Whatcha reading?

For the discussion of Movies, Television, Comics, and other existential distractions.

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FrankChurch
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Postby FrankChurch » Fri Sep 28, 2007 2:34 pm

David, you had to take a shot at Noam Chomsky didn't you? You cad, I may have to toilet paper your house.

The interesting thing is that Noam would probably agree with you.

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Postby Davey C » Mon Oct 01, 2007 11:08 am

A few months ago, Barber caused me to dig "Where Do We Go From Here?" out from my barely-above-a-too-long-sequence-of-wet-basement-floors shelf of old SF hardbacks. While I was in there, I also rediscovered "Nova 2," a 1972 anthology edited by Harry Harrison, which I thought lost in one of many moves backalong. Good stuff, Maynard: 'James Tiptree Jr.' was still a secret, thermonuclear fusion was going to become a clean, convenient reality any day now, and the S in SF was in mid-morph from Science to Speculative, all against the consistent backdrop of Silverberg's enduring godhood.
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David Loftus
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Postby David Loftus » Thu Jan 17, 2008 7:27 pm

I just had one of those wonderful experiences of serendipity with regard to my reading.

I just finished reading The Time of Our Singing, the last novel but one by Richard Powers, who is coming to town in early March to speak. I'm very excited about that; I've read his previous seven novels and hope to get to the last before he gets here. Since the death of John Fowles, I think I'm inclined to nominate Powers as my favorite living novelist. He writes stories with complex, big ideas, but nearly always manages to punch me in the heart with the characters and their emotional fortunes as well.

The Time of Our Singing is about a family that sings together; a mother whose vocal career is still-born, but a pair of sons who go places -- one as a classical vocalist, the other (the narrator) as his accompanist, at least part of the way. But it's also about race and race mixing: the father is a German Jewish physicist, the mother a black woman, and they marry in the late 1940s after having met cute at the 1939 Marian Anderson free concert on the Capitol Mall in front of the Lincoln Memorial. So the panorama of civil rights and the 1960s plays out in the background as well. And the narrator and his brother have to deal with racial prejudice and mixed-race issues.

What's amazing is that I ALSO just read James MacBride's Color of Water, pretty much at the same time, because my editor at the Oregonian offered me his new book to review. I hadn't read him before, didn't recognize the name, but saw he had two small books out previously and decided to read them before tackling the new one. Turns out his debut book is a memoir about his mother -- a white Jewish woman who married a black man! Almost exactly a mirror image of the parents' relationship in the Powers novel.

Since the MacBride memoir was published in 1996 and the Powers in 2003, it's conceivable that Powers partly got the idea from MacBride, turned it inside out, and wrote something otherwise very different (though of course similar issues surface in both).

Just thought that was kind of neat.

My favorite Powers book is still The Gold Bug Variations which mixes DNA (and the love affair of two scientists trying to unlock its secrets in the 1950s), Bach (especially "The Goldberg Variations," of course), and computer programming, but nearly all of them are wonderful.

By the way, Powers's books are kind of large -- the latest was 631 pages. I've decided this is going to be the year I tackle at least some of the huge books I've always wanted to tackle: late Pynchon, Gaddis, Musil's The Man Without Qualities, maybe Anthony Powell, MAYBE some more Vollmann.

As of this writing, I'm 196 pages into Gravity's Rainbow. Wish me luck.
War is, at first, the hope that one will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that he isn't any better off; and, finally, the surprise at everyone's being worse off. - Karl Kraus

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Postby Moderator » Thu Jan 17, 2008 7:50 pm

Wow -- Now that's a lot of reading.

Currently reading Alan Moore's V for Vendetta graphic novel, Dan Simmons' The Terror, and Gordon Ramsay's Roasting in Hell's Kitchen.

Obviously, my library is of considerably lower brow than the Loftus'.
- I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

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Duane
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Postby Duane » Thu Jan 17, 2008 8:03 pm

I read this thread on my Blackberry in the bathroom.

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David Loftus
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Postby David Loftus » Fri Jan 18, 2008 12:09 pm

Barber wrote:Wow -- Now that's a lot of reading.



A columnist in the Oregonian named Steve Duin ("Deen") has been "sponsoring" a reading contest for six years. Last year's winner clocked something like 90,000 pages; I haven't checked her list of titles, but something tells me there's a lot of genre fiction in there.

The competitors taper off steeply from there, of course; historically, I number a little over a hundred books, in the neighborhood of 30,000 - 32,000 pages, which tends to put me somewhere between 12th and 25th in the reading contest.

I think I can be fairly certain that no one else read as many pages ALOUD as I did -- more than 2,100 last year, from the final Harry Potter book at home with my spouse, to the many live readings at the coffee house and the bank, to the recordings of Sherlock Holmes, Jack London, Poe, and various fairy and folk tales for the International Tales Web site.

Since I write occasionally for the Oregonian, I'm probably barred from competing officially, but I like to keep the tally and see how others do. Last year, Duin mentioned my name in his column about the reading contest because one of the OTHER winners read my last book (one of the BEKNIGHTED FEW!).

I have to say that task-oriented reading, reading competitively and keeping score, reading books for review (and other books by the same author in preparation for the review, which added another dozen or so to my list in 2007) -- and maybe even setting out to force oneself to read a buncha big books -- may discount some of the sheer pleasure of the reading experience. I'm considering submitting to Duin an essay about that at the conclusion of the coming year.
War is, at first, the hope that one will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that he isn't any better off; and, finally, the surprise at everyone's being worse off. - Karl Kraus

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David Loftus
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Postby David Loftus » Fri Jan 18, 2008 12:10 pm

P.S.

