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    <3 gator's Avatar
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    What are you reading?

    Let's talk about books! What are you reading right now?

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    Meae Musae Servus Hephaestus's Avatar
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    I'm attempting to read Gravity's Rainbow. I'm about 15-20% of the way through, and I'm pretty sure I'm not gonna finish reading it. Instead I'll probably read another Phillip K. Dick book.

    PKD has been described as a "poor man's Pynchon", and while I get the comparison between the two, I think that does him disservice. Here's the thing, they both are clearly writing on a psychedelic edge. But Pynchon captures the rambling strangeness while PKD captures the sequence of epiphanies. They both have a certain quality to their word choice and structure which screams "I've done a lot of shrooms/LSD", and Pynchon is much more lush, dense and intense in his writing--but also far far more incoherent. He makes for a difficult read without there being much reward for muddling through it.

    Another way to compare them is to look at the reasons why I find myself putting their books down. When I put down Pynchon, it's to think about what he's written--because I'm trying to figure out what the fuck he's driving at. When I put down PKD, it's because he's just lit a fire of an idea in my mind. Pynchon requires thought, PKD incites it.

    Furthermore, while PKD may take some hard right turns into left field now and again, destroying your preconception about what his story is about and what is going on in it, I'm approaching a fourth of the way through Gravity's Rainbow, and honestly, I could have started at this point in the book and been just as informed about what the book is about. In a way... that's impressive too.

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    <3 gator's Avatar
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    I'm going to try to be better about writing detailed notes about what I read.

    I finished Any Bright Horse by Lisa Pasold today. Long-form poetry exploring themes of travel and journeying, and the inevitable mark that makes on the traveller, when returning home, spanning many characters, places, time periods, inspired, in part, by the author's own travels as a foreign correspondent.

    I find with works such as this there's always the danger that the author will name-drop a lot of places and experiences in order to show off how worldly and well-travelled they are, without providing much context or story to justify their inclusion. That is something that tends to elicit annoyance from me because I'm envious and I've never had the opportunity to do much travelling. Thankfully, she manages to avoid sounding like this most of the time.

    Parts resonated with me, probably because I've spent more time this past year and a half travelling and/or thinking about travelling, and thoughts of journeys and travel have worked their way into a lot of my own writing of late. Horse metaphors as well. And so from a very meta perspective I find it very interesting to read something exploring the same themes and using a lot of the same sorts of metaphors, but in a totally different way from me.

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    Minister of Love Roger Mexico's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hephaestus View Post
    I'm attempting to read Gravity's Rainbow. I'm about 15-20% of the way through, and I'm pretty sure I'm not gonna finish reading it. Instead I'll probably read another Phillip K. Dick book.

    PKD has been described as a "poor man's Pynchon", and while I get the comparison between the two, I think that does him disservice. Here's the thing, they both are clearly writing on a psychedelic edge. But Pynchon captures the rambling strangeness while PKD captures the sequence of epiphanies. They both have a certain quality to their word choice and structure which screams "I've done a lot of shrooms/LSD", and Pynchon is much more lush, dense and intense in his writing--but also far far more incoherent. He makes for a difficult read without there being much reward for muddling through it.

    Another way to compare them is to look at the reasons why I find myself putting their books down. When I put down Pynchon, it's to think about what he's written--because I'm trying to figure out what the fuck he's driving at. When I put down PKD, it's because he's just lit a fire of an idea in my mind. Pynchon requires thought, PKD incites it.

    Furthermore, while PKD may take some hard right turns into left field now and again, destroying your preconception about what his story is about and what is going on in it, I'm approaching a fourth of the way through Gravity's Rainbow, and honestly, I could have started at this point in the book and been just as informed about what the book is about. In a way... that's impressive too.
    To my mind (and obviously you're entitled to your own opinion) it's the islands of lucidity sprinkled throughout the oceans of babble that are worth the price of admission in that book. I think it's a masterpiece and all that, but it's Pynchon writing at the peak of his manic hyper-expository mode, which makes for a difficult slog-against-the-current effect at times. (This is not to mention what I presume to be the epic amounts of psychedelic drugs he was doing at the time.) However, the way he does this is important to setting the reader up for the epiphanies that do come (many of them rather late in the book) in the form of unexpected intersections between one of the many streams of consciousness and another.

