What Are You Reading Now.

Discussion in 'Discussion of Published Works' started by Writing Forums Staff, Feb 22, 2008.

  1. Earp

    Earp Contributor Contributor

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  2. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    Stanley Booth’s The True Adventures of The Rolling Stones.

    I’m actually reading this one (as opposed to simply owning it). I read the introduction today, the whole five pages, which is very good for me. Tomorrow I’ll try a few pages of the first chapter.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2022 at 7:45 AM
  3. Robert Musil

    Robert Musil Comparativist Contributor

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    Camille Acker, Training School for Negro Girls. A collection of literary-ish shorts set in Washington, DC in the 80s/90s. Some of them are quite good. My personal favorite is framed as a girl's college application essay, and it is hilarious. "I do not listen to hip hop, except for the very occasional fun rapper such as Macklemore" is the kind of thing you can quote (or that I will quote, anyway).

    That one in particular reminds me strongly of Zora Neale Hurston in her humorous mode. ZNH could be quite funny--I got a collection of some of her lesser-known/earlier/previously unpublished stories titled Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick recently. One thing she was fond of was retelling the Prodigal Son story as a young man moving north during the Great Migration, and using faux-serious Biblical-sounding language to describe silly fish-out-of-water situations he got into while trying to acculturate. Sounds weird but it works.
     
  4. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber marshmallow Contributor

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    how is this set during the 80s and 90s?
     
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  5. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    Who’s Macklemore?
     
  6. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber marshmallow Contributor

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    a 21st century rapper
     
  7. Robert Musil

    Robert Musil Comparativist Contributor

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    Most of them are, anyway.
     
  8. Hippophile

    Hippophile Member

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    I'm reading Howl's Moving Castle right now.
     
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  9. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Currently Reading::
    "Alas, Babylon" by Pat Frank
    [​IMG]
    "Empire of the Sun" by J.G. Ballard (★★★★)
    "The Good Earth" by Pearl S. Buck (★★★)

    -----------------------

    "The Good Earth" by Pearl S. Buck (★★★)
    In 1920's Northern China, a peasant farmer marries a woman and tries to better himself on the land.

    This is Pulitzer #30 for me. I wanted to read an older title and this one won in 1935. It starts out a little like Swiss Family Robinson (one of my favorite books as a kid), morphs into The Grapes of Wrath and then settles into a corruption arc along the lines of Citizen Kane. The MC, Wang Lung, (everybody Wang Lung tonight) wants to succeed as a farmer. He loves the land and has a determined work ethic. He must survive through starvation, war, and hardship. He's exemplified by his gumption, and I think this is why this book was given the Pulitzer. Pulitzers are supposed to be about the American experience and written by an American author, but I think this qualifies because of its Western work ethic. (?) I'm guessing here. There are a few other titles that have nothing to do with Americans and yet won the award. The Old Man and the Sea, The Orphan Master's Son, et al.

    The title gets a lot of modern criticism for being too westernized. I guess I understand that. The author lived with her missionary parents in China and so saw a lot firsthand. The book does seem overly quaint and inauthentic, but I think it's the best you can get from that time. Peasants don't know how to write. The Chinese upper class aren't going to write about them either. This outsider viewpoint may be the best we can get from that era. I'd be curious to read a first-hand account though. I'm sure someone wrote one maybe after the fact through interviews.

    The MC often annoys me. I don't expect him to be perfect, but come on! He's such a pushover. At one point, his extended family invite themselves into his house. They're a bunch of sloths that mooch off his hard won wealth. They also seem to have eaten their youngest kids during the famine. I would say that should exclude them from family visits. There's no way I would let a bunch of cannibals into my house.

