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Woebot
08-06-2016, 09:22 AM
i've had to put down moby dick. i put off reading the copy i bought for 20 years. made a fist of it and just read 61 chapters - over half of it.

however i'm totally sickened by the slaughter of whales it describes. yes - it is within the context of an earlier age when hunting whale was incredibly dangerous for men - but even so it disgusts me. melville is entirely wrapped up in the perceived excitement, honour and majesty of the activity.

it's a thoroughly disgraceful bit of writing that deserves none of the respect (oh sacred american tome) accorded to it.

Corpsey
08-06-2016, 09:38 AM
I'm one of the legions who made it halfway through Moby Dick. I thought it was marvellous, but full of punishing digressions. Luka WILL mock me here for making it halfway through.

The animal rights angle is interesting, as that hadn't even occurred to me. I wonder if this has been a popular criticism levelled at it? Reminds me of Nabokov's lecture on Don Quixote, where he roundly rejects it for its revelling in cruelty:

http://www.nytimes.com/1983/02/13/books/don-quixote-restored.html?pagewanted=all

Hunting is one of the formative activities of our species (of any species really), and was a source of excitement and joy for thousands of years. Indeed, it is only in our modern industrial society that hunting animals is a minority pursuit. Not to say we should revel in it ourselves, but to impugn people living in a prior age for doing so as 'disgraceful' is surely a little harsh? Not worthy of ANY of the respect its accorded? Surely Moby Dick's reputation doesn't rest upon its humane treatment of whales?

Corpsey
08-06-2016, 09:45 AM
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Berlin-Imagine-City-Rory-MacLean/dp/1780224583

I started reading this yesterday. Caught my eye in a shop and I'm visiting Berlin for the first time in a few years. I will give it another shot, but the introduction was so laboriously written that it put me right off:

'A Soviet MiG flew low over the Brandenberg Gate, touching the sound barrier, shaking the windows and my faith in the inherent goodness of man.'

The upside to reading a sentence like this in a critically praised book is that it makes you think 'maybe even I could get published, and praised, if I manage to put together 300 pages of this stuff!'

droid
08-06-2016, 10:10 AM
Moby dick is outstanding. Fully deserving of its place at the peak of the canon. I think it is a mistake to focus on the descriptions of the horror of the whaling industry - it is only one aspect of a multi-faceted and often contradictory symbolic order, and I dont think its fair to say the melville revels in it. Certainly the idea that it is 'american psycho' for whales seems deeply wrong to me.

Have you read Blood Meridian?

droid
08-06-2016, 10:21 AM
The elaborate descriptions of cruelty provide the justification for the whales madness, its righteous fury. Amongst other things, the whale symbolises nature placing a limit on man's dominance, unwillingness to be exploited - an exploitation condemned by Melville, the murder of whales being "in order to light the gay bridals and other merry-makings of men, and also to illuminate the solemn churches that preach unconditional inoffensiveness by all to all."

droid
08-06-2016, 10:33 AM
Dont think Ive ever stopped reading something out of disgust. Mostly boredom or shitness.

If something elicits a visceral reaction then its a must read.

Corpsey
08-06-2016, 10:49 AM
I loved Blood Meridian. Are there any other McCarthy novels that touch it?

As I recall, the violence in Blood Meridian is often poetically rendered but never anything other than horrific in effect.

I really like this James Wood review of 'No Country for Old Men': http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2005/07/25/red-planet


To read Cormac McCarthy is to enter a climate of frustration: a good day is so mysteriously followed by a bad one. McCarthy is a colossally gifted writer, certainly one of the greatest observers of landscape. He is also one of the great hams of American prose, who delights in producing a histrionic rhetoric that brilliantly ventriloquizes the King James Bible, Shakespearean and Jacobean tragedy, Melville, Conrad, and Faulkner.

He IS hammy, but I've always enjoyed ham. Especially with pickle. MMMM.

droid
08-06-2016, 11:17 AM
I think they're all brilliant. The road is probably next in the list, but 'Child of god' and 'Outer dark' have a similar apocalyptic buzz about them.

Corpsey
08-06-2016, 11:19 AM
I picked up No Country in a shop the other day for a couple of quid. I'm slightly wary of reading it though because I loved the film so much. (arse about tit but that's the way it is)

Benny B
08-06-2016, 11:32 AM
I picked up No Country in a shop the other day for a couple of quid. I'm slightly wary of reading it though because I loved the film so much. (arse about tit but that's the way it is)

its very good, the film was very faithful to it I think.

i've read blood meridian 4 or 5 times. Can understand why people put it down though.

Also, you can add me to the list of moby dick abandoners. Ulysees too. Not that I wasn't enjoying them, but I simply couldn't sustain the time and effort required. With books like that, once you take a break its very difficult to get back into it.

