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It's the Mardi Gras reading thread!

Lily Fairbairn

Feb 13 2018, 3:49pm

Post #1 of 5 (324 views)
It's the Mardi Gras reading thread! Can't Post

A happy Mardi Gras to those of you who celebrate it, and a happy Valentine's Day tomorrow, ditto. Tomorrow is also Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Funny how we forget the first two used to be religious observances as well but have become excuses for secular partying.

I could make some remark about Valentine's Day being an excuse for eating chocolate, but who needs an excuse? Smile

I am now listening to After Glow by Jayne Castle, which is set on another planet. The human settlers there discover their latent psi powers developing, just as they discover the "ghosts" of the former inhabitants are still very much around. So far I'm finding this set-up intriguing, even as my internal critic is niggling over such details as: If the human beings made it to another planet, why does their society seem to show no futuristic trappings at all but instead evokes the film noir of the 40s?

I suspect that like several audiobooks I've started recently, this, too, is a sequel to a book I haven't read. Which is what happens when I get cut-rate library castoffs at the Friends of the Library bookstore.

The most recent issue of Archaeology arrived yesterday, with several articles I can't wait to read. Plus I have some other paper books just waiting to be picked up, depending on how my mood runs over the next few days.

So what have you been reading?

Where now the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
Where is the hand on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?
Where is the spring and the harvest and the tall corn growing?
They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow....


Feb 14 2018, 2:28am

Post #2 of 5 (287 views)
Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan [In reply to] Can't Post

I liked, and/or was intrigued by, her post-modern tour-de-force A Visit From the Goon Squad, which won a Pulitzer Prize. It was a collection of short stories, each with a different style, point of view, or authorial voice, that added up to a 'novel'. One chapter was actually a Power Point presentation, representing the diary of a teen who was the daughter, in the 2020s (i.e., the future) of two of the main characters whose stories had been presented earlier in the book, having taken place in the 1980s to the 2000s. The theme was Time, and how it robs us of our dreams.

But that was 2010. What has she done since? As it happens, for Manhattan Beach she has spent literally years researching and crafting a far more conventionally structured and classic, novel about several men and women in New York City in the 1930s and 40s. The theme this time is the Sea, and the secrets it contains. Our heroine has a father who is a small-time runner for the Irish waterfront gangs; in her youth she accompanies him to an errand to deliver something to an Italian nightclub operator at his house on Manhattan Beach, a waterfront neighborhood in Brooklyn.
Years later during WW II, she has found work in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and breaks down barriers to become a deep-sea diver, the first female to wear the heavy canvas-and-rubber kit with the round metal helmets that preceded the Scuba divers we are used to today. She enlists the nightclub operator to help her do an unauthorized dive in the outer harbor, seeking evidence that her father, now long missing, was drowned by the Italian mob - the classic 'cement overshoes' body disposal. She bonds with the half-shady, half-legit clubman without him knowing, at first, that she is the daughter of the man he rubbed out.
I won't spoil the rest, except to reveal that her father actually survived his nap with the fishes, and spent his wartime years as a merchant mariner in the Pacific - terrifyingly shipwrecked by torpedo in the Indian Ocean just as his daughter is diving for his body off Manhattan Beach.

Well, the writing is amazing. Egan toys with the language, effortlessly coming up with new turns of speech to capture emotional subtones in scene after scene. More, all that research pays off. You feel like you're back in that era, as detail after detail of the Depression and War demimondes fall off the page. It's almost too 'perfect' to satisfy ones instinct that grand novels of the old style can't be written today. They can.

squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary

= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.

Aunt Dora Baggins

Feb 14 2018, 1:49pm

Post #3 of 5 (264 views)
Mansfield Park, Persuasion, Sense and Sensibility, The Jane Austen Book Club [In reply to] Can't Post

On my daily commute, I've been listening to libravox recordings of dramatic readings of Jane Austen. I'm finishing up with my least favorites. I like them too, but they're down my list because they're so grim (I started with Northanger Abbey because was in the mood for light). Listening to actors read them makes them seem less grim for some reason. It's been fun because some of the same actors are in all of them, and it's amusing to hear the same actor playing the villain in one and the hero in the next: the same actor plays Captain Wentworth and Wlloughby, and the same actor plays Mrs. Eaton and Elinor. It's been fun to spot the voices.

So then of course I had to listen to the Jane Austen Book Club again, which I'm hearing read by the kindle robot voice. It's entertaining to spot the way she references the books in the lives of the characters.

After I finished Persuasion I wrote up the following reflection for facebook:

I just finished re-reading Persuasion and it occurred to me why it was so incredibly hard for people to communicate: women weren't allowed to tell men they liked them unless the men spoke first. You had to do it all with your eyes. And I thought about how as recently as 1975 some of that affected me, back when my husband was first courting me.

My mom had told me that it was improper for a girl to call a boy on the telephone (yeah, we were still living in the 1950s at my house), and so when he didn't call for a few days, I waited anxiously by the phone but never thought of calling him.

Finally he did call, and said he'd had the flu and had been very sick, and had wished I'd call and see how he was. I replied "You could have called me." It was very true, but it came off bitchy when it was really me trying to explain that I thought I wasn't allowed to call. We had a big fight, but eventually got it straightened out. It makes for exciting plotting in novels, I guess, but it's the worst thing to live through. Anyway, after that I called him whenever I wanted to. Too bad Austen's heroines couldn't do that.

GNU Terry Pratchett
"For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Bilbo; on a large wastebasket. Dora was Drogo's sister, and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century."
"A Chance Meeting at Rivendell" and other stories

leleni at hotmail dot com


Feb 14 2018, 8:57pm

Post #4 of 5 (240 views)
Promise Paen#1 [In reply to] Can't Post

Unbreakable by W.C. Bauers. Looks good so far

We are the fighting Uruk-Hai! We slew the great warrior! Well, yeah, first he killed a bunch of us and another whole lot of Mauhr's lads, and we had to shoot enough arrows into him to drop a Mmak. But we got him!

Lily Fairbairn

Feb 20 2018, 4:25pm

Post #5 of 5 (162 views)
It's the Year of the Dog reading thread! [In reply to] Can't Post

A happy Chinese New Year to us all!

I'm still listening to After Glow, and still moderately amused by it, but I have to confess I've dozed off many times. The plot doesn't seem to be all that complex, though.

On paper I read about half of Quaker Witness by Irene Allen. This is part of a series featuring Elizabeth Elliot, the clerk of a Quaker congregation in Boston. Here she's helping a young Harvard student who's been accused of murdering the professor she just filed a sexual-harassment charge against. (Despite this ripped-from-the-headlines plot device, the book was written 25 years ago.)

I only read the first half not only because I didn't find the story all that complelling, but mostly because the author kept inventing multiple ways of referring to Elizabeth when either her name or "her" would have worked much less intrusively. It's as if JRRT referred to Frodo not just as Frodo but also as "the hobbit", "the ringbearer", "the former owner of Bag End", "Sam's master", and so forth instead of using a simple "he".

Yeah, I'm picky!

I'm now reading Down Among the Dead Men by Patricia Moyes, one of those traditional British mysteries that seems timeless---it was written in 1961 but could just as well date to the 20s or 30s. Her ongoing sleuth, inspector Henry Tibbett, and his wife spend their holiday sailboating with friends---and are drawn into the puzzle of a year-old mysterious death. There's nothing at all annoying about the writing in this one, although I'm a bit lost among all the sailing terms.

So what have you been reading?

Where now the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
Where is the hand on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?
Where is the spring and the harvest and the tall corn growing?
They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow....


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