This site is supported by Nobility Studios.

What books are you reading now?

361 posts in this topic

Posted

Thanks for your thoughts, Niven. I think works like Saramago's Blindness are far superior - and fresher, to use your term - than The Road in considering apocalyptic themes; the context is wider, more nuanced and subtle, and also more harrowing, yet without McCarthy's glaring holes in the plot. I wrote briefly here that the movie has the same flaws and I don't know why McCarthy felt that this was the best way to capture his love for his son. A more understated relationship between the characters, such as throughout the Border Trilogy, would have been more satisfying, I think.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

This in reply to a past earlier on in this thread about McCarthy's The Road

I too have read McCarthy's The Road, but I was disappointed by its lack of freshness. By this I mean, that the apocalyptic narrative has already been exhuasted. It is merely a coterie of end-of-the-world scenarios, both father and son forming a kind of dialogic encounter of futility and despair. The problem, I felt with this text, is that it offered hope, a seemingly convenient device, at the end. It reminded me of a lot of Hesse's work, bringing the crux of the problem to the edge, but always retreating from taking the plunge.

The literature of Apocalypse has been done to death before, and what has come before to my mind rates higher that McCarthy's work - Beckett, Conrad, even Coetzee. Perhaps, I am wrong, and have misread the text. It seemed like a re-rendering of all the Hollywood scenarios of the apocalypse, with some glimmer of hope at the end. Hope is good, I suppose, but that is exactly the problem in The Road. It was either the complete negation of humanity or its regeneration. The plot was doomed from its very inception.

This is an interesting point because in fact the ending of this book was somewhat unusual for McCarthy. He is not a writer who deals much in hope. The endings of novels like Blood Meridian and No Country for Old Men are not particularly hopeful, though in the latter the retired and ineffectual sheriff daydreams of carrying a light, a metaphor also used in The Road. In Blood Meridian the ending is grotesque, though it is followed by an opaque epilogue that seems to suggest perhaps a hint of hope, though the epilogue is so elliptical it's hard to say. The ending of Suttree has been read as hopeful, with the protagonist, Suttree, leaving behind his fishing boat in Knoxville presumably in search of a new and better life, but I didn't read it that way at all. I read it that Suttree had died (I expect this is a minority view). Anyway, it's kind of funny to see "hope" attached to Cormac McCarthy. :)

Edited by davidm

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

I've just finished Bukowski's Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions and started now Don Quijote and Cioran's Syllogisms of Bitterness.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

Cool Gardensby Serj Tankian is coming in the mail so soon, and I can not contain my excitement!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

I'm currently in the middle of two books that couldn't be more diametrically opposite, at least thematically: Rorty's Philosophy & Mirror of Nature and Saviano's Gomorrah.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

I've just finished King Jesus by Robert Graves, and I am currently reading The Gospel According to Jesus Christ by Jose' Saramago and Man in the Modern Age by Karl Jaspers.

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

I demand reviews of these books, upon completion, Michael Pearl. Failure to do so will severely affect your beloved Saints' fortunes. :twisted:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

Conquered Saviano's Gomorrah, finally. I should be finishing up Mirror & Architecture quicker, but I've learned my lesson: try to read fiction and non-fiction, instead of 3 non-fic, which caused major feet-dragging. Next up on the queque: Generation X by Coupland, then Imperial Bedrooms by Ellis.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

I demand reviews of these books, upon completion, Michael Pearl. Failure to do so will severely affect your beloved Saints' fortunes. :twisted:

Nooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Anything but THAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Get behind me, Shaitan! Anyhow, here are a few thoughts on each of the books:

I was perusing a used book store on the look out for works by Saramago and Jaspers (among others). I ran across Saramago's The Gospel According to Jesus Christ and, for some reason, Graves's King Jesus (despite the fact that I was neither looking for anything by Graves nor demythologizations -- unless that is what Jaspers's Myth & Christianity: An Inquiry Into the Possibility of Religion Without Myth can be described as, but I did not run across it anyway, meaning I'll have to get it later and pay more for it).

Not that I have anything against such demythologizations in general.

