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Books you've recently enjoyed

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  • Books you've recently enjoyed

    Originally posted by Michael Moorcock
    Maybe we should have somewhere we can all post titles and publishers of books we've recently enjoyed ? They don't have to be recently published.
    Mr. Moorcock made this suggestion in the Q&A Forum, and I think it's worth a try.
    (Although I expressed a qualm or two about the idea at the time.) Ground rule is, I
    think, to limit ourselves to a list of books we've read in the last 30 days and genuinely
    liked. One hopes we'll manage to avoid thereby a complete listing of the participants'
    libraries!

    I'd add that it doesn't need to be the first time one has read the books listed.

    To begin, in the last month, the following books gave me more than a modicum
    of pleasure.

    Little, Big, John Crowley
    The synopsis didn't sound promising. The execution was a different matter entirely.
    Crowley writes very well. A nice work to juxtapose to the Tolkien school of fantasy.

    The Egoist, George Meredith
    A discussion of Meredith in another thread got me thinking about this book. It's
    witty, entertaining, and very modern compared to most of its contemporaries. The
    satire and irony still bite pretty deep.

    Washington Square, Henry James
    My wife is a Jane Austen fan. I lent her this book, feeling that it partook of some of
    the spirit of Austen's better books -- even if the conclusion isn't tied up so happily
    as is usually the case for one of Austen's novels. My wife liked the book a lot, which
    is saying something, since she rarely seems to like James's novels. I like the book a lot,
    too, of course. ;) I could make a long list of books, stories, and novellas by James that
    I really like...but this posting is limited to what I've read recently. :]

    The Priest, Thomas M. Disch
    This is a book in his Minnesota gothic series. It's been around for almost 10 years,
    so it predates a lot of the furor that's been swirling around the Church recently.
    I found it wonderfully black humored, and the writing is witty to the point of being
    epigrammatic at times. I'm an admirer of what Disch can accomplish in prose, and this
    book's another worthy addition to his canon.

    The Devil is Dead, R. A. Lafferty
    This book is a wild verbal romp. It sags a bit -- I found that Lafferty's approach seemed
    to work better for short stories most of the time than for novels. The central notion is
    typically looney tunes for this writer, and I'm not convinced he controlled his fancy
    all the way through the book. Still, I laughed pretty hard, and overall liked it.

    Other books were, of course, read, but those were the high points.

    LSN

  • #2
    Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Doblin - Penguin, 1978.

    First published in Weimar Germany, 1929. Follows the misadventures of one Franz Biberkopf, pimp and murderer, following his release from prison - lapse back into his old ways and eventual redemption. On the way he meets nazis, communists, anarchists, disillusioned socialists and assorted elements of the criminal fraternity. An expressionist classic - has been termed the German "Ulysses" and made into a 15 hour movie by Fassbinder. The translation labours a bit at times - but an inventively written and fascinating glimpse into a lost world - made even more pertinent in hindsight by our knowledge of the horrors to come...
    \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Mikey_C
      Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Doblin - Penguin, 1978.

      First published in Weimar Germany, 1929. Follows the misadventures of one Franz Biberkopf, pimp and murderer, following his release from prison - lapse back into his old ways and eventual redemption. On the way he meets nazis, communists, anarchists, disillusioned socialists and assorted elements of the criminal fraternity. An expressionist classic - has been termed the German "Ulysses" and made into a 15 hour movie by Fassbinder. The translation labours a bit at times - but an inventively written and fascinating glimpse into a lost world - made even more pertinent in hindsight by our knowledge of the horrors to come...
      Great book, I agree! You rarely hear it mentioned, either, which is too bad, because if it's
      to one's taste, it's a terrific read.

      I liked your synopsis, too. The book is complex, but you managed to reduce it to a paragraph.

      You've suddenly made me want to go back and reread it! It's been a long time.

      Thanks!

      LSN

      Comment


      • #4
        It's been a while since I've read it, but "Town Beyond the Wall" By Ellie Wiesel was an excellent "deep" read.

        Comment


        • #5
          a poll on Pohl...

          Not really polling, or trolling, or gambolling, but just strolling through the aisles of a
          second-hand bookstore in Mountain View the other day, I espied a stack of books
          by Frederik Pohl. You know the name: "The Midas Plague," Gateway, and the book
          he co-authored with Cyril Kornbluth, The Space Merchants. He was for several
          years in the Sixties the editor of Galaxy Magazine and Worlds of If, and (with a certain
          unnamed editor of New Worlds) was the best editor in the field, as judged by the quality
          of the stories in his magazines.

          Most of us afflicted with the evil vice of reading s-f have over the years read books by the man.
          I've read stories by him here and there over the years, usually in "Best of..." anthologies.

          The books I encountered in the bookstore were Day Million, Alternating Currents,
          The Case Against Tomorrow, The Man Who Ate the World, The Gold at the
          Starbow's End
          , Digits and Dastards, and Turn Left at Thursday. They were
          cheap, so I bought them and read them over the weekend.

