Book Club

I’m a big William Faulkner fan. His stream of consciousness style can make for strenuous reading, but I’ve always found it ultimately rewarding. I also greatly admire the novels of J.M. Coetzee, the Nobel laureate from South Africa. His work covers the apartheid and post apartheid eras and revolves around the question of moral authority. Who has it? Who can presume to speak to the sufferings of others? I strongly recommend those books.

Have any of you read Flatland by Edwin Abbott? It’s an underappreciated gem from the nineteenth century. The story is set in a two-dimensional world and narrated by a square whose complacent existence is shaken by a bizarre encounter with a sphere. It’s a thoroughly imaginative work that’s bound to strike a chord with anyone who values the questioning of assumptions.

I don’t read the classics much, but I have enjoyed The Odyssey, The Aeneid, and Juvenal’s Satires.

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I love the style of Thomas Mann, »Der Zauberberg« or »Joseph and his brothers«.
However, these works are unlikely to be adequately translated into other languages, his style is too special, e. g. the endless sentences.

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Faulkner was ruined for me for decades due to a forced reading in high school of "The Bear,: which seemed dull and hard to understand. However, 10 or 15 years ago, I was intrigued by the description of As I Lay Dying, so I read it and liked it very much. Subsequenty, I have read and liked Go Down, Moses (especially the great story “Pantaloon in Black”), The Unvanquished, The Reivers (those “mud farmers!”), and Intruder in the Dust (what a wonderful mystery gimmick). I was most surprised by the strain of humor that runs through his work. He was also a co-writer on 3 movies that I like a lot: Gunga Din, To Have and Have Not, and The Big Sleep.

I reread The Odyssey a couple years ago to help my daughter with her homework, and I got a lot more out of it than when I was young. The Aeneid, however, is the greatest gap in my classical reading. One of these days…

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Oh yes, a hearty endorsement of Flatland. It was rather obscure when I was young, but not so much today, I think. It has come out in multiple editions, and IIRC Isaac Asimov and Martin Gardner touted it quite a bit, which helped to spread the word. I gave it to my daughter to read when she was 11 or 12, and she liked it a lot. We both agreed that the modern sequel, Sphereland, is not as good, though it isn’t bad either.

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Faulkner can be very tough slogging, no question, and The Bear is among the least penetrable. You would likely have fared much better in high school with As I Lay Dying, or maybe The Sound and the Fury. I’m glad to see that you eventually acquired some taste for his work.

I just recently finished a rereading of Flatland, so my appreciation is fairly stoked right now. Glad you found it satisfying.

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I’m a big science fiction fan, especially Gibson, Stephenson and Philip K Dick. I’d highly recommend pretty much anything by any of them for anyone who’s interested in science fiction, or really fiction in general. Especially recommend Gibson’s Pattern Recognition, and the other 2 books that follow it, probably my favorite series of all time

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I just read it, was pretty good. Always impressive when a story can take longer to think through than to read

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My favourite fictional authors are Terry Pratchett and Iain Banks – the masters of their respective genres of fantasy and science fiction. Their characters lived in amazingly creative and detailed worlds, and yet the skill of the authors was such that the context never distracted too much. Sadly there won’t be any more books from them ;_;

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I read The Egg for the first time last night. Thanks for that link.

The Egg=:)

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i read flatland, very good! Also really enjoy the yutopian short stories, especially this one hit
home. http://www.yutopian.com/go/gowinds/gostor1.html
also a short story on youtube by tolstoy: "God sees the truth but waits”

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I read Flatland when I was studying general relativity at university. Really enjoyable. It helped me a little bit to figure out what would mean the curvature of space-time in four dimensions.

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Other books that I like:

  • The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
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One of my favorite writers is Jorge Luis Borges. He wrote lots of short stories in the genre of Magical Realism (or as Terry Pratchet called it, Fantasy for people who speak Spanish). I’ve barely gotten far in his collection of work, because it feels like such a crime to rush through them. With him you’ll find lots of paradoxes, labyrinths, infinities, and analysis of books that don’t exist.

https://libraryofbabel.info/ is based on his story of the same name. A library containing books with every possible combination of letters. Try typing something in, it’s there. This post I’m typing right now is in the library, so is every post I will ever type, along with a detailed description of how you will die, a detailed description of all the ways you won’t die, books that existed but have since been erased from history, secrets no one ever shared, and almost infinite reams of gibberish.