In fact, I have long held it to be advisable (especially for believers) to investigate God-belief from the perspective of particular myths not actually being the case (for example, what if Jesus were not actually the Christ or Son incarnate, or what if some statement did not actually come from God).

Such sorts of demythologizations serve, at the very least, to help distinguish between religious language (which is, of course, primarily and extensively inherited) and belief (which is more readily subject to discovery and development when it is realized that virtually no choice of words is essential/modally necessary). This is to say that demythologization can help ensure that modes of expression do not become idols (and this is an issue which is every bit as important and applicable to fields other than religion).

As I noted previously, I have finished the Graves book. It was enjoyable, although I must say that the Saramago (as translated) is a much more pleasant flow of words. In his commentary, Graves describes his work as a "solution to the problem of Jesus's nativity [which] implies a rejection of the mystical Virgin Birth doctrine, which no longer has the same force in religious polemics as it had in Justin's day". Graves leaves unaddressed and in place what could just as well be called "the problem" of the resurrection. So, maybe Graves really was more interested in the nativity issue, even though the book is in no way an argument for the nativity as put forth in Graves's story.

The Graves book is replete with hypotheses about possible relationships between assorted local deities from many different geographical regions and even how those local deities relate to what came to be known as the God of monotheistic Judaism, but, the part of the Graves story which has most stuck with me is what supposedly happened to the teenage Jesus when he engaged with the scholars at the Temple.

We often hear about people wondering what happened with Jesus between the time we hear of this encounter when he was a teenager and we next hear of him when we was about thirty years old. In the Graves rendering what we get is Jesus as an extremely bright youth, a young man with an unusual gift for imaginative logic. Imagination and logic are, by most people, not very often associated; in fact, so very rarely are imagination and logic thought of as being even compatible that the phrase imaginative logic might seem (if not oxymoronic, then at least) pejorative.

In any event, in the Graves story, the teenage Jesus is very effectively threatened by an elder who feels himself belittled by Jesus's thinking, and this whole scene serves (or should serve) to drive home an awareness of just how fragile a thing brilliance can be -- especially in youths. Brilliance is to be fostered, not squelched, and it is a much more difficult task to foster it than it is to snuff it out. In the case of Graves's Jesus, the brilliance was not entirely squelched, but the scope of imagination was most definitely reduced or restricted, and the personality (as would be expected) also suffered. So much so that the adult Jesus basically ends up thinking of himself in terms of roles which he can play rather than in terms of truths he can discover and convey.

I am only about one-quarter of the way through Saramago's The Gospel According to Jesus Christ; Jesus has just recently been born to a Joseph and a Mary who are very different from Graves's Joseph and Mary, and the three of them have just managed to evade the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem. Saramago proves himself a maestro with the understated manner in which he presents the preposterousness of a blood-lusting God, and then there are passages such as the one which follows which are accentuated and made ever more brilliant by the last sentence, but especially the last clause:

Saramago, The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, translated by Giovanni Pontiero On the steep slopes not far from Jerusalem the family merged with the pilgrims and vendors who were flocking to the city, all intent on being the first to arrive but cautiously slowing down and curbing their excitement when they came face to face with the Roman soldiers who were moving through the crowd in pairs, or with a detachment of Herod's mercenary troops, who recruited every imaginable race, many Jews, as one might expect, but also Indumaeans, Galatians, Thracians, Germans, Gauls ... A carpenter who handles only peaceful weapons such as the plane, adze, mallet, or hammer, Joseph becomes filled with such fear and revulsion when he runs into these louts that he can no longer behave naturally or disguise his true feelings ... it is Mary, who has been shut away in the cave for weeks with no one to talk to apart from the female slave, it is Mary who takes a good look around, her dainty little chin held high with understandable pride, for she is holding her firstborn, a mere woman yet capable of giving children to God and her husband. She looks so radiant and happy that some Gauls, fierce, fair, with large whiskers, their weapons at the ready, smile as the young family passes, their cruel hearts softened by the sight of the young mother with her first child. Smiling at this renewal of the world, they bare rotten teeth, but it's the thought that counts.