    I was completely floored by the impact some of these had on me when they arrived, which is key to my overall extremely fond memories of reading the book. (The most memorable of these is still finding out what happened to Pokler's daughter--I was practically in tears reading it and felt deeply, unshakeably unsettled by the evilness of it for a couple of days, an intensity of emotional response to fiction which is very uncommon for me.)

    I almost put it down and didn't go back, for much the same reasons you describe. In fact, I can be more specific about this--at first it reminded me very strongly of writers like Kerouac and Burroughs, whom I won't even mince words in saying I regard as grossly overrated hacks. Really, anyone can get strung out on drugs and jot down the babble that creeps into their inner monologue when they do so. The difference between doing that and writing a great piece of "psychedelic literature" is what you add to or draw out from a serviceable recreation of what's it like being strung out on drugs, not your ability to recreate the experience. (I give Hunter S. Thompson a conditional pass in this respect, but merely because I appreciate his sense of humor, and even with him I can only take small doses before reading his prose starts to seem like an irritating waste of my time.) Kerouac and Burroughs really don't bother to do anything but drag the reader along on extended benders, in my view, whereas Pynchon uses a superficially similar aesthetic to drag the reader into the more interesting depths of his thoughts. YMMV, of course.

    What Pynchon seems to want to do is immerse you in the rambling strangeness so you know where he's coming from when he later tries to direct your attention to the epiphanies that can be picked out of what's been poured all over the page. What he's doing in the first fourth (or even third) of the book is akin to standing in a field and throwing handfuls of seeds in every direction, some of which will eventually germinate and some of which will not. The ones that do "bloom" turn into quite stunningly intricate and elaborate structures, but it does require quite a lot of effort to get to a point from which they can be fully appreciated. This much is a perfectly valid criticism of how the book is organized, much as the fanboy in me wants to scream "hey, or maybe it's FUCKING GENIUS, man!"

    I also love PKD, but I find him a bit... preachy, if that's the word. His writing is drenched in self-seriousness, whereas Pynchon's detached (I would even say alienated) tone regarding his own subject matter creates an inherent duality that says "maybe I've just blown your mind, or maybe I'm just insane, or maybe I'm just fucking around--you decide." The dissonance is important to the wham kind of effect when he does manage to drive home a serious point. Gravity's Rainbow is full of this--on one level it's a gonzo black comedy about the foibles of pathetic humans trying to control things they don't understand, while on another level it's a PKD-style philosophical treatise about self-knowledge.

    I actually did put it aside several times the first time through--I read it over a period of about six months, in fact, chipping away at it bit by bit. Similarly, I actually took a break from Against the Day and read another book in its entirety before jumping back in. (Some unremarkable adolescent-coming-of-age novel by a Canadian author named Clark Blaise--I'd been given it by an acquaintance who was handing out books he'd failed to sell at a garage sale, but I just about literally grabbed the first book near me that wasn't Pynchon because I needed relief from my Pynchon fatigue.) Against the Day is now up there with Gravity's Rainbow as one of my favorite books, even compared to other Pynchon novels.

    Maybe I'm just a glutton for punishment, but I regard Pynchon as the rare author who makes you work for the payoff his writing offers while actually having a payoff waiting for you which is worth all the effort.