Corpsey
08-06-2016, 11:55 AM
I've never even attempted Ulysses, despite being fairly obsessed with Joyce at points. (I've read Dubliners, A Portrait... and Ellmann's biography.)

One of my friends managed to do it and he said that it is worth it, although there are obviously these long passages which are almost unbearably dull and obtuse.

I'm also put off by the stuff I will definitely miss in there because I'm not Catholic, Irish, and haven't read the literary canon. But presumably every reader who isn't the author of a book will miss things in it.

Mr. Tea
08-06-2016, 12:33 PM
Moby Dick is the fucking bomb. I found it damn near unputdownable.

I don't think I've ever failed to finish a book because I found it gross or distasteful or whatever. I've given up on both The Atrocity Exhibition and On The Road because I simply found them really boring (sure I've mentioned them both on here before). Orhan Pahmuk's My Name Is Read I just found utterly pretentious and too in love with its own po-mo cleverness, which I could probably have coped with if there had been a sufficiently gripping story to follow (I'm old fashioned like that) but there just wasn't. For a similar reason I don't think I ever finished The Soft Machine, which is odd as I really enjoyed Naked Lunch. I mean I loved the prose and the imagery, but I do prefer to have at least some semblence of a plot with things happening to and being done by characters for some kind of at least halfway logical reason.

One book I nearly stopped reading from sheer bleakness is Wally Lamb's I Know This Much Is True. Starring: extreme family dysfunction! mental illness! institutional violence! racism! poverty! police corruption! alcoholism! man-on-woman rape! man-on-man rape! Aids! despair! suicide! I mean, I know those are all real things of course, but I spent the first 90% of the book thinking "No one person's life can be this fucking miserable, can it?" - and then in the last 10% of it, so many things come good for the narrator that it seems frankly miraculous.

Corpsey
08-06-2016, 12:36 PM
I read 'On the Road' at the perfect age for not finding it boring and self-indulgent and badly written. I read Kafka around that age too, which was very much NOT the perfect age for Kafka.

droid
08-06-2016, 12:41 PM
I think the Dharma bums is much more readable than on the road.

Amerika took me a couple of tries. I generally find Kafka fairly interminable.

Anna Kavan's 'Ice' was the last thing I abandoned out of sheer confusion.

Benny B
08-06-2016, 12:47 PM
i finished on the road, but didn't get what was supposed to be so revolutionary about it. maybe i had been expecting something more experimental like burroughs or something. and the neal cassidy/dean moriarty character is just an insufferable, entitled gobshite. massively overrated iyam

Corpsey
08-06-2016, 01:04 PM
I think its revolutionary aspect probably can't be understood today, in the same way that, say, this painting no longer looks like something people would be outraged over

http://www.theartstory.org/images20/works/seurat_georges_1.jpg

I read 'The Trial' when I was about 18 and it completely went over my head. Reread it for an MA and absolutely loved it. One thing I missed the first time was that its supposed to be funny. And it is. To me, anyway.

rubberdingyrapids
08-06-2016, 01:32 PM
i think kafka if you read it as a teen and loved it you are probably aspirationally embittered.
when you read it in your 30s or thereabouts, you are likely to be more organically embittered.

Lichen
08-06-2016, 01:33 PM
I've been reading Anna Karenina for over two years now. It's pretty readable but I'm struggling to care about the inner lives of over-privileged aristocrats.
Excellent on scything and snipe shooting though.

Corpsey
08-06-2016, 01:45 PM
i think kafka if you read it as a teen and loved it you are probably aspirationally embittered.
when you read it in your 30s or thereabouts, you are likely to be more organically embittered.

When I read it as a yoot I knew of its popular reputation as being about totalitarianism, which of course it can be read as being, but at this stage in my life it seems to me more about the absurdity and horror of life itself. Actually when I read it during my MA I was near the bottom of my psychological chasm (i.e. I was depressed), I read it as being ABOUT depression. Certainly Kafka was a rather unhappy fellow, so perhaps it really is?

Woebot
08-06-2016, 06:29 PM
Not to say we should revel in it ourselves, but to impugn people living in a prior age for doing so as 'disgraceful' is surely a little harsh? Not worthy of ANY of the respect its accorded? Surely Moby Dick's reputation doesn't rest upon its humane treatment of whales?

i stopped reading it because of the cruelty. where the cruelty is pitched in that book - it's simply wrong. you can write about cruelty certainly - but it's where you place the reader that matters. you could write a proper book about whaling - but this isn't it.

i'm more than happy to judge people in a prior age. i'd say it's up there with that other "classic" mein kampf. moby dick is a throughly ignorant book.

its literary merits are reasonably thin on the ground too. ok, the introduction is breathtaking. but as soon as the boat sets sail melville spends the entire time letting the reader know how erudite and well-researched he is on the subject of whales.

this is a book which owes its reputation to unquestioning readers - and ultimately its attitude to whales is indefensible.

sadmanbarty
08-06-2016, 07:11 PM
Woebot, in light of your thoughts on Moby dick, what's your opinion of homophobic dancehall? Are the two equatable?

ps. Sorry if you have already addressed this before.

