What are you reading?

This topic contains 530 replies, has 60 voices, and was last updated by  Richard L. 3 weeks, 3 days ago.

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  • 16 Jun 2017 at 2:40 am #9634

    Richard L.

    Hot damn, the new issue of Nautilus is here. No McCarthy, but lots of articles on one of my favorite subjects, the multiverse.

    The world at large doesn’t believe in the multiverse quite yet, even if it finally does, for the most part, believe in those germs they couldn’t see back in Morocco in 1967. The multiverse is not something that some science-fiction writer decided to dream up. It is predicted by the mathematics that we now have, the same math that makes lasers and computers work. Will we then ever stop thinking in finite terms?

    That’ll be the day.

    18 Jun 2017 at 6:16 am #9638

    Richard L.

    I remember when Big Bird of Sesame Street parodied the deservedly Oscar-nominated movie Birdman. A symbol of absurdity compoundedly mocked, but the more the merrier.

    In the first episode of the fourth series of Rectify, Holden unexpectedly sees such a giant bird, which turns our to be an actor in costume. Well done, I think, for indeed Holden was trying to grasp the surreal, and the big bird which so nonchalantly walks through our dreams and our Art is often that symbol of the absurdity of existence.

    Reading now:

    BORNE by Jeff Vandermeer. Sci-fi about a new kind of Bear/Bird. Or some other kind of bird. It opened well, but it’s slogging now. I may not finish it.

    Adam Bradley’s THE POETRY OF POP. And it’s not just Bob Dylan. Nicely done.

    DICKINSON’S MISERY: A THEORY OF LYRIC READING by Virginia Jackson. A very scholarly look at how critics decided what was poetry in Dickinson. My cup of java here. Amazing new insights.

    I DON’T LIKE WHERE THIS IS GOING by John Dufresne. Genre private eye novel, but a very good sense of style here.

    ALL HAT by Brad Smith. Equine noir with lots of humor and some nice language:

    “Ray Dokes shed his orange prison overalls like a copperhead sheds its skin, walked out of the detention center in Niagara into sunlight, the day cold and clear, the sky bluer outside the fence than within, the air cleaner, somehow worthier even of breath.”

    30 Jun 2017 at 5:12 am #9659


    Currently reading The Road – it breaks my heart

    30 Jun 2017 at 5:48 am #9660

    Richard L.

    Well, joy, here it is–still June–and we have another new issue of Nautilus to read, arriving in the mail yesterday. It is the May/June issue, so I guess it brings the magazine up to date.

    The focus of this issue is Chaos and Absurdity, there is another article on the multiverse. Then an article on math. A couple of readers argue briefly with Cormac McCarthy’s article in letters to the editor. And the endpage editorial is from Sarah Bakewell, author of At The Existentialist Cafe, which I reviewed in this thread as well as in some existentialist threads hereabout.

    This year my reading sometimes revolves around the year 1862 as a strange attractor. There was all that reading I did on Lincoln and the Bardo, the reception of Les Miserables, Ambrose Bierce and General L. H. Rousseau, the fictional case revolving around Abraham Lincoln’s staff. This month, my wife and I took a vacation up to the beautiful Wisconsin dells, where I met her sister and her husband for the first time.

    Almost immediately, he presents me with a gift, a book, one which he enjoyed and feels somehow that I will enjoy too. The book is 38 Nooses: Lincoln, Little Crow, And The Beginning of the Frontier’s End by Scott W. Berg. And here I am, back in 1862, with many of the same cast of characters. It is splendid.

    30 Jun 2017 at 5:50 am #9661


    October by China Mieville. It’s about the Russian Revolution in 1917.

    01 Jul 2017 at 8:28 am #9662

    Richard L.

    Re: October by China Mieville

    Let us know what you think about it. I’ve got it lined up for October, even though, as Mieville points out, they went by a different calendar.

    38 Nooses is a remarkable piece of history. Little Crow was not a bad guy, though he was as likely to be photographed in a white wedding dress as not. The penny dreadful stuff about babies being nailed to trees may have influenced the writing of BLOOD MERIDIAN, but it doesn’t seem to have happened among Little Crow’s Dakota at all, though it inflamed public opinion back in 1862.

