What are you reading?

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Jennifer
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Jennifer »

Found an odd little book in a secondhand store today: 101 Things to do in Wartime 1940, a modern reprint of an old book called 101 Things to do in Wartime, which was originally published in Britain in ... fuck it, if you can't figure that out by yourself I'm not going to tell you.

I bought the book in the same spirit as when I bought those books reproducing various "how to get the most from your rations" advice pamphlets the British government published during the war: Interesting to thumb through as a historical record, but I'm not likely to actually "use" any of the ideas within, because -- thank goodness -- I don't need to know stuff like "how to take two old worn-out pairs of knickers and combine them into a like-new usable pair."

However, I just started thumbing through this "101 things to do" book and, while I still find it unlikely that I, personally, will actually "use" any of the ideas, I probably would've tried a few when I was a kid, since most of it is essentially an arts-n-crafts book explaining how to make various toys, games and puzzles (out of the limited materials available then), particularly toys and games which might pass the time while everyone's sitting through a bomb raid. On the page describing how to make various "disentangle-the-pieces" wire puzzles, it starts by saying "Wire puzzles provide interesting occupation not only for the solver but also for the maker."

Some other how-to things listed on the table of contents: "puzzles in cardboard," "puzzles in wood," "Building model galleons and ships," "bottling fruits and vegetables,"window boxes," "cases for gas-masks," "window ventilation during black-out," "the production of honey," "hay box cooking," "Mushroom growing," and how to raise "rabbits for food."
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thoreau
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by thoreau »

I just finished Hidden Figures. It was refreshing to read a book that highlighted diversity in STEM without excusing failure. My daily experience in a diverse and non-elite school is people saying "Well, you know, she got a D, but..." Nobody said that about Katherine Johnson.

http://physicistatlarge.blogspot.com/20 ... ather.html
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Warren
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Warren »

thoreau wrote: 26 Dec 2020, 13:52 I just finished Hidden Figures. It was refreshing to read a book that highlighted diversity in STEM without excusing failure. My daily experience in a diverse and non-elite school is people saying "Well, you know, she got a D, but..." Nobody said that about Katherine Johnson.

http://physicistatlarge.blogspot.com/20 ... ather.html
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thoreau
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by thoreau »

No. I hate movies based on true stories, because they're never actually based on true stories.
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D.A. Ridgely
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by D.A. Ridgely »

thoreau wrote: 26 Dec 2020, 15:47 No. I hate movies based on true stories, because they're never actually based on true stories.
All movies are based on true stories given what Hollywood means by "based on" and "true."
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thoreau
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by thoreau »

D.A. Ridgely wrote: 26 Dec 2020, 16:59
thoreau wrote: 26 Dec 2020, 15:47 No. I hate movies based on true stories, because they're never actually based on true stories.
All movies are based on true stories given what Hollywood means by "based on" and "true."
Hey, food fyodor! I see you hacked Ridgely's account!

(Just kidding. I know what you mean.)
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Hugh Akston
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Hugh Akston »

I mean the book is also based on a true story, but it's way more of a time investment.
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JD
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by JD »

I'm reading Lucky Child, by Loung Ung, a memoir by a woman who came to the US as a child refugee from Cambodia, comparing her life in the US to the life of her sister who stayed in Cambodia. I don't know a lot about Cambodia, beyond a little bit about the madness of the Khmer Rouge, but one of the more sobering aspects is how thoroughly advanced society seems to have been destroyed; the author's family used to be urban, prosperous, educated and international before the war, but by the time the book opens they're living as subsistence-farming peasants living in fear of every army's troops.
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JD
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by JD »

I started The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin last night. Pretty good so far; I will definitely say she is a punchy, impactful writer. Having read two things by her now, one thing that really stands out is her habit of using the second person in her writing (although I will certainly admit that could be a coincidence of the two things I happen to have read). It makes you sit up a bit, but it also feels a little gimmicky.
I sort of feel like a sucker about aspiring to be intellectually rigorous when I could just go on twitter and say capitalism causes space herpes and no one will challenge me on it. - Hugh Akston
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Kolohe
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Kolohe »

Trying my best to not give anything away, but it’s not gimmicky. (But you do have to get thru the entire series to see why)
when you wake up as the queen of the n=1 kingdom and mount your steed non sequiturius, do you look out upon all you survey and think “damn, it feels good to be a green idea sleeping furiously?" - dhex
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Number 6
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Re: What are you reading?

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JD wrote: 13 Jan 2021, 19:45 I started The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin last night. Pretty good so far; I will definitely say she is a punchy, impactful writer. Having read two things by her now, one thing that really stands out is her habit of using the second person in her writing (although I will certainly admit that could be a coincidence of the two things I happen to have read). It makes you sit up a bit, but it also feels a little gimmicky.
I started that one, and set it aside specifically because of the second person thing. It's very high on my list of annoying as hell writing tricks, surpassed only by second person present and Cormac McCarthy's refusal to use punctuation.
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JD
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by JD »

Finished The Fifth Season the other night. I got really into it, and I think Jemisin is a hell of a world-builder, and writes very compelling, realistic characters, which you don't always find in the same author. The use of the second person is kind of explained at the end of the book, I thought, although I still think it's a bit of an authorial tic: the second person is very rare in fiction, and yet I've read two pieces by Jemisin and both of them feature it. Also, for a book which deals with morality a lot, there are some weird blind spots. The Meovites are basically thieves and murderers, plain and simple, but they're good guys, because...they listen to orogenes, I guess? Meanwhile, all the Guardians are baddie bad bads, and don't get me wrong, they certainly act like it, but their motivation is...? Their specific reason for even existing is...?
I sort of feel like a sucker about aspiring to be intellectually rigorous when I could just go on twitter and say capitalism causes space herpes and no one will challenge me on it. - Hugh Akston
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Kolohe
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Kolohe »

Explained in later books in the series.
when you wake up as the queen of the n=1 kingdom and mount your steed non sequiturius, do you look out upon all you survey and think “damn, it feels good to be a green idea sleeping furiously?" - dhex
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thoreau
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by thoreau »

Read Lolita. I liked it. I admired the way he gets the reader to spend the first half horrified by the thought of the event they'll eventually have to read about. Then the event is written to minimize the reader's discomfort. Then you spend the second half realizing that interpreting Humbert's account is basically a psychological riddle.