STN
08-06-2016, 09:06 PM
I think Achebe on Conrad is relevant here, with reference to cruelty precluding greatness, and the expectation that authors transcend the era in which they live

http://kirbyk.net/hod/image.of.africa.html

Corpsey
08-06-2016, 09:10 PM
So if it's literary merits are thin on the ground, it owes it's reputation ENTIRELY to unquestioning readers? This reminds me of Tolstoy's critique of King Lear. You happen to be the one reader who saw through the conspiracy.

As for likening it to Mein Kampf! Well, it's certainly an original opinion. At least I think it is. Nothing comes up on Google. Mein Kampf isn't held in high esteem as a work of prose. It's interest lies entirely in giving insight into the mind of Hitler. (But then, I guess you'd argue Melville is to whales what Hitler was to Jews.)

Anyway, I wouldn't attempt to refute your opinion entirely, as I only got halfway through lol Perhaps I need to read the cruel bits. I don't doubt your disgust, but I wonder if it's colouring your appreciation of its literary merits. And certainly most would agree it's hard going, even boring for long stretches. But then too, not many great novels are perfect. Dostoevsky's "baggy monsters" e.g.

I've never encountered the argument about it being cruel, actually, either. I find it interesting for that very reason. (The critique, is.)

Leo
08-06-2016, 09:15 PM
never finished don delillo's "underworld". i got all caught up in the critical acclaim when it came out, maybe i was expecting too much.

Corpsey
08-06-2016, 09:34 PM
http://www.lrb.co.uk/v24/n21/jeremy-harding/call-me-ahab

This review seems to touch on the issues you've raised Woebot. Don't have time to read this evening but I'll read with interest tomorrow.

I'm intrigued by the fact that in this book of cruelty towards whales, the head whaler is a madman and the whale ends up winning. (Right?)

One issue in which Melville was ahead of his time was slavery, as evinced by "Benito Cereno". Although his can probably be read as a racist text, I rememeber it being more subversive and subtle than that.

Corpsey
08-06-2016, 09:58 PM
The elaborate descriptions of cruelty provide the justification for the whales madness, its righteous fury. Amongst other things, the whale symbolises nature placing a limit on man's dominance, unwillingness to be exploited - an exploitation condemned by Melville, the murder of whales being "in order to light the gay bridals and other merry-makings of men, and also to illuminate the solemn churches that preach unconditional inoffensiveness by all to all."

actually you can safely ignore my comments in this thread and engage with droid's. He's more articulate and better informed than me. After all, he's read it!

Mr. Tea
08-06-2016, 10:29 PM
Woebot, in light of your thoughts on Moby dick, what's your opinion of homophobic dancehall? Are the two equatable?


Given the rampant homoeroticism in MD, I like the idea of the circle being completed by a dancehall tune that's anti-gay but also really pro-whale.



I'm intrigued by the fact that in this book of cruelty towards whales, the head whaler is a madman and the whale ends up winning. (Right?)


Only if you ignore the 'it was all just a dream'/'Ahab is himself a Replicant' interpretation.

But yeah, Ahab is hardly the 'hero' of the piece, is he? He's basically painted as a total nutter right from the start and his monomaniacal obsession with the whale leads to his own death and the deaths of his entire crew. It's hardly a moral manifesto for the wonders of killing large animals, at least I didn't read it that way.

droid
08-06-2016, 10:54 PM
i stopped reading it because of the cruelty. where the cruelty is pitched in that book - it's simply wrong. you can write about cruelty certainly - but it's where you place the reader that matters. you could write a proper book about whaling - but this isn't it.

i'm more than happy to judge people in a prior age. i'd say it's up there with that other "classic" mein kampf. moby dick is a throughly ignorant book.

its literary merits are reasonably thin on the ground too. ok, the introduction is breathtaking. but as soon as the boat sets sail melville spends the entire time letting the reader know how erudite and well-researched he is on the subject of whales.

this is a book which owes its reputation to unquestioning readers - and ultimately its attitude to whales is indefensible.

A cataclysmically, astoundingly (but entertainingly) bad opinion. Have you read Mein Kampf? This is like comparing Mozart to the vengaboys.


Consider all this; and then turn to this green, gentle, and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself? For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half known life. God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return!

droid
08-06-2016, 10:57 PM
Given the rampant homoeroticism in MD, I like the idea of the circle being completed by a dancehall tune that's anti-gay but also really pro-whale.