To quote the BBC

Reading the work of Jorge Luis Borges for the first time is like discovering a new letter in the alphabet, or a new note in the musical scale.

He also wrote a poem about Go. He was blind when he discovered the game, so didn’t play, but you can sense his appreciation of it. It’s the most perfect game to match his mind

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Kurt Vonnegut is one of my most read authors @yebellz , nearly read all of his books, even some of his posthumously published short stories. I love him. Also really like Steinbeck @figgs. @Gia, I’ve only read Jules Verne off of your list and I always think of 20k L under the Sea, Captain Nemo is so, for a lack of better words, cool. As for my favorite travelouges @Conrad_Melville it may fall somewhere between works of Fernando Pessoa and Spalding Grey’s Impossible Vacation. On the thought of travelogues, the movie Sans Soleil by Chris Marker is so perfect. Going down the line here @stephan_羅_德_帆 I also really admire Hesse and honestly anything he’s written. I have a large fondness of german literature. One of the bigger names I’ve read from there would be Gunter Grass’s The Danzig Trilogy, I read it twice. It’s up there with Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 100 Yeas of Solitude. This also leads me to Roberto Bolano’s work, all supreme and magical realism, (much like Borges but more modern @MooToYouToo) but specifically 2666. Also a big Philip K Dick fan though I admit I have only read his cold war short stories @mgv. And lastly, @fiddlehead, Abbot’s Flatland is so cool. I still use it as a reference when trying to explain to people how maybe a 4th dimensional would interact with our dimension. Cool stuff indead. (Don’t count the ‘cools’).

I wanted to name a few other authors. Laszlo Krasznahorkai. A lot of his books have been adapted to film by Bela Tarr. I’ve read War & War by him so far. Piers Anthony remains always a guilty pleasure of mine, likely my most read author, the creator of the Xanth series of sci fi books. The first ten or so are so unique. I love media so much and I could just go on and on so I’ll try to pick just a few more… Carlos Castaneda wrote a very interesting series on the a Yaqui shaman named Don Juan. A bit of controversy in his tales, but I love them. Last I’m going to throw in another favorite of mine that has really influenced some of my life, especially now in retrospect… Plague Dogs and Watership Down by Richard Adams.

Need more suggestions? I’ve probably still got a few. (I will admit I’m on currently reading the Rowling HP series, currently on The Goblet of Fire… I had never read them so they are my before bed snacks right now).

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Was literally just thinking about Xanth this morning. Man, I love those books

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@yebellz

@Gia

Special mention for L’eternel Adam.

Those are excellent choices with VERY powerful ending phrases. :smiley:
In a similar fashion you might both like “The emperor’s soul” by Brandon Sanderson and " …That Thou Art Mindful of Him" by Asimov

So, favorite books?

  • The Foundation Series by Asimov
  • The Stormlight Archive series by Brandon Sanderson
  • “Hyperion” and its sequel “The fall of Hyperion” by Dan Simmons
  • “Inherit the Stars” and its sequel “The gentel giants of Ganymede” by James Hogan
  • “Going Postal” and “The Truth” by Terry Pratchett
  • “The Demon-Haunted World” by Carl Sagan

Shorter books/stories

  • “The trap” by Howard Fast (if you can find that, READ IT … it is one of the most interesting ideas ever to be printed in a sci-fi tale, imho)
  • “Bicentennial Man” by Asimov
  • “The Emperor’s soul” and “Sixth of the Dusk” by Brandon Sanderson
  • “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes
  • “What have I done?” by Mark Clifton
  • “Secret Unattainable” by A.E. van Vogt

Now with the times being as they are, reading books is a nice thing to do at home :slight_smile:

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Flowers for Algernon is so beautiful.

@RubyMineshaft Chthon? I think is the title, very good from Anthony. Also: Ghost. Two novels I can think of I really loved that were not in the Xanth Saga.

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Back when I had more time and energy, I used DailyLit and read a few classics, I don’t know if they’re still in business though.

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A lot of western go players are understandably intrigued by Japanese culture. In that connection Kawabata Yasunari’s novel The Master of Go (Meijin) is often cited, and it seems reasonable to think that it provided some impetus to the expansion of go internationally. It is indeed a most worthy novel. But if you’ve read nothing else by Kawabata, and your taste in reading material gravitates toward what is called literary, you’re likely missing out on something special. He was after all a Nobel laureate.