          General impressions: Pohl wasn't a "post-modernist"; he wrote "sociological" and
          satirical science fiction of the sort common in the Fifties. They seem almost like
          "mainstream" stories in their slickness: almost like stories for Saturday Evening Post
          in the future. This isn't as easy as it sounds, of course. He had to construct complex
          extrapolated backgrounds, integrate the effects of scientific or technological change, etc.
          Pohl's a man of considerable education (although primarily autodidact) as well as acumen.
          He writes pretty good prose, too.

          He also writes some of the more entertaining short-short s-f stories that have been
          done. He called these "velocity exercises." They depend on fast development and a
          surprising resolution -- not an O. Henry-style "snapper" in the tail, but a resolution
          that sometimes makes you realize that there's another way to interpret the events of
          the first part of the story than you've considered. One of the better examples of this
          is the story "Pythias," and a comic form of the same in the story "Grandy Devil."

          I'm not so foolish as to think that these books are for everyone, but I found them
          pleasant reading, as well as surprising in the manner of cracking open a timecapsule.

          LSN

          Comment


          • #6
            Doc recently posted a review of Jonathan Carroll's excellent Land of Laughs
            in Recommended Reading. It may be found here [broken link]

            It certainly fits the requirements for this thread, and it was informative, for
            which he deserves our thanks. I think I need to read some more of Carroll's
            work, considering the encomium Doc provided.

            LSN
            Last edited by Rothgo; 04-09-2010, 03:49 AM.

            Comment


            • #7
              The Lost by Jonathan Aycliffe, Harper Collins pbk, 1996.

              The spirit of Bram Stoker is omnipresent throughout this tale of a descendant of exiled Romanian aristocrats retracing his family heritage in post-Ceausescu Romania. Never too far from cliche (although this not a vampire tale!), but an entertainingly compulsive read nonetheless, if you enjoy a good ghost story. The author claims it is based on genuine Romanian folklore, and I would say that its tighter and maintains a more sustained spooky atmosphere than "Dracula".

              It's culturally interesting that parts of Eastern Europe can still seem remote and mysterious enough to suspend disbelief in a story such as this at the end of the 20th C/ start of the 21st.

              Jonathan Aycliffe is otherwise known a thriller writer Daniel Easterman - I came across this by chance in a charity shop. His horror novels seem to be out of print at present. On a fan website devoted to him http://www.ghostwriter.4t.com/ he exclaims why, in terms which should spread gloom in the hearts of aspiring writers:

              Overall, modern publishing has become very unfriendly to writers, to the point where it's hard to make writing a career for more than a short stretch of time. Even very big names are experiencing a 50% drop in their sales. It's a combination of things. Publishers don't want to know about good quality middle-aged writers with a respectable sales history: they want good-looking 20-year-olds who will tour, paying stupid sums up front for a first novel, when the likelihood is that book two will sink without a trace. The old-fashioned method of building an author slowly, so that he and the publisher would both be earning well after thirty years or more has been chucked out the windows by the massive corporations that now control the business. For the most part, bestsellers (which is all they're interested in) don't just happen, they are made by doing deals with WH Smith and the chains. It's a jungle run by some cold and brutal people.
              :(
              \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

              Comment


              • #8
                a recommendation from L'Etranger

                L'Etranger spoke of this book in another thread. I thought it constituted a recommendation
                of the sort we're discussing here. Books published originally in Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish
                don't get much attention in the English speaking countries, unless their authors become
                prominent for some reason. This is a shame. There are excellent writers from the Scandinavian
                countries; think of Hjalmar Sأ¶derberg, Pأ¤r Lagerkvist, Isak Dinesen, and Henryk Pontopiddan, among others.

                LSN

                Originally posted by L'Etranger


                A recommendation from me, a book that impressed me: The Royal Physician's Visit by Per Olov Enquist (Livlأ¤karens Besأ¶k ). If you haven't heard of it already, here's an intelligent description: http://www.rawbrick.net/book/104/the-ro...ans-visit. The English version is probably easier to get and cheaper than the Swedish original. I read Der Besuch des Leibarztes in German and I'm sure there are adequate translations, I will look in Paris when I go there shortly.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I have just finished reading Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (they were published in a single edition, which I bought on my trip to London) by Lewis Carroll, with illustrations by Mervyn Peake.

                  I'd never read the books before, although I thought I was familiar with the stories from various cartoon and film adaptations. I can't remember the last TV version I saw of the first book very well, but I do recall that it featured Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum, who actually only appear in the second book. I can see that many adaptations have taken liberties with the original texts, and I wonder if there will ever be a faithful transfer to screen?