    The book gets a lot of grief for how it treats women. (Eh, I think any modern treatment would have been anachronistic.) I gotta say, the MC's wife is awesome. You've seen the misogynist "sammich" meme, I'm sure. As in "woman, make me a sammich." Well, the MC's wife can beat anyone at sammich making. She is beyond belief. Picture this . . . The MC buys his wife from a great house, where she served as a slave/servant. She's rather plain and he's somewhat disappointed by that. She's more of a farm girl in frame. She follows him demurely home. She immediately cooks him the best meal he's ever had using his paltry kitchen ingredients. She cleans the entire house to perfection, mends all his clothes, repairs cracked dishes with clay, unstitches their blankets and kills all the bugs before restuffing them with cotton and sewing them perfectly again. The MC is delighted to find that she has a rocking body (my phrase, not his) and you know what politely happens (not directly on the page because this is from 1935). She eventually has the house so well taken care of that she picks up a hoe and joins him in the fields tending "the good earth." She's pregnant but works through the pregnancy right up to her labor pains. Then she puts down her hoe, goes back into the house, prepares dinner (while progressing through labor), goes into the bedroom and delivers her own baby while the MC eats in the kitchen, cleans up everything and invites the MC in to see his son. Top that! I dare you, haha.

    I only wish he would tell her how much he loves her . . . It never really happens. Good lord. What is wrong with you, dude? Tell her she completes you. Tell her you don't deserve her, that she's perfect.

    [​IMG]
    The best looking sammich I could find,
    and I don't think it is even worthy of her


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    "Empire of the Sun" by J.G. Ballard (★★★★)
    A ten-year-old British boy separated from his parents must survive the Japanese invasion of Shanghai.

    This was pretty bleak, which shouldn't be surprising. The kid, Jim, runs wild through Shanghai and when the Japanese attack, he's tossed into a prison camp with other Brits and foreigners. There they are starved to death. It's absolutely miserable but the kid sees everything through a kid's eyes and so isn't as downbeat as you would think. If you've seen the Steven Spielberg movie adaptation (with young Christian Bale playing the MC) then you understand. Spielberg captured the behavior of the kid pretty well, and I gotta say, stayed pretty close to the book's plot. There's a few adjustments, naturally. The book is far, far more brutal than the movie is. Other than being starved into a skeleton, the kid avoids much of the cruelty. He sees plenty though. It's interesting that he never freaks out. The horrors he sees are like something in a Cormac McCarthy story, yet he never even flinches. He must have severe PTSD afterward.

    The kid's parents are the worst parents in all of literature. Would you let a ten-year-old kid bicycle through old Shanghai? I wouldn't. The streets are filled with prostitutes and drug dealers. People are constantly lunging at the kid like they want to murder him for his shoes and this is before the war even starts. At one point the kid notices he's being followed, notes that it's "oh, just a kidnapper wanting a ransom," and so puts some pep in his step and only gets slashed at by a knife. This is a typical day. He doesn't even mention it to his indifferent parents. Then after nearly being sold to slavers, being thrown in a prison camp for the entirety of the war, used by mercenaries to draw fire, being attacked by communist nationals, etc, what do his parents do after the war is over? Do they let him roam the city again? Yes, because these are literature's worst parents.

    It's worth noting that the author was actually imprisoned as a kid in Shanghai so this is semi autobiographical. His parents were with him though. He removed them from the story for dramatic effect. He notes that they drifted apart after the war because (I never considered this) if parents cannot act as parents, meting out discipline and giving gifts, then they lose their authority. They're reduced to bunkmates. It weakens the family. I added a bit to the star rating once I realized that much of this book actually happened.

    [​IMG]
    The final scene from Spielberg's "Empire of the Sun"
    where Christian Bale defeats his Japanese captors
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2022 at 5:30 PM
  10. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    This was the book that made me understand why Ballard writes the way he does. I don't know what it is exactly, but he's in some way impaired, in terms of empathy or feelings or something. It's like some form of autism or something. And it's been a long time since I read anything by him, I don't remember my conjectures very well anymore, but I came to realize he has a lot in common with Cronenberg in that regard. They both seem fascinated with the emotional reactions of other people, but to have none themselves and they both have a sort of scientific appreciation for how emotions work, while being themselves immune to it. They write (or make movies) about horrible things happening to people with a sort of scientific detachment. No wonder Cronenberg was able to translate his novel Crash so well into movie form, which I thought would be impossible. I'm sure those horrific childhood experiences were responsible for this condition, unless it's something genetic. If so, maybe it's what allowed him to survive it all so well. There was an interview with both of them I either saw or read somewhere, it must have been about Crash, where they kept saying they're like brothers under the skin or something. It might have been a commentary track on Crash the movie, in fact I think it was. They also seem to have an obsessiveness about them that makes them keep returing to the same material and in Ballard's case repeating phrases or ideas incessantly.