    Primed on my kindle for reading:

    GODEL VERSUS WITTGENSTEIN by Mike Hockney. I was led to him via the mythical 117 in Milton Smith’s THE MYSTERY OF ELEMENT 117 by following the square root of minus one to THE GOD EQUATION, which is only Euler’s Formula. His series of books is as flamboyant as P. T. Barnum but I find them mental puzzles, laughs to be sorted out. A pleasant discovery, all in all.

    THE GENE: AN INTIMATE HISTORY by Siddhartha Mukherjee. He opens with an epigraph from Huruki Murakami’s brilliant IQ84:

    Human beings are ultimately nothing but carriers–passageways–for genes. They ride us into the ground like racehorses from generation to generation. Genes don’t care about what constitutes good or evil. They don’t care whether we are happy or unhappy. We’re just means to an end for them. The only thing they care about is what is most efficient for them.

    Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked by James Lasdun. I admit the cover, showing a lion attacking a horse, made me curious about this one. Lasdun seems to be an acquired taste.

    Joe Dixon’s THE OWNERSHIP WARS. Like Mike Hockney, Dixon wrote a series of ranting books not quite up to the quality of Howard Zinn, nor Noam Chomsky’s WHO RULES THE WORLD? nor the Thomas Ligotti nihilists, but still worth reading when I am in that particular mood.

    OPEN by Andre Agassi. Hey, he probably had help with this, but damn it is nicely done. David Foster Wallace would have loved it.

    Shirley: A Novel by Susan Scarf Merrell. Based on Shirley Jackson, rather obviously.

    03 Jul 2017 at 2:53 am #9668

    Richard L.

    You’ll want to read Don Winslow’s words in the BY THE BOOK column in the New York Times.


    Although he doesn’t mention McCarthy in this particular article, he has expressed his admiration for Cormac on several other occasions. I reviewed his work in this thread as well as on my old blog:




    An excerpt from the article:

    What moves you most in a work of literature?

    The writing itself. I’m always moved by beautiful writing, by someone who catches the music and the poetry of a moment. It doesn’t really matter to me what the subject is, or even what happens, just that it’s beautifully done.

    Which genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?

    I’m pretty eclectic. I love crime fiction, of course, but after that it’s history. As for avoiding a genre, I’m not much on self-help books. But I feel about books the same way I feel about music — I like what’s good. I love jazz, for instance, but there’s nothing more horrific than bad jazz. I’ll listen to good country, good hip-hop, whatever. The same with books.

    How do you like to read? Paper or electronic? One book at a time or simultaneously? Morning or night?

    Paper, definitely. I have to hold that book, although I actually prefer paperbacks to hardcovers, maybe from the time when I couldn’t afford the latter. I read several books at a time; they’re scattered around the house like coffee cups, and I read them depending on where I am. I usually read at night because most of my daytime reading is work-related research. The exception is Sunday, when I make it a rule to do nothing but read for pleasure. My wife and I do a four- to six-mile hike, and then I come home, sit outside and read until it’s dark. It’s the best.

    How do you organize your books?

    By subject. So, nonfiction by subject and then chronologically — American prehistory, Colonial history, Civil War, etc. — then fiction chronologically by country of origin. So its starts with the Greek tragedies, moves up to the Romans, you get the idea. Then British fiction, French, Russian, then American — Hawthorne and Melville up to Jim Harrison, Richard Ford and Richard Russo. Then there’s a natural history section, a travel section, then books about jazz musicians. I recently rented a little building near us to put up more shelves. It drives me crazy when I can’t find a book.

    What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

    Because I’m a crime writer, people are usually surprised to see a large collection of Native American history books on my shelves. It’s a real passion of mine. My wife and I drive across country every year, and she is very gracious and patient about stopping at these historical sites and at my having a stack of these books in the car.

    Who is your favorite fictional hero or heroine? Your favorite antihero or villain?

    Tough one, there are so many. I guess I’d have to go with Jim Harrison’s Brown Dog. I actually slowed down as I was getting toward the end of the volume of novellas because I just wanted to spend more time with that guy. . .

    Of the books you’ve written, which is your favorite or the most personally meaningful to you?

    It’s always the one I’m currently working on. You should be in love with the woman you’re dancing with.

    Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

    “As I Lay Dying.” I’ve tried and tried and tried; I’ll try again. The last book I put down without finishing — I hate to say this, because I think he’s one of the most underrated American writers — was James Jones’s “Some Came Running.” Let’s just say I haven’t finished it yet.

    I like a lot of what he says, a lot of the books he names, Charles Willeford and Ross MacDonald, John D. MacDonald, Jim Harrison’s Brown Dog yarns, and many others. He seems to read as much as I do.