I want to recommend a couple of Kawabata novels and describe them at some length. Although they were published more than a decade apart, I’ve come to think of them as companion pieces because of some fairly obvious thematic links. I doubt that those similarities came about by some special design but are more reflective of a writer who knew exactly what he was about.

Thousand Cranes (Sembazuru) presents a young man named Kikuji whose late father was a tea ceremony enthusiast and collector of antique teacups and tea paraphernalia. He also had mistresses, both of whom were vaguely known to Kikuji when he was a boy. With the father’s passing, both women insinuate themselves back into the son’s life, one in the role of matchmaker, the other as a lover. Further complicating the picture, the latter woman, Mrs.Ota, has a daughter, Fumiko, who as a child became privy to scenes that Kikuji knew about or suspected but could only visualize. For her the longterm emotional fallout has been troubling to say the least.

With the tea ceremony serving as backdrop, what follows is an internal conflict in which forces of nature and tradition run up against the impulse to rebel. Kikuji is of an age at which people are most likely to balk at anything that feels deterministic. He resents the implied hand-me-down nature of his new circumstances, especially as embodied in Chikako, the relentlessly meddling would be matchmaker. And yet for all that, there’s a part of him that finds a certain appeal in what she’s proposing, especially as the suggested bride appears to be a good catch. His feelings about the love triangle with Mrs. Ota and Fumiko are likewise complex. The tormented Fumiko is drawn to Kikuji as he is to her, but the emotional baggage they carry, especially hers, proves difficult to bear, and they sometimes find themselves at a loss to decide what is even natural.

The Sound of the Mountain (Yama no Oto) is seen from a much older character’s perspective. Ogata Shingo is a sixty-two year old businessman who would like to think he has learned a thing or two about life and nature, of processes that can be counted on. But as he surveys his extended household, he finds that nature has never seemed more mercurial and downright contrary. His son Shuichi is brazenly cheating on his wife. His daughter Fusako is a refugee from a failed marriage of her own. Ogata’s long-standing marriage to a woman whose older sister he once courted might be fairly described as a tolerable compromise. As for the daughter-in-law, she’s been displaying (not always in subtle ways) a desire to adopt Ogata as a surrogate husband, and that desire is often felt mutually.

As he goes about his ineffectual attempts to remedy this state of affairs, Ogata’s mind seizes and ruminates upon all manner of anomalies. He observes plant and animal behaviour he imagines to be eccentric. Two pine trees seen from a train appear to be slowly moving to embrace one another. A neighbourhood dog chooses to have her puppies under Ogata’s house, though the dog is known to have a responsible owner. He is drawn to newspaper stories about the discovery of two-thousand year old lotuses, and the growing trend of abortion among teens.

In his relations with old friends and associates, again Ogata sees these peculiarities everywhere. Sometimes it’s captivating, as when he acquires a pair of No theater masks from one associate and is mesmerized by their surprising range of expression when displayed in different shades of light. On the other hand, he’s treated to a bizarre anecdote about a former acquaintance who began painstakingly plucking white hairs from his head only to develop an obsession with it that eventually drives him insane; or so goes the story.

In both novels, then, a kind of emotional and perceptual tug of war occurs. Both have a discernible plot, but it’s a loose arrangement, and especially in The Sound of the Mountain the chapters can feel more like a series of vignettes as opposed to links in a narrative chain. I prefer to limit myself to one chapter per day because although Kawabata writes short chapters, his writing has somewhat the feel of prose poetry, and some chapters may be considered more or less self-contained. The language itself is quite simple and accessible, yet it can lead you into a world that’s not always easily navigated. I don’t mind telling you that a number of these associations and devices are as enigmatic to me now as ever. It’s writing that consistently provokes and deserves reflection.

I can name only a handful of Japanese writers, and Kawabata is the only one I’ve read extensively. I can’t say to what extent his work is representative of Japanese fiction writing even in a broad sense. It’s a world not readily available to us for the most part. For this reason I decided to provide a fuller description than I would have ordinarily, and I hope it doesnt mislead anyone. Comments, of course, are most welcome.

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