Only if you ignore the 'it was all just a dream'/'Ahab is himself a Replicant' interpretation.

But yeah, Ahab is hardly the 'hero' of the piece, is he? He's basically painted as a total nutter right from the start and his monomaniacal obsession with the whale leads to his own death and the deaths of his entire crew. It's hardly a moral manifesto for the wonders of killing large animals, at least I didn't read it that way.

Ahab is a villain to rival McCarthy's Judge. If there is a hero it is Ishmael, or the whale itself.

Mr. Tea
08-06-2016, 11:03 PM
A cataclysmically, astoundingly (but entertainingly) bad opinion. Have you read Mein Kampf? This is like comparing Mozart to the vengaboys.

Doubly ironic given Hitler's well-known love of animals and the obsessive greenness of the Nazis generally.

droid
08-06-2016, 11:09 PM
One thing I will concede is that the encyclopedic detail of whaling practice is excessive and probably goes furthest to dating it - that said, Melville could write corporate brochures and Id read them for his prose alone.

luka
08-06-2016, 11:27 PM
http://www.dissensus.com/showthread.php?t=12302&highlight=Marx

luka
08-06-2016, 11:29 PM
Catch 22. Uylsses. Various Dickens. Gravitys Rainbow.

Mr. Tea
09-06-2016, 12:09 AM
Catch 22. Uylsses. Various Dickens. Gravitys Rainbow.

GR is a slog in parts, granted, but I was glad I finished it. I found C22 quite easy to read as long as I didn't try to keep up with all the hundreds of minor characters. Got a copy of U, not attempted it or any Joyce yet. Never read a word of Dickens but Mickey's Christmas Carol from Disney is an undeniable triumph.

Mr. Tea
09-06-2016, 12:10 AM
BTW, are we distinguishing 'had to stop reading' from 'basically couldn't be arsed with reading'?

droid
09-06-2016, 10:05 AM
Infinite jest was a slog. Dickens is generally dull but readable.

Corpsey
09-06-2016, 10:29 AM
I've read 'Great Expectations'. It was worth it for the many long stretches of imaginative brilliance. Of course, Dickens is often sentimental/maudlin and the plot creaks under a surfeit of contrivances, but then he wasn't a 'realist' author, he is telling a fairy story of sorts. It's also another one of those 'baggy monsters', presumably because in Dickens's day, those novels were serialised, not intended to be read in one go.

Many, if not ALL, of the greatest books I've read have been boring or stupid in places, but masterpieces nonetheless. The novel as a form allows for this variation in quality. Whereas if a short story contains three or four pages of rubbish it can be more or less sunk.

Mr. Tea
09-06-2016, 10:29 AM
Infinite jest was a slog.

I'm loving IJ, chipping away at it in what seem like infinitesimal (no pun intended) chunks - OK, slivers - of a few pages at a time every few days. It's by no means a page-turner but I don't find it a huge effort to read, either. I don't think it's anything like as textually dense as it could be, put it that way, given the level of technical, psychological, political (etc....) detail DFW goes into. He's even got me to care about the tennis stuff.

Corpsey: speaking of Dickens, does it seem silly or camp or whatever to the modern reader that he has all these characters called Mr Nastybastard and Mrs Drinksalot and that? I remember J K Rowling being particularly prone to this too.

Corpsey
09-06-2016, 10:38 AM
It would be silly, were he a realistic author, which I suppose he is often seen as being, given his concern with the social issues of his day, but 'Great Expectations', at least, seems - as I said - to be a fairy story. I haven't read other Dickens novels, but I wonder if the reason this heightened reality works so well in 'GE' is that it opens with the viewpoint of a child.


I give Pirrip as my father's family name, on the authority of his tombstone and my sister,—Mrs. Joe Gargery, who married the blacksmith. As I never saw my father or my mother, and never saw any likeness of either of them (for their days were long before the days of photographs), my first fancies regarding what they were like were unreasonably derived from their tombstones. The shape of the letters on my father's, gave me an odd idea that he was a square, stout, dark man, with curly black hair. From the character and turn of the inscription, "Also Georgiana Wife of the Above," I drew a childish conclusion that my mother was freckled and sickly. To five little stone lozenges, each about a foot and a half long, which were arranged in a neat row beside their grave, and were sacred to the memory of five little brothers of mine,—who gave up trying to get a living, exceedingly early in that universal struggle,—I am indebted for a belief I religiously entertained that they had all been born on their backs with their hands in their trousers-pockets, and had never taken them out in this state of existence.