    Finally, I'd just say that it's important to note Pynchon's choice of genre (consistent throughout all of his books)--what may be styled as a mystery thriller or a sci-fi epic is actually very much a piece of historical fiction. It's hard to "get" without remaining actively cognizant that--as I think applies equally to, say, Coen Brothers movies--the setting is also a character, perhaps the main character. (Note how many times in GR "The War" is referred to as a conscious entity with its own agenda, just as I would say winter is treated as a character in Fargo, or the idea of the plot itself is a character in The Big Lebowski.) Every book he's written is stuffed with references to ephemeral details of the time period in which it takes place--while this has the effect of providing a lot of random details to sift through for relevance, I think the point is to try to immerse yourself in the same zeitgeist as the people in the story. While it's never quite explicitly referred to, Pynchon wants you (I think) to bear in mind that these people are members of a species which is right on the verge of inventing something with the potential to cause its creators' own extinction. So you're reminded (if obliquely so) just what year it is and just what that means for the world the characters inhabit at just about every opportunity. I bring it up because it's one example of the rambling strangeness and verbosity probably being intended to serve a purpose.

    Anyway, PynchonFanboy133742043VR has spoken. Seacrest Out.

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    Married Mouth-breather JohnClay's Avatar
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    Pro-Christian books by John Lennox and Lee Strobel that are aimed towards non-believers (like me).

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    I'm reading Great Expectations as part of an effort to get through all those classics. I'm considering giving up on this one. I'm 57% through and it's an absolute tedious bore. I'm not finding any value in it.

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    Mens bona regnum possidet ferrus's Avatar
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    Les Miserables, c.f. my repeated plaints about not having read enough 19th century French Literature.

    I am actually enjoying it, not the fairly creaky melodrama of a plot, but the long digressions that read like one of my more length posts put into book form.
    Die Logik ist keine Lehre, sondern ein Spiegelbild der Welt. Die Logik ist transcendental. - Wittgenstein

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    Sysop Ptah's Avatar
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    Let's see.

    All rather ish, perhaps...

    Just Read:



    Meh. Very poor. Want my money back. Could have been a quarter the size, or even just an article or two online somewhere -- and a poor one, at that. Where have all the good compiler books gone? (I overstate that last part: I have a few I've found that seem better; more on them later, perhaps).



    Good Infotainment. I'd recommend for reading it in a beach chair near the ocean (and bar), as I did. The author does a good job of trying to keep his futuristic speculations anchored in cutting-edge, present-day advances in tech, and to entertaining effect. Although there are a few points where he waxes political if not philosophical, which rankled me quite a bit. Even so, recommended fun reading.

    Now Reading



    Starts off with an interesting model for describing the difference between intuitive/habitual/subconscious "thinking" and more deliberate, conscious, focused "thinking" (ala critical thinking). Gets bogged down in some examples that are heavy on economics as the book goes on, only tipping the hat to the earlier proposed model here and there. But still, pretty well-written and fairly engaging for the subject matter.

    Hard to form a solid evaluation of this one yet. More once I finish it, perhaps.



    Fascinating, concise and exactly what I was hoping for on the subject. So far, so good (actually, excellent)....

  9. #9
    asl? ;] JollyBard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ferrus View Post
    Les Miserables, c.f. my repeated plaints about not having read enough 19th century French Literature.

    I am actually enjoying it, not the fairly creaky melodrama of a plot, but the long digressions that read like one of my more length posts put into book form.
    18th century french literature might be my favourite literature. Of course, being a native french speaker, I might be a bit biased. Hugo's works are particularly good, you should read Notre-Dame-de-Paris next if you like Les Misérables.

    I'm currently La Nausée (Nausea) by Jean-Paul Sartre, since I'm having a bit of an existential crisis. It's not helping, in fact it's worsened my anxiety, but it's fascinating. Feels like a trip to an Ni-dom's mind suffering from agnosia.

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    chaotic neutral jigglypuff's Avatar
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    reading was put on hold due to life. i'm still in the middle of kafka on the shore by haruki murakami (it's going a bit slow?) and just started a new one that was a gift to me, a chicken for every yard: the urban farm store's guide to chicken keeping by robert & hannah litt. those are the ones i'm carrying around with me currently.

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