I am approximately one-third of the way through Karl Jaspers's Man in the Modern Age. To this point, all I can say is that Jaspers was a great mind. It is clearly the case that this is the man under whom Hannah Arendt should have studied, and thank God she did; his interests were ideal for what would become the direction of her own interests. What is a shame, however, is that here we are eighty years after Jaspers wrote this book, and humankind seems, for the most part, not to have at all heeded what this man wrote. I will only cite one passage at present which is apropos with regards to issues that are of particular interest at TGL:

Jaspers, Man in the Modern Age ... there must remain professions in which work cannot simply be allotted and performed under instructions; in which the actual achievement cannot possibly be measured adequately by objective standards. The work of the physician, the schoolmaster ... professions which serve human individuality ... cannot be rationalised ... the mass-order inevitably demands rationalisation in its disposal of the material means. But in the professions of which I am now speaking the vital question is how far this process of rationalisation can go and how far it is self-limited in order to leave scope for the individual to act on his own initiative instead of blindly obeying instructions. ...

As an example, let me refer to the change that has been taking place in medical practice. In large measure, patients are now dealt with in the mass according to the principles of rationalisation, being sent to institutes for technical treatment, the sick being classified in groups and referred to this or that specialised department. But in this way the patient is deprived of his doctor. The supposition is that, like everything else, medical treatment has now become a sort of manufactured article ... The human being as a sick man forfeits his rights when there no longer exist any true physicians because the apparatus designed to place them at the disposal of the masses has, by its very working, made the existence of true physicians impossible.

Even so, the frankly mindless notion that quality is quantifiable has continued to spread malignantly.

GO SAINTS!!!!!!

Michael

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

'Partly, father, yes, but fashion is an extension of society. So that one is still alarmed.'

Can anyone help me make sense of this sentence? It sound interesting, and probably contains a double-meaning, but I can't tell what it is. I mainly mean the phrase "So that one is still alarmed." So that seems to be synonymous with "...in order that". I guess I don't really understand why the purpose of fashion as an extension of society is to alarm us.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

'Partly, father, yes, but fashion is an extension of society. So that one is still alarmed.'

Can anyone help me make sense of this sentence? It sound interesting, and probably contains a double-meaning, but I can't tell what it is. I mainly mean the phrase "So that one is still alarmed." So that seems to be synonymous with "...in order that". I guess I don't really understand why the purpose of fashion as an extension of society is to alarm us.

I think that the so that indicates something more like it is reasonable and proper that. Instead of engaging, Costello tries to be dismissive of both God-is-dead theology as well as Sister Martin's concerns and interests. Sister Martin quite effectively rebuts and undercuts Costello by indicating that there can indeed be substance to fashion, and, that being the case, Sister Martin is reasonable to be concerned about this seemingly new theological fashion/challenge -- if only for the sake of her students for whom the Church seems not to have much intellectual pastoral care if the Church sees no need to deal with challenges (or criticisms) such as God-is-dead theology can pose.

Michael

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

I'm still working my way through W.G. Sebald's writing and am almost done with The Emigrants, which is a wonderful book. It's a little trite to describe it as "dreamlike" but that's how it is: the stories drift along and the effect follows, gradually catching up with you and quietly overwhelming. It's difficult to explain but uniquely moving. The character portraits are beautifully studied and their fates desperately sad.

Next I'll be reading Javier Cercas. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

While traveling in Turkey, I read “The Black Book” and “Snow” by Orhan Pamuk. Pamuk is the Turkish writer who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2006. Based on the evidence of these two novels, the Prize was well deserved.

“The Black Book” is a mystery novel. Galip, an Istanbul Lawyer, is searching for his wife, who has disappeared, and may or may not be with Celal, her step brother and a famous columnist who has also disappeared. Galip’s search takes him through the back streets of Istanbul, and through the dream-like recesses of his memories. Each chapter about Galip’s search is followed by a reproduction of one of Celal’s newspaper columns, which may or may not include clues about his whereabouts. I only wish that we had columnists like Celal writing for modern, American papers.

The book explores the theme of identity. Celal points out the The Arabian Nights is filled with stories of Princes pretending to be commoners and commoners posing as princes. As the novel develops, it is both a mystery novel (Celal wrote word puzzles for the newspapers before he became a columnist) and a critique of mystery novels. Galip is searching for his wife, Ruya, whose name translates as “dream”, and is also searching for his own identity and his own dreams.