Just grabbed this example from page one of 'GE', the wonderful illogic of a child's mind. In fact, the whole book is in some respects rather childish, and Dicken's characters on-the-nose names fit into that. It reminds me of Roald Dahl's stories: Mr and Mrs Twit, e.g. And yes, Rowling, who is obviously very influenced by Dickens). The characters in G.E. aren't credible as human beings; they're as shallow, and as vivid, as cartoon characters.

Actually reading G.E. was a revelation in that I always thought of Dickens as a very dry, forbidding sort of author who wrote these 600 page doorstops about the workhouses. (Saying this, I've not read any Dickens since!)

Corpsey
09-06-2016, 10:51 AM
I've been posting a few Orwell essays on here lately, and his essay on Dickens is a humdinger:

http://orwell.ru/library/reviews/dickens/english/e_chd

Slothrop
09-06-2016, 02:06 PM
I'm loving IJ, chipping away at it in what seem like infinitesimal (no pun intended) chunks of a few pages at a time every few days. It's by no means a page-turner but I don't find it a huge effort to read, either. I don't think it's anything like as textually dense as it could be, put it that way, given the level of technical, psychological, political (etc....) detail DFW goes into. He's even got me to care about the tennis stuff.

I found it got pretty page-turny about half way through, when the plot actually got going...

Mr. Tea
09-06-2016, 02:28 PM
I found it got pretty page-turny about half way through, when the plot actually got going...

Actually yeah, that's fair - I'm at about that point now. I'd class it along with Moby Dick as a 'believe the hype' book.

Corpsey
09-06-2016, 02:59 PM
I really like DFWs criticism/journalism but not read any of his fiction yet. Got that short story collection of his ('brief interviews with hideous men's?), unread as yet.

droid
09-06-2016, 05:01 PM
BTW, are we distinguishing 'had to stop reading' from 'basically couldn't be arsed with reading'?

Books you have a moral/physical/psychic objection to I assume.

I had to stop reading both Ligotti's 'Conspiracy...' and Reynolds 'Retromania' as they were both so depressing. Picked them both up again though, have read the former thrice now.

Reading Tim Cahill's book about John Wayne Gacy atm, which is brilliantly written and relentlessly disturbing - not in a gory way, but in how he takes interviews with Gacy and fashions them into a narrative, only occasionally allowing the pure horror to rise to the surface. Reminds me a bit of the final part of 2666 with its catalogue of corpses and dread implications. Tough going.

droid
09-06-2016, 05:04 PM
Ulysses reputation has ruined it for readers I think. the idea that its some great work to be examined critically... let it wash over you, skip sentences, paragraphs, even chapters if you wish. Its supposed to be the opposite of a grindstone.

dert
09-06-2016, 07:16 PM
"Stoner" by John Williams, most depressing thing i've read in a while. Droid if you like visceral reactions check it out.

Mr. Tea
09-06-2016, 07:45 PM
Books you have a moral/physical/psychic objection to I assume.

I had to stop reading both Ligotti's 'Conspiracy...' and Reynolds 'Retromania' as they were both so depressing. Picked them both up again though, have read the former thrice now.

Ha, I read Conspiracy... while on holiday in Thailand last year. I don't know if I found it depressing as such, although it certainly didn't increase my desire to have children (something I'm extremely ambivalent about anyway).

Interesting (or maybe inevitable) someone should mention 2666 - I was thinking about that book just earlier today. I definitely struggled to get through 'The part about the crimes', I mean, there's only so many times you can read the phrase "vaginally and anally raped" before you find yourself saying "Fucking hell mate, we get the picture already"; but in retrospect it's actually crucial to the book as a whole. I think I mentioned here while I was reading it that although nothing in it happens that's explicitly supernatural, it's imbued with a seething cosmic dread that reminded me of nothing so much as Lovecraft.

craner
09-06-2016, 08:34 PM
I couldn't finish Graham Greene's 'The End of the Affair'. It was absolutely unbearable, and I'm generally a determined 'finisher'. I mean, I managed to get to the end of 'Eden, Eden, Eden' which is a hard as it gets. Something about 'Affair' just revolted me, however.

craner
09-06-2016, 08:38 PM
I think Heller is an interesting one. His first four novels are incredible and delightful to read until you get to about page 250 and you realise that there are 150 pages left to go and the joke has already been done to death (however well). I had to force myself through the last third of 'God Knows' even though I loved it. 'Good as Gold' probably has the best economy and variation.

craner
09-06-2016, 09:38 PM
I have an irrational distrust of people who rate 'Infinite Jest'.

Mr. Tea
09-06-2016, 09:54 PM
I have an irrational distrust of people who rate 'Infinite Jest'.

Did you read it (or enough of it) to form a justified opinion on it, or do you just dislike the idea of it?

droid
09-06-2016, 10:08 PM
My issues with conspiracy and retromania weren't with the ideas alone, but with their effectiveness. I couldn't find any way out, any crack in the logic.