                  Obviously these stories were originally intended for children, but I think there's still a great deal about the language and the satire that can be appreciated by adults too. Quite why almost every creature that Alice meets is so utterly unpleasant, I've no idea, but it certainly makes for a spikier read. This isn't really a Disney-friendly world (although obviously they've had a try at translating it into their own style), since so few of the animals are in the least bit "cute and cuddly".... most of them are simply insane... some are insulting... some are insane and insulting at the same time.

                  I was surprised by how funny I found a lot of the puns, considering how old the books actually are, and you certainly can't accuse the plot of being predictable... not that there really is much of a plot... more a series of confusing events and encounters and peculiar songs. I enjoyed it, anyway, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to everyone. If you don't like puns and wordplay, then you'll probably find most of the conversations quite annoying.

                  I didn't especially enjoy the illustrations, which might just be my (un)professional jealousy talking, but I do prefer a strong line and Peake seems to favour cross-hatching to suggest a line. Some day I'd like to see the version that Ralph Steadman illustrated, but it's not a cheap or widely available edition.
                  "That which does not kill us, makes us stranger." - Trevor Goodchild

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    The Citadel of Fear by Francis Stevens - Paperback Library edition 1970 (originally published in Argosy, 1918.

                    E-text: http://gaslight.mtroyal.ca/citadlX1.htm

                    Classic piece of pulp fantasy, described as a "wonderful and tragic allegory ... amazing and thrilling" by HP Lovecraft. Francis Stevens (real name Gertrude Barrows) must have been one of the first women sf/fantasy writers and this book is well worth reading today. Stevens did her homework (which is why she wrote fairly slowly) and this tale which starts off in Mexico is inspired by the Aztec pantheon. It combines elements I would say of H Rider Haggard, "Dracula" and "The Island of Doctor Moreau" as the action follows the main protagonist back to the US (the story seems to change tack a bit half way through).

                    I very much liked the first section in Mexico - then things ease off a bit, but the climax is superb. Very entertaining; I would read more of her stuff.
                    \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Just started Kushiel's Avatar by Jacqueline Carey, third in a trilogy. These fantasy novels are not for everyone -- the pain and loss her female protagonist endures are frightful! -- but they are gripping and well-written indeed. I was astonished the first book was Carey's first sale.

                      She's nice, too; I met her at Dragon*Con last month.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        enjoyed On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers - pirates, voodoo, mummified dog's heads, rum, blackbeard - what more do you want.

                        Very good, but not as brilliant as either Drawing of the Dark or Anubis Gates by the same author.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          UBIK by Philip K Dick

                          It was an excellent, fulfilling reading for me. It's the best PKD book I've read so far (but I haven't read "Man in the High Castle yet, so I can change my mind). He plays with reality again, there's a point that you lose the consciousness of what's real and what's not and the book gets more complicated and exciting.

                          ReaveTheJust, what do you think about Drawing of the Dark? Do you like it and recommend?
                          http://soundandclouds.blogspot.com/

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            China Mieville's Perdido Street Station.

                            Remarkable stuff, I tell you. He created a vast, vibrant and utterly believable world in this book. Description wise, he doesn't seem a world apart from MM, which surely can't be a bad thing? I'm also hoping to interview him soon...
                            Call me cockey, but if there\'s an alien I can\'t kill, I haven\'t met him and killed him yet!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              The Last Oblivion, by Clark Ashton Smith. Hippocampus Press, 2002.

                              This is a book of selected poems from Smith's "fantastic" verse. Smith is better
                              known to most readers of fantasy and science fiction as a writer of fiction for
                              the old Weird Tales, and as a friend and correspondant of Lovecraft. Some
                              of the stories are pretty good (and some not). Many of the themes present in
                              his stories are present in his verse, primarily a fascination with "cosmic" vision,
                              as well as what seems like an obsession with erotic aspects of Thanatos and
                              exotic metamorphosis. It's a strange confection, especially for a reader like me,
                              whose taste in poetry runs more towards Wallace Stevens, Conrad Aikin, and
                              Hart Crane. Still, Smith, a devotأ© of traditional verse forms, succeeds at times.
                              In particular, I liked the longish poem "The Hashish Eater." My personal reaction
                              is that the poetry is deliberately narrow, and hits a limited reperatoire of notes,
                              but it's metrically and prosodically accomplished, and at times achieves the effect
                              of "vision" that Smith seemed to strive for.

                              The intro by S. T. Joshi goes a little overboard at times. Some of his pronouncements
                              remind me of the slightly odd introductions by Lin Carter for the Ballantine Adult
                              Fantasy volumes from the late Sixties and early Seventies. Still, Joshi writes with
                              what seems like genuine appreciation.

                              I liked a moderate amount of the verse, and the vocabulary that Smith musters
                              will please other Wallace Stevens aficionados. The book isn't for everyone, but if
                              you like the best of Smith's fiction, you might like some of his poetry, too.

                              LSN

                              Comment

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