    As for As I Lay Dying, you miss it until you get the comic cosmic absurdity of it, an irrational number that the great god Faulkner designed as his gag gift to Mankind. The book I would send him, if I knew his address, is Austin Wright’s brilliant Recalcitrance, Faulkner, and the Professors (1990). Therein As I Lay Dying gets to be as funny as a Buddy Holly interpretation of No Country For Old Men.

    09 Jul 2017 at 5:29 am #9678

    Richard L.

    I’ve yet to crack open either of Don Winslow’s latest two books, THE CARTEL and THE FORCE, both highly acclaimed. But the book that Winslow mentioned in the above interview, the one that intrigued me immediately, was this:

    What’s the most interesting thing you learned from a book recently?

    It was from a book called “How to Read Water,” by Tristan Gooley, and it was a section that made an effort to classify breaking waves into three general “families” — “spilling,” “plunging” and “surging” — and then gave their determining characteristics. I have occasion to study waves quite a bit, so it was fascinating. Reading water is something of a survival issue, so I can never learn enough.

    Winslow is the author of at least three surfer novels, and I’m wondering if he will incorporate some of Tristan Gooley’s HOW TO READ WATER (2016) in yet another surfing novel. It is a gem.

    Also reading, recently read, or about to read:

    Lovecraft and Barlow’s THE NIGHT OCEAN. Some nice writing in the manner of Algernon Blackwood’s “The Willows,” especially about the moodiness of the sea.

    Paul La Farge’s THE NIGHT OCEAN (2017) about the purported homosexuality of Lovecraft, Barlow, Burroughs, and other literary writers and their political associations. Like Matt Ruff’s LOVECRAFT COUNTRY: A NOVEL (2016) and Nick Mamatas’s hilarious I AM PROVIDENCE (2016), it is a major literary novel about Lovecraft that turns out to be anti-Lovecraftian. I loved them all.

    TIDES: THE SCIENCE AND SPIRIT OF THE OCEAN (2017) by Jonathan White, foreword by Peter Matthiessen.


    Gerald H. Pollack’s THE FOURTH PHASE OF WATER: BEYOND SOLID, LIQUID, AND VAPOR (2013). I’ve read this one, and it is amazing. Nautilus Magazine ought to devote an issue to the new research on water.

    12 Jul 2017 at 5:19 am #9694

    Richard L.

    Hey, this is good. Madison Smartt Bell has a new book out and he is promoting it over at Largehearted Boy’s site by giving it a soundtrack, including Cowboy Junkies’s rendition of BLUE MOON REVISITED.

    Here’s today’s link to it:


    13 Jul 2017 at 11:47 am #9700

    Richard L.

    I’m may yet read Madison Smartt Bell’s book, BEHIND THE MOON. I loved his liner notes at the link above.

    Some odds and ends now:

    THE DARK SIDE by Anthony O’Neill (2016). Right now my all time favorite moon book.

    Epigraph: “Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.”–Mark Twain

    Opening line: “Only a lunatic would live on the moon.”

    It is a funny, violent sci-fi novel, a mixture of fact and fiction, with a great scientific bibliography in the back of the book. Highly recommended.

    “Cruel Fates: Parallels Between Roman Polanski’s Chinatown and Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex” by John Falwell. Wow. I know scholars have pointed out some of the connections between McCarthy’s OUTER DARK and Sophocles, but I wish someone would compose an extended piece like this one. Falwell is an excellent film critic.


    As some of you already know, long before McCarthy wrote a piece for Nautilus Magazine, his work appeared in an article written by fellow Santa Fe Institute Fellow Simon Dedeo. Here’s the link:


    At the time this appeared, back in 2013, it didn’t get the play that it should have. I love the article as far as it goes, but I think that Dedeo plays it safe and deals with the way we think about chance rather than go out on anything like a limb.

    He wouldn’t have to bring in Jung and synchronicity, though that would be nice, but he really should have a few paragraphs about quantum physics, strange attractors, and algorithms–at least to say that he considered them before deciding to ignore them. Henry James, indeed. Joseph Conrad’s CHANCE would have been better, but the love story in Andrew Crumey’s MOBIUS DICK would have been best.

    Heck, if some undergraduate is reading this, looking for a good subject for his thesis, how about looking into this interesting subject?

    Cowboy Junkies, “Blue Moon Revisited’:


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