The Road is another one (though I ripped through it). An utterly convincing tale of somebody's future - a thought I couldnt get out of my head.

craner
09-06-2016, 10:11 PM
The idea of it, which is why I said it was irrational. I have no justification for my instinct.

craner
09-06-2016, 10:13 PM
I did read the whole of 'On the Road', but regretted the time I spent on a mere period piece. Like I said, I'm a congenital 'finisher'. That's probably why I refuse to even start 'Infinite Jest'. Even the title pisses me off.

craner
09-06-2016, 10:14 PM
Maybe we should start a thread called 'Books you can't start reading'.

droid
09-06-2016, 11:00 PM
The Russians are my white whale.

droid
09-06-2016, 11:01 PM
I was a finisher once... then I read Beckett's first novel.

droid
09-06-2016, 11:02 PM
Not to give the impression that I am in any way literary. I mostly read thrash.

craner
09-06-2016, 11:02 PM
I endorse 'Blood Meridian'. Never seen anybody use the word "and" so well.

craner
09-06-2016, 11:05 PM
Yeah, Beckett's early novels are hard work. So dank, so depressing, too long for the effect they're striving for. The later, shorter novellas are better. As are the ultra-abstract and technical later plays.

craner
09-06-2016, 11:06 PM
I can't read trash, only watch it.

droid
09-06-2016, 11:07 PM
"Stoner" by John Williams, most depressing thing i've read in a while. Droid if you like visceral reactions check it out.

Thanks - looked that up a while ago after a recommendation somewhere. Ill have to find a copy.

droid
09-06-2016, 11:10 PM
Yeah, Beckett's early novels are hard work. So dank, so depressing, too long for the effect they're striving for. The later, shorter novellas are better. As are the ultra-abstract and technical later plays.

Funny thing is, that when I read the introduction I discovered that Im an acquaintance of the guy who unearthed it and was primarily responsible for its publication. Wrote him an excited email and later had to pretend Id finished it, which, I think, he saw right through.

empty mirror
10-06-2016, 02:10 PM
i posted a thread about books that got the better of me, either on this board or another, i don't remember.

i can barely understand woebot's reaction to Moby Dick
it is one of my favorite books and i am firmly anti-whaling
i also love Death in the Afternoon despite being against bullfighting

i couldn't get through Ulysses but i will try again
i'm not up on irish history and i kept getting bogged down
and i gave up on Nigger of the Narcissus (J. Conrad) - i kept losing track of the characters - i reckon i'll give that another go when i'm feeling up to it

also The Making of Americans by Gertrude Stein
i just couldn't stick with it - she can be maddening
plus it is a huge tome

there's more...

droid
10-06-2016, 02:21 PM
Oooohhh, there is one actually - 100 years of solitude. I was so annoyed that almost every character in a multi generational magical realist family saga had the same name I threw it away after about 50 pages.

Corpsey
10-06-2016, 02:22 PM
Not a book but I tried to read some Hegel once and I reckon I'd have to be shipwrecked with only Hegel books for company to ever read Hegel again.

empty mirror
10-06-2016, 02:31 PM
never got through the phonebook, whatever that is.

Mr. Tea
10-06-2016, 02:39 PM
never got through the phonebook, whatever that is.

You think that's a slog, wait till you try the 'face book'!

craner
10-06-2016, 08:34 PM
Anyone done the whole of 'The Faerie Queene'? Or, indeed, the entire Holy Bible?

Luke was struggling with 'The Divine Comedy' a few months ago.

craner
10-06-2016, 08:41 PM
I've just remembered that I was unable to get past about page 100 of 'Lord Jim' - I found it uniquely tedious, which surprised me.

I had no trouble finishing 'Ulysees', I skipped joyfully through it. I'm big on style though, plot doesn't overly interest me. Two of my favorite novelists are Saul Bellow and Huysmans, both basically plot-less novelists.

IdleRich
11-06-2016, 01:25 AM
Anyone done the whole of 'The Faerie Queene'? Or, indeed, the entire Holy Bible?
I've read the bible right through a couple of times, I guess I probably kinda skipped all the "and jehosophat begat jehenosat" stuff. I think when I was younger I thought that it was kind of important to know what it was about for some reason. And now I'm glad I do I guess - it's obviously useful for the millions of times quotes appear in popular culture and it's handy to know all the shit that is and isn't in there for religious (obviously) debates.
Just read this thread and can I be the nth person to say that I just can't get that reaction to Moby Dick. I don't even remember those scenes if I'm honest but even if I did and was horrified I wouldn't let it spoil the rest of the enormous book and.... it's all been said before anyway.
Like someone said I can't imagine being put off a book by something like that. I give up if I'm bored and the level of boredom outweighs the desire I have to finish it, otherwise I don't. Unless I lose the book - in the last couple of years I lost Pynchon's Mason and Dixon and one by Eco and I made zero effort to replace them even though I was enjoying them both. Just shrugged my shoulders and moved on to the next thing in my pile.

baboon2004
11-06-2016, 09:52 AM
So many, I can't remember them all. best to recall the ones I threw across the room. Midnight's Children was definitely one of them - insufferable, trying way too hard to be 'clever'. In non-fiction, there was a book by Adam Phillips (psychoanalyst) I was so angry at that I took to defacing it, at the age of 35 rather than 15.