I hit page 300 of Gravity's Rainbow last night, just before the 11 o'clock news.
War is, at first, the hope that one will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that he isn't any better off; and, finally, the surprise at everyone's being worse off. - Karl Kraus

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Postby Moderator » Fri Jan 18, 2008 12:27 pm

David Loftus wrote:Last year's winner clocked something like 90,000 pages.



Which equates to some 246 pages a day, every day.

In all seriousness, I'm not sure that's a goal worth pursuing.

I love to read, but I also love to do other things in life. Even as a speed reader, at a minute per page -- assuming normal pages -- that is more than four hours a day reading (again, every day). That's a bit obsessive, IMHO.

An hour or two? Great, perfect, knock yourself out. But 4+ if speed-reading? Or more if you're not? Don't know if that's even healthy.

A little balance is a good thing, even when it comes to reading.
- I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

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David Loftus
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Postby David Loftus » Fri Jan 18, 2008 1:40 pm

Barber wrote:Even as a speed reader, at a minute per page -- assuming normal pages -- that is more than four hours a day reading (again, every day). That's a bit obsessive, IMHO.



Yes indeed.

Almost as much as the average American television viewer spends in front of the tube. We can't have that!

How would advertisers get to them, then?
War is, at first, the hope that one will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that he isn't any better off; and, finally, the surprise at everyone's being worse off. - Karl Kraus

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Postby Moderator » Fri Jan 18, 2008 2:00 pm

David Loftus wrote:Almost as much as the average American television viewer spends in front of the tube. We can't have that!


Obviously, I get the ironic sarcasm -- but that wasn't my point. Four hours a day glued to the set is also a bad thing -- but the difference is (and I'm NOT defending watching TV, but making an observation) that the reader tends to be more isolated and focused than does the average TV watcher. Remember, my total of four hours a day comes by giving her full benefit of the doubt when it comes to page-turning speed. Cut that speed down to two minutes a page -- slow, but credible -- and you're at eight hours every day.

My thinking is that reading 90,000 words with comprehension and retention, is a much more challenging and isolating effort than is watching a commensurate amount of television.

Agreed, the TV is a bad, bad thing. I watch roughly 2 1/2 to 3 hours a day on average (including DVDs), while "only" reading for a couple of hours on average. Yes, "Bad Steve", but it's not time spent solidly focused on the set, it's also time spent talking to my wife, throwing the ball to the dog, listening to shows as a white-noise background while I'm working on the computer, cooking, washing dishes etc.

Can't do any of those things with a book in hand.

(Disclaimer: I LOVE reading. My Dad is a published author/retired publisher. I've had a handful of things published and printed. Gotta love books in our household. But four hours a day doing ANY ONE THING is excessive, IMHO, unless it's your professional endeavor.)

NOW ... and I should have mentioned this previously ... my assumption is that this reader does do something else professionally for eight some-odd hours a day. My math deducted those eight hours and eight hours for sleeping, leaving eight for the rest of her life. Then deduct half of that spent reading alone...and you see my point.

If she's unemployed or has no other responsibilities during the day and can sit still for four hours -- again, every day -- then more power to her. My point is not about the health of any other activity (like watching TV), it's about the questionable goal of 90,000 pages a year consumed.

(BTW - Is this solely book-related, or do magazine articles count?)
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David Loftus
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Postby David Loftus » Sat Jan 19, 2008 12:40 am

Magazine articles don't count, but graphic novels -- Duin is a fan, and writes about comics and related media often, especially on his blog -- do.

Oddly enough, I didn't read any of those last year.
War is, at first, the hope that one will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that he isn't any better off; and, finally, the surprise at everyone's being worse off. - Karl Kraus

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David Loftus
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Postby David Loftus » Sat Jan 19, 2008 11:18 am

I'm starting to run across an item I remember from my previous attempts to read the Pynchon: Proverbs for Paranoids.

My favorite so far is #3: "If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers."

Reminds me of most national elections.
War is, at first, the hope that one will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that he isn't any better off; and, finally, the surprise at everyone's being worse off. - Karl Kraus

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Postby Chuck Messer » Sat Jan 19, 2008 9:34 pm

I finally read two books that I'd always wanted to read but never got around to: The Stand and I am Legend.

I wanted to read I am Legend before I saw the movie, and managed that in about 24 hours - of course, it's more of a novella, but still I was riveted. The book has several other Matheson stories, so I'm going to have fun with this little treasury. As for the movie, I thought some things were good, such as Smith's performance as well as the two dogs that played Samantha. I also liked the ironic touch of a cure for cancer triggering the plague.

Still I would have liked to have the scene where Neville's recently buried wife shows up at his door croaking his name, and of course, the ending that makes sense of the title. Oh, well. At least the movie triggered the re-release of some of Matheson's work, which was in the best seller section.

I read the 'restored' version of The Stand. I really didn't feel the novel dragged all that much, although there were times when I was impatient to find out what was going to happen with Flagg, etc. I think the inclusion of the section with The Kid added to the novel, showing something of both Trashcan Man and Flagg and his far reach -- and all-seeing eye, like Sauron.

Now I'm reading Castles of Steel by Robert K. Massie.

Chuck
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Steve Evil
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Postby Steve Evil » Sun Jan 20, 2008 3:21 pm

The Subtle Knife by Phillip Pullman I'll be damned if the Halton Catholic School Board keeps me from that one!

Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett. Highly amusing

and

Fear of Mirrors by Tariq Ali. What's an old socialist to do in a post communist world? Ever tried that one Frank? I am in awe of it.

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Postby markabaddon » Mon Jan 21, 2008 10:52 am

The Best of Lester Del Ray when I just have a few minutes and The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova when I have more extended periods to focus on a book.

I am really enjoying The Historian. Possibly one of the most original Dracula stories I have ever read, and I have read a ton of them
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