried to duplicate what she did without seeming to understand it. There are no "ghosts" in Hill House. It's the house itself. And the people in it. And so many haunted house tales zero in on "it's the ghost of this person who was murdered here!" but she shies away from that kind of definitiveness, and it makes the story that much more frightening. Stephen King's The Shining is one of the only books I can think of that seems to successfully internalize what worked about Hill House and take it in a new direction.

    The other thing I loved about it was how it portrayed toxic interpersonal dynamics. Even "good" people can be emotional nightmares.
    "See everything as an illusion, and enjoy it even though you are not of it."
    ~Alanis Morissette, paraphrased

  5. #2330
    the unhappy worker waitressboy's Avatar
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    I'm struggling with Justice Undone by Thor Vilhjálmsson (yeah, Icelandic literature again, I know).
    But damn, it's so dense and boring. It has SOOOO many pages of absolutely nothing interesting. I seriously don't want to read another page with a description of moss. Just when I thought the author was done with the eternal description of landscapes, now there are full chapters of dreams. DREAMS. WHY THE FUCK DO I WANT TO READ TEN PAGES OF A STUPID DREAM THAT DOESN'T ADD A THING TO THE STORY?
    But this shit is not going to win; I'm gonna finish reading it. The only book that forced me to leave was Ulysses, and that's not gonna change.
    When he woke up, the dinosaur was still there.

  6. #2331
    I've been hearing a lot about the Neapolitan series by Elena Ferrante, so I picked up the first book, My Brilliant Friend. The series is about the friendship between two women over the decades of their lives; the first book focuses on their relationship in childhood and adolescence while growing up together in a rough neighborhood in Naples. I'm really enjoying it! The depictions of the various characters and the volatile, sometimes violent atmosphere of growing up poor in post-war Italy are vivid and relatable.
    "See everything as an illusion, and enjoy it even though you are not of it."
    ~Alanis Morissette, paraphrased

  7. #2332
    Butts. soignee's Avatar
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    I am struggling so much reading A Little Life, I have put it down and walked away from it; it is not a book for the faint hearted. Will pick it up when I am not in a rush of moving.

    I am comfort reading LOTR instead.

  8. #2333
    On The Story of a New Name, second of The Neapolitan Novels, and loving it. The content--post-war struggles with gender, class, ambition, friendship, marriage, etc.--is familiar ground that has been mined by great writers for decades, but something about Ferrante's voice and approach gives it all this tense, mythic weight. And her psychological insight is BRUTALLY real. Like, ouch. Her observations pull no punches.

    Also made a run through Barnes and Noble with my mother while she was visiting and we did some damage. I walked away with:

    The First Book of Calamity Leek ~ Paula Lichtarowicz
    The Buried Giant ~ Kazuo Ishiguro
    The Girls ~ Emma Cline
    The Hollow Queen, The Merchant Emperor, and The Weaver's Lament by Elizabeth Haydon, which is the concluding trilogy of her Rhapsody fantasy series. (Are there any other Rhapsody fans in the house?)
    "See everything as an illusion, and enjoy it even though you are not of it."
    ~Alanis Morissette, paraphrased

  9. #2334
    'If you existed, I'd divorce you.' spyk_'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Markness View Post
    Finished The Haunting of Hill House and LOVED IT, maybe even a little more than I loved We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Shirley Jackson's writing is surgically precise. I want to write like that. And the story is as much an exploration of trauma and toxicity (and madness?) as it is of supernatural events. It's barely 250 pages but there's a lot going on in it, between the lines and under the surface. Has anyone seen the old movie adaptation? (I've been warned away from the Liam Neeson/Catherina Zeta-Jones travesty).
    I finished this last week. I liked how much room she gives the reader to interpret Eleanor's breakdown - even in the dialogue not much is contextualized or explained. I couldn't often tell whether the characters were being flippant with each other or not, which is a clever move because it gave the last quarter of the novel a sinister edge. I found Eleanor's utter dependence on people incredibly vivid. The whole thing, if not well handled, could have been unintentionally hilarious and dramatically messy. But I found it chilling, not only from the supernatural elements, but from the sense of complete, irrecoverable loneliness. I found the other three characters really interesting too. I agree with you about the sparseness of the prose. It's book about the slipperiness of reality, and that's so reflected by how much work the audience can do to fill in between the lines. I'd love to read it again soon.