Mr. Tea
11-06-2016, 01:47 PM
Anyone done the whole of 'The Faerie Queene'? Or, indeed, the entire Holy Bible?

Luke was struggling with 'The Divine Comedy' a few months ago.

I finished Paradise Lost and remember quite enjoying it - but then, I'm one of those insufferable cunts who actually really likes The Silmarillion. I have it on good authority that Paradise Regained is a massive pile of arse, however.

I liked Midnight's Children! I appreciate that I have probably got a higher tolerance for overly flashy writing and self-indulgent magic realism than some people (although not to the extent of tolerating Orhan Pamuk, it would seem). Got The Satanic Verses sat on a bookshelf in front of me but haven't read it yet.

droid
11-06-2016, 02:48 PM
Satanic verses is better I think. Did they ever make that midnights children film?

Mr. Tea
11-06-2016, 04:06 PM
Not that I ever heard of. I can imagine it'd be pretty hard to pull off without looking kooky, campy and generally a bit fey and silly.

Edit: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1714866/?ref_=nv_sr_1

empty mirror
01-07-2016, 03:43 PM
ah, Billy Budd! didn't get through that for some reason.

i've noticed that novellas are hard for me to finish unless i am totally gripped by the story. maybe because i feel i've got no skin in the game with a short book.

Corpsey
02-12-2016, 03:55 PM
Saw this book on the NYT's 'Books of the Year' list and thought it might be an interesting read for those who love/loathe 'Moby Dick':

https://www.amazon.co.uk/North-Water-Longlisted-Booker-Prize/dp/1471151263/ref=cm_wl_huc_item

'The north water is where the whales are, and this novel is about the dying days of Hull’s whaling industry, in the late 1850s. Paraffin and coal oil are replacing whale oil, threatening ruin to shipowners who have invested heavily in their fleets. Only the most agile or ruthless will survive, even though there are still whales to be hunted.

The story opens violently. Henry Drax, a harpooner, has signed on for a six-month voyage on a Greenland whaler, the Volunteer, which is presently being trimmed and packed in harbour. Drax is a brute, a vacuum into which men and boys are sucked and do not emerge alive. Within the first 12 pages he has killed a Shetlander who has crossed him in a bar. Next he beats unconscious and rapes a young boy whom he suspects of leading him into a trap. Before doing this he says to the child: “I’m the fucker, me, I’m never the one that’s fucked.” Drax joins his ship, and it’s clear that if he has anything to do with it, the Volunteer is already marked for trouble.'

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/feb/19/the-north-water-ian-mcguire-review

you
15-05-2017, 03:08 PM
Ravenscrag by Alain Farah - pretentious self indulgent patrician lit-bro shite that doesn't work

Corpsey
25-05-2017, 11:55 AM
I've read 'Great Expectations'. It was worth it for the many long stretches of imaginative brilliance. Of course, Dickens is often sentimental/maudlin and the plot creaks under a surfeit of contrivances

I can't believe I wrote a sentence like this and wasn't struck down by a thunderbolt the very same day.

you
25-05-2017, 12:33 PM
I can't believe I wrote a sentence like this and wasn't struck down by a thunderbolt the very same day.

I seldom re-read. But the tale of lucky Pip is one I could revisit again and again.

Mr. Tea
25-05-2017, 12:39 PM
Ravenscrag by Alain Farah - pretentious self indulgent patrician lit-bro shite that doesn't work

I'm never quite sure what 'patrician' means as an adjective. Of course I could look it up on Wiktionary, but what do you mean by it in this sense?

Corpsey
25-05-2017, 12:49 PM
I seldom re-read. But the tale of lucky Pip is one I could revisit again and again.

I've sniffing around the dickens section of waterstones lately. Read 'Treasure Island' on holiday and it gave me a taste for literature that's written in that very vivid, entertaining and (for want of a real word) yarn-y way. Only trouble is all his books are doorstops so I feel I'll never have the time.

Mr. Tea
25-05-2017, 02:43 PM
Careful Corpsey, that post is just BEGGING for a really puerile selective quotation.