“Snow” is set in Kars, a city in far northeastern Turkey, by the Armenian and Georgian borders. A poet, who has been living in Germany, travels to Kars to write about girls who have committed suicide because they are forced to abandon their head scarves in order to attend school. The poet also hopes to romance the recently divorced Ipek, whom he knew in the past. Political and religious factions vie for control in Kars, and vie for the hearts and souls of its people. Pamuk himself shows up as a character near the end of the novel.

Both novels are excellent – and, better yet, Pamuk has written more than a dozen other books. Is anyone else familiar with his work?

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

I've read The White Castle and My Name Is Red and have a similar opinion of his work. I read the latter first and had to give up on fiction for a while thereafter in awe.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

I'll have to look at those two books -- I believe "My Name is Red" is one of his most famous novels. I'm also thinking of reading "Istanbul", Pamuk's non-fiction book about the city (since I was just there).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

I just finished Javier Cercas's Soldiers of Salamis, the final part of which has Roberto Bolaño meeting with the author and helping him reflect on the Civil War in a new way. The book itself is wonderful: short and light but probably the most detailed examination of heroism I've read.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

Taking a reading vacation: all the Tony Hillerman mysteries, in chronological order. There are 18 of them. I started last week. I'm on # 5, The Dark Wind.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

I'm almost finished with Rorty's Contingency, Irony and Solidarity. Just started Robert Jordan's Gathering Storm (book 12 of Wheel of Time) on a whim, should be finished by next week, despite its size at 1063 pages. :shakehead:

For bathroom reading, i read Jay McInerney's Brightness Falls. :lol:

Edited by The Heretic

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

I am reading Bataille's Theory of Religion. I suppose it would be more than accurate to say that I am struggling greatly with the work. It presents itself as foreign to my understanding, is grounded in a vocabulary that is distant to me. As I have read, and I am only some twenty pages in, I cannot help a certain phenomenological manifestation from arising, which is perhaps accentuated by the work's alien nature, that communicates to me that the work is one of a profound and thoroughly important nature.

I frequently find myself asking: what exactly is he saying here?

Anyways, I should probably do a thread on my journey through this short work.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

I am reading Bataille's Theory of Religion. ...

Anyways, I should probably do a thread on my journey through this short work.

Yes. You should. Don't make me insist on it!

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

I am reading Bataille's Theory of Religion. I suppose it would be more than accurate to say that I am struggling greatly with the work. It presents itself as foreign to my understanding, is grounded in a vocabulary that is distant to me. As I have read, and I am only some twenty pages in, I cannot help a certain phenomenological manifestation from arising, which is perhaps accentuated by the work's alien nature, that communicates to me that the work is one of a profound and thoroughly important nature.

I frequently find myself asking: what exactly is he saying here?

Anyways, I should probably do a thread on my journey through this short work.

Agreed with Michael. By making a thread you'll be processing your thoughts in a discursive way and that will help your understanding of the work far more than a passive reading ever will. However the fact that you're struggling with the book is because you've decided to jump into the ocean from a helicopter, with no equipment, into freezing water, and you're shaking ur fist at Poseidon for not calming the ocean for a leisure swim. In other words reading bataille requires u to have a healthy knowledge of early 20th century french sociology, anthropology, and Hegelian philosophy. Failing that u need to read a summAry of bataille. Do a search on his board for a glossary entry and other threads first then try looking up a general intro to his work.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

Hello all; I am very new to the set of forums here at TGL, and thought this looked like a relatively tame first thread to which I might contribute.

I am currently reading a handful of books on-and-off, as time, energy, and interest permit, including these three: Davison and McCarthy's The Matching Law: A Research Review, Terrence Tao's Analysis, and Boyd and Vandenberghe's free PDF book, Convex Optimization.