So then I picked up an anthology of Nabokov's short stories. Most I could take or leave, but "La Veneziana" and "Wingstroke" are really amazing. "Russian Spoken Here" is also nice.
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dhex
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by dhex »

Now you get the added bonus of constantly seeing people invoke Lolita who have clearly never read a word of it.

You may like pale fire or it may be too triggering (cw: faculty politics). But all joking aside it is brilliant.
"i ran over the cat and didnt stop just carried on with tears in my eyes joose driving my way to work." - God
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thoreau
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by thoreau »

Thanks. I'll add Pale Fire to the list.

I feel sorry for any English professor who would try to teach Lolita. Anyone who actually reads it with a modicum of care would understand that the book isn't what you're afraid it will be, but "actually reads it with a modicum of care" is not an apt description of what most people do on campus.
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Number 6
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Number 6 »

I recently found out that Wayne Johnston, who wrote the superb and underrated Colony of Unrequited Dreams, has released several books since the last time I checked on him. Most don't seem to be in print in the US, but I'm starting on one I managed to find called First Snow, Last Light. Johnston, along with, Mary Doria Russell, make me want to grab my literate friends by the lapels and scream in their faces, "Why have you not read these books? Don't you want to read great stuff?!"

ETA: Thoreau, if you haven't read Russell's The Sparrow, you really should. Two words: Space Jesuits.
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dbcooper
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by dbcooper »

thoreau wrote: 06 Apr 2021, 16:39 Thanks. I'll add Pale Fire to the list.

I feel sorry for any English professor who would try to teach Lolita. Anyone who actually reads it with a modicum of care would understand that the book isn't what you're afraid it will be, but "actually reads it with a modicum of care" is not an apt description of what most people do on campus.
Pnin is a really good and light-hearted (!) book about one of his colleagues from Cornell.
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dhex
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by dhex »

thoreau wrote: 06 Apr 2021, 16:39 Thanks. I'll add Pale Fire to the list.

I feel sorry for any English professor who would try to teach Lolita. Anyone who actually reads it with a modicum of care would understand that the book isn't what you're afraid it will be, but "actually reads it with a modicum of care" is not an apt description of what most people do on campus.
My wife has taught lolita a number of times now. Most undergraduates are (understandably) grossed out by humbert and/or surprised that he attempts to defend himself, which she takes pains to indicate was nabokov's intent. he's supposed to be a shitty, slimy, rapey garbage person - it's his whole deal. there is a bit of i think movement in more recent literature that students are more likely to consume pre-college that would take pains to tell the reader repeatedly "THIS IS A BAD PERSON" as opposed to nabokov assuming that anyone able to read and breathe at the same time figuring it out.

And second db's rec on Pnin. It's fairly light compared to most nabokov!
"i ran over the cat and didnt stop just carried on with tears in my eyes joose driving my way to work." - God
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JD
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by JD »

I started reading Cixin Liu's The Three-Body Problem last night. Really enjoying it. It's fascinating to read something by someone for whom the Cultural Revolution is part of their very real and recent history.
I sort of feel like a sucker about aspiring to be intellectually rigorous when I could just go on twitter and say capitalism causes space herpes and no one will challenge me on it. - Hugh Akston
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thoreau
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by thoreau »

dhex wrote: 07 Apr 2021, 12:37there is a bit of i think movement in more recent literature that students are more likely to consume pre-college that would take pains to tell the reader repeatedly "THIS IS A BAD PERSON" as opposed to nabokov assuming that anyone able to read and breathe at the same time figuring it out.
Preferably with a TikTok video saying "I don't know who needs to hear this, but Humbert is the villain. The way he gaslights his victim and the reader is not OK, and it is valid for you to see him as a bad guy, because what he does is NOT OKAY!"
And second db's rec on Pnin. It's fairly light compared to most nabokov!
I've added it to the list, along with Number 6's suggestion and Pale Fire.
JD wrote: 07 Apr 2021, 12:48 I started reading Cixin Liu's The Three-Body Problem last night. Really enjoying it. It's fascinating to read something by someone for whom the Cultural Revolution is part of their very real and recent history.
Liu's imagination is great. There are clunky moments in the dialogue, and a few things that make this physicist tear my hair out, but his imagination is superb.

The second novel suffers from having a different translator. I say this because the first and third novels have the same translator and are amazing, while the second is definitely weaker.
"...if that monkey gets any smarter it's going to start shorting TSLA."
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dhex
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by dhex »

one other benefit/drawback to lolita is that you will also notice the less common but still out there "TECHNICALLY HE'S AN EPHEBEPHILE" which is the neckbeard version of those little markings frogs have to tell you they're poisonous.
"i ran over the cat and didnt stop just carried on with tears in my eyes joose driving my way to work." - God
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thoreau
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by thoreau »

Also liking his short story "The Return of Chorb." The stories in this anthology are very hit-and-miss for me. Some are just vignettes with the actual story being way too subtle for me to get. Others are quite clever. Chorb is almost comic.
"...if that monkey gets any smarter it's going to start shorting TSLA."
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