Not that I'd sink to anything as low as that, of course...

jenks
25-05-2017, 03:02 PM
I seldom re-read. But the tale of lucky Pip is one I could revisit again and again.

I am an inveterate re-reader and sometimes I wonder if there is any point in reading anything new and just re-reading stuff I know to be good.
Things like Madame Bovary, The Good Soldier, Gatsby, Sun Also Rises and a few others, I have probably read at least 10 times and not for work purposes. Nabokov said something along the lines of 'there is no reading, only re-reading' in his lectures on the novel.

I actually wrote something about re-reading Great Expectations but I never got round to posting it on my rather pointless blog. Maybe over the Bank Holiday I'll sort it out.

jenks
25-05-2017, 03:05 PM
I've sniffing around the dickens section of waterstones lately. Read 'Treasure Island' on holiday and it gave me a taste for literature that's written in that very vivid, entertaining and (for want of a real word) yarn-y way. Only trouble is all his books are doorstops so I feel I'll never have the time.

I know they look ridiculously big but they move quickly - Bleak House is utterly gripping.

Or try his mate Wilkie Collins, he fits your bill of 'yarn-y' and 'vivid' and 'entertaining'

you
31-05-2017, 10:20 AM
Jenks - I forced myself through Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts. I had a phobic response every other page. The casual bourgy privilege, the name checking, the oh-so-light-with-theory-road-to-impress-the-ambiguity-of-the-human-condition references to Deleuze, Winnicott, Butler etc ... Ugh. It was so smugly knowing, each paragraph ending with some quip about females being defined by lack or the crippling inexactitude of language or society's construction of normativity.... It just felt like a product of the literary liberal elite, an earnestly hand-wringing musing born of circle-jerk (yes, I am well aware of the irony of employing that term here for this book). I really didn't like it. But I expect many liberal arts and humanities students would.

There, I said it.

Harry's voice was beautifully done though.

jenks
02-06-2017, 02:44 PM
Jenks - I forced myself through Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts. I had a phobic response every other page... I really didn't like it. But I expect many liberal arts and humanities students would.

There, I said it.

Harry's voice was beautifully done though.

Sorry about that mate - I felt a similar response to the Tao Lin that you recommended to me - you can't like everything!

Corpsey
02-08-2017, 12:28 PM
http://www.mobydickbigread.com/

'Moby-Dick is the great American novel. But it is also the great unread American novel. Sprawling, magnificent, deliriously digressive, it stands over and above all other works of fiction, since it is barely a work of fiction itself. Rather, it is an explosive exposition of one man’s investigation into the world of the whale, and the way humans have related to it. Yet it is so much more than that. It is a representation of evil incarnate in an animal – and the utter perfidy of that notion. Of a nature transgressed and transgressive – and of one man’s demonic pursuit, a metaphorical crusade that even now is a shorthand for overweening ambition and delusion.

Out of all this, Herman Melville created a work of art as unique as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, as mythic as Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner – it is a true force of nature, set in a century that challenged every tenet of faith that had been held until then. Melville’s book – is it barely a novel – exceeds every expectation of a literary work. It bursts out of its covers with the enormity of its subject – as if the great White Whale itself were contained within.
Now, in the 21st Century, a century and a half since it was first conceived and launched onto a misbelieving world, Moby-Dick retains its power – precisely because we are still coming to terms with it, and what it said. Incredibly prophetic, it foresaw so many of the aspects of the modern world with which we deal with. The abuse of power and belief; of nature and the environment; of the human spirit. It deals with art and artifice and stark reality – in an almost existential manner. It is truly a book before its time – almost ancient myth, as much as futuristic prophesy.

In the spring of 2011, artist Angela Cockayne and writer Philip Hoare convened and curated a unique whale symposium and exhibition at Peninsula Arts, the dedicated contemporary art space at Plymouth University, under the title, Dominion. Inspired by their mutual obsession with Moby-Dick and with the overarching subject of the whale, they invited artists, writers, musicians, scientists and academics to respond to the theme. The result was an enthusiastic response which evidently could not be contained within the physical restrictions of a gallery space and a three-day symposium.

‘I have written a wicked book’, said Melville when his novel was first published in 1851, ‘and I feel as spotless as the lamb’. Deeply subversive, in almost every way imaginable, Moby-Dick is a virtual, alternative bible – and as such, ripe for reinterpretation in this new world of new media. Out of Dominion was born its bastard child – or perhaps its immaculate conception – the Moby-Dick Big Read: an online version of Melville’s magisterial tome: each of its 135 chapters read out aloud, by a mixture of the celebrated and the unknown, to be broadcast online in a sequence of 135 downloads, publicly and freely accessible.'

Corpsey
02-08-2017, 12:29 PM
And on the subject of whaling, this (I think) two-part documentary on iPlayer is good:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b046pbk9