My slow read of Davison and McCarthy's work is an extension of a continuing investment of my time in the mathematical social and behavioral sciences, and in particular in a model of steady-state behavior, The Matching Law, that emerged in the 1960s from work in psychological behaviorism (by Richard Herrnstein, especially, whom folks might recognize from his The Bell Curve infamy); the Matching Law asserts that, when its behavior reaches steady-state/equilibrium, an organism faced repeatedly with a fixed set of choice options, each returning systematic but variable rewards dependent in part on the organism's behavior, will come to choose each available option a percentage of the time that equals (matches) the percentage of the organism's total reward having been received from that choice option. I have previously read a very large portion of the research literature directly, as well as a handful of books on the topic, including The Matching Law: Papers in Psychology and Economics (a compilation of papers by Herrnstein) and George Ainslie's Breakdown of Will. The model draws my interest because it provides a convenient bridge between mathematics and (one area of) psychology, and because the Matching Law has performed (surprisingly) very well empirically over an impressively broad array of choice experiments / parameter settings. This claim applies both in the lab and in applied settings, where particularly interesting studies have been conducted in professional sports, e.g. basketball.

So far, Davison and McCarthy are pleasantly thorough and systematic in explicating the set of models that travel under the name 'the Matching Law;' they begin by discussing early work by a bevy of behaviorists, mostly with rats and pigeons in Skinner boxes. They break down the various schedules of (food) reinforcement that were/are made available to animals in these experiments, and do a tremendous job clearly explaining some of the basic jargon of the field. They also appear to paint a somewhat fairer picture of the Matching Law's empirical failures as well as its successes; all this in mind, I rather wish I had started reading the literature with this book, rather than with the aforementioned compilation of Herrnstein's papers. I am looking forward to the book genuinely digging into the Matching Law itself, especially in one of their later chapters concerned with schedules of reinforcement where choices are not continuously and simultaneously available; most of my knowledge of the Matching Law pertains to schedules that are continuously available, and my understanding is that the evidence is much more mixed -- but still systematically patterned, and very interesting -- with alternative kinds of schedules.

Tao's Analysis I began reading for a class (in, naturally enough, analysis, or the body of theory underlying calculus). I have previously read large portions of another analysis text, Edward Gaughan's Introduction to Analysis, and have particularly enjoyed experiencing the differences between these two texts. Gaughan's text is the more classical of the two: it takes the usual approach to analysis, beginning with a study of (infinite) sequences, moving on to series, and then on to differentiation and integration, iirc. By contrast, Tao's book is very non-classical: Tao shows the reader how to rigorously prove that calculus works (for functions of one variable, at least), but, rather than study sequences, he begins by examining the natural numbers (0,1,2,..). He shows how, using the natural numbers, we can carefully build the integers (...,-2,-1,0,1,2,...) and their familiar properties (of arithmetic, order, etc.), and, then, how we can build the rationals (a/b, a and b are integers, b is nonzero) and verify their properties from our knowledge of the integers. This is now perhaps 5 chapters into Tao's book, and he hasn't yet gotten to chapter 1 of Gaughan's text! Before he directs the reader to study sequences and the other material conventionally called 'analysis,' though, Tao does something very cool: he demonstrates how the real numbers, which we are familiar with as potentially infinite decimal expansions, can be built by developing a concept of limits of sequences of rational numbers, and then defining the set of all real numbers as the set of all limits of sequences of rational numbers. This argument was especially interesting to me, because I had not seen this done before, and because my understanding is that (and as experience with the computational calculus of high school suggests), as one proceeds in the world of mathematics, limiting arguments become more and more important, in both the discrete and continuous worlds. In any event, I feel much more firmly rooted in the world of calculus having worked through most of Tao's first volume for class; I am looking forward to finishing it on my own, and then to studying his second volume this winter and next semester (though I won't be able to take the class that will be based on it).

I am only just a chapter or two into Boyd and Vandenberghe's Convex Optimization, but it is already very interesting. In effect, B & V's text is concerned with introducing the reader to a very broad class of optimization problems -- the convex ones -- that can be solved quickly, in the same spirit that better known classes of problems (e.g. the linear ones) can be solved quickly. I am looking forward to learning a great deal more about the kinds of techniques used to solve convex problems, because I am interested in learning to distinguish very carefully those computational problems we can efficiently solve (of which the convex problems appear to form a very large sub-class) from those we cannot. I will leave this reaction very brief, though, being as I was so wordy above!

Edited by NeverConvex

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now