    I'm having great fun reading my way through the work of Muriel Spark. I absolutely love her razor humour and her morbidity. It's rare to find a writer whose voice I've enjoyed so immediately. Not only is she wickedly intelligent, but she assumes her reader is too. I love that. She isn't afraid to fill her novels with utterly despicable people and make us care about them. She's another writer who only puts on the page exactly what's necessary. Last night I finished Memento Mori, which I think is my favourite so far. It's a hilarious and moving study of old age and death, centering around a group of elderly friends who start receiving anonymous phone calls telling them, "remember you must die". As often with Spark, there is a lot of mischief and plenty of back-stabbing, and no-one is entirely innocent and no-one is entirely rotten.

  10. #2335
    Lyrical acuity and mum-smarts menju56's Avatar
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    I love Memento Mori!

  11. #2336
    Get Out The Dark Adam's Avatar
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    Oooh. I'll have to check that one out! And Mark, I can't wait to see what you think about Calamity Leek! I loved it!

    I'm reading The Girls right now. So far so good, although there is something about Emma Cline's writing that annoys me.
    The Landslide Never Brought, Brought Me Down

  12. #2337
    imagine a future and be in it emanate's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spyk_ View Post
    I finished this last week. I liked how much room she gives the reader to interpret Eleanor's breakdown - even in the dialogue not much is contextualized or explained. I couldn't often tell whether the characters were being flippant with each other or not, which is a clever move because it gave the last quarter of the novel a sinister edge. I found Eleanor's utter dependence on people incredibly vivid. The whole thing, if not well handled, could have been unintentionally hilarious and dramatically messy. But I found it chilling, not only from the supernatural elements, but from the sense of complete, irrecoverable loneliness. I found the other three characters really interesting too. I agree with you about the sparseness of the prose. It's book about the slipperiness of reality, and that's so reflected by how much work the audience can do to fill in between the lines. I'd love to read it again soon.

    YES. I read a library copy of this book for the first time recently and my immediate sense was that I need to get my own copy. It's something I will re-read for sure because it is so slippery.

  13. #2338
    ancient savageries Andreas's Avatar
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    Cloud Atlas is one of my favorite books ever. I just think it's brilliant. It haunted my for a long time after I read it.

  14. #2339
    Quote Originally Posted by Kari View Post
    I just finished My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, which I can't say I was in love with the way some people are, but I did enjoy it. I might pick up the second book just because I want to know what happens.
    Just out of curiosity, what were your issues with it? I really enjoyed it and I'm really enjoying the second book, but there are things she does sometimes that I might not necessarily do. There can be a lot of glossing/summarizing/telling in some parts, and I've read that some people think that the narrator past-tense ruminations can be cold, in the sense of creating too much distance for a reader.
    "See everything as an illusion, and enjoy it even though you are not of it."
    ~Alanis Morissette, paraphrased

  15. #2340
    The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante, second book of The Neapolitan Novels.

    Loved it! Even more than the first book. I definitely take Kari's points about Ferrante's writing. It can be clinical/cold at times, and she does do a lot of glossing/telling. But after finishing this second book, I think that's just the style she's going for. It's intentional, so it's something that's going to resonate with you or not. I enjoy it; the narrator is writing about all of these events from a distance of many years in the context of a specific event, and the psychological ruthlessness with which the narrator portrays herself, her friend, and their world seems natural to me. There's an anger simmering in the tone, even when the writing is at its most beautiful or calculated.

    It's funny. On paper, the plots of these books--two girls develop a complicated friendship; they grow up; they navigate a violent upbringing in poverty; they navigate the travails of family, love, marriage, education--is nothing new or innovative. But even though Ferrante's writing can be clinical, it's also incredibly vivid. This second book had me totally engrossed. It had that quality that all my favorite books have; I kept delaying putting it down or doing something else because I wanted to keep reading, because I wanted to spend more time with the characters, because I wanted to know what happens next.
    "See everything as an illusion, and enjoy it even though you are not of it."
    ~Alanis Morissette, paraphrased

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