    And yet in some ways they both seem to have a great deal of empathy or feelings or whatever it is that seems to be missing. A very weird combination.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2022 at 4:53 PM
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  11. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Currently Reading::
    "Alas, Babylon" by Pat Frank
    I think you might be right. There's never an emotional response to the horror. The MC seems to see everything as an indifferent observer, almost like he's burned out from it all, like a war vet who just assesses the situation and then acts mechanically. It's weird because the kid seems often giddy and childish with his imaginings, but it's as if no horrific event can even touch him. He's encapsulated from it somehow. He walks into a room full of bloated corpses (more than once) swarming with black clouds of flies, and he notes the state of the bodies and then strolls away.

    I noticed his deadness to the world too. I bet this is what did it to Ballard.
     
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  12. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    I'm way out of my depth here, I don't know much about these particular conditions, but I've sometimes thought it might be antisocial personality disorder (sociopathy/psychopathy). Those things get a really bad rap in popular culture, but honestly psychopaths are extremely high-functioning and they make incredibly good surgeons and lawyers and many other things that require an immunity to emotional vulnerability or squeamishness. I wish I knew more about it. I think PTSD makes people more vulnerable to horrors, but they seem to be invulnerable.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2022 at 5:07 PM
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  13. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody The Ole Frazzle-Dazzle Contributor

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    Publishers Weekly's new release catalogue for the summer.

    One reviewer called a debut author's book "well-craft but unilluminating"

    Sheesh:ohno:
     
  14. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody The Ole Frazzle-Dazzle Contributor

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    Another review "......has an impressive intellectual bandwidth, though the ideas carry a bit more weight than the story"

    This reviewer is savage...
    I hope my future work doesnt come across their desk!
     
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  15. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Potatoes again? Supporter Contributor

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    Reminds me of Twain (allegedly) saying that Wagner's music was probably better than it sounds.

    On topic, I've just started The Maltese Falcon and holy hell this is good. All of us here yelling "show don't tell" at each other, share your first three lines, and this fucker opens with:

    Man what a start. I'm not very far in but to hook me with a "tell" of a man's face? Well-played, very well-played.
     
  16. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    Well, I’m not sure I’ve ever read a description of a character done with showing. I’m not ever sure I’d know how to.
     
  17. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    He hated mirrors, seeing what others see; the deep crow’s feet fanning from the corners of each eye, the sagging jowls...

    Would that be an example of describing a face by showing?
     
  18. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Conspicuously Conventional Contributor

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    I would think the overwhelming majority of appearance description is done through showing.
     
  19. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    Really? Maybe I don’t fully understand the difference then.
     
  20. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Conspicuously Conventional Contributor

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    Admittedly, I might not either; but I’ll try and explain how I view the distinction.

    Basically anytime you place the reader in the story and offer sensory description, you’re Showing. For example, if you put your main character (a young child) on a bicycle and he or she peddles near an especially spooky looking house, and you describe it, you’re Showing. The reader is there, firmly present in the scene.

    But if you were to write something like: All of the neighborhood kids knew about the old and spooky house at the end of Hatchet Road, you’re merely Telling. No one is present to actually experience the description .
     
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  21. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    So is my example from earlier, showing for telling?
     
  22. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Conspicuously Conventional Contributor

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    Is the character inspecting himself in the mirror? Forgive me for not being certain. If so, then yes (showing), by my usage — he’s processing sensory information.
     
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  23. Rad Scribbler

    Rad Scribbler Senior Member

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    I would say your example would be 'showing.'
     
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  24. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    'Show don't tell' is probably the worst advice routinely offered on writing sites. Not that it's necessarily bad, per se, to 'show' in any given situation, but the advice is often given by rote and not as a result of any kind of analysis of what the writer is doing.
     
  25. EFMingo

    EFMingo A Modern Dinosaur Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Oftentimes it is entirely wrong advice as well. Telling tends to facilitate narrative movement, while showing stagnates it frequently. Both have completely different functions, and both are necessary.
     

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