What are you reading?

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

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  • 21 Oct 2017 at 9:17 am #9858

    Richard L.

    (post deleted to promote a non-hostile reading/posting envoirnment for Candy or any others who might be sensitive to its country gothic comic nature. Lo siento all around)

    • This reply was modified 1 month ago by  Richard L..
    24 Oct 2017 at 4:12 pm #9863

    Richard L.

    True or false: Cormac McCarthy never gives blurbs, not even to his friends, not even to the people who blurb his own books.

    Well, I had that one wrong.

    Michael Lynn Crews, in BOOKS ARE MADE OF BOOKS (2017), says that McCarthy blurbed Alexander Theroux’s THE STRANGE CASE OF EDWARD GORY (2010).

    So, reading now, recently read, or soon to read:

    THE STRANGE CASE OF EDWARD GORY by Alexander Theroux. Gorey is the well known gothic/comic cartoonist. Alexander Theroux is the author of DARCONVILLE’S CAT and the brother of novelist Paul Theroux.

    The only cartoon books I’ve read this decade are Bill The Cat’s Story by Berkeley Breathed and Mary Astor’s Purple Diary: The Great American Sex Scandal of 1936 by Edward Sorel. Both are recommended. Mary Astor, in case you don’t know, was the femme fatale opposite Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon. She was cast in part due to her public notoriety.

    Michael Chabon’s MAPS AND LEGENDS. In the acknowledgements is a quote from Herman Melville on the writing of fan fiction, or of Melville’s research on whaling. One of the essays is on Cormac McCarthy.

    Chabon is one of those authors who makes me proud to be descended from Jews. Actually, alas, I’m not Jewish (no bar mitzvah), though I am more Jewish than I used to be. In the initial analysis from the genetic lab at 23AndMe, I had no Jewish ancestry at all. But 23AndMe, which traces more genetic markers than the more famous and less expensive lab at Ancestry.com, says that they are constantly making corrections to their database and drawing connections from previously unmarked genes. About four months ago, they added a trace of European Jewishness to my personal ancestry. I supposed then that European Jewishness was opposed to Sephardic or Ashkenazi Jewishness.

    But now they have changed my genetic report again, showing that I also have a trace of Ashkenazi Jewishness. I’m still part Native American. But lord help me, I am mostly Northern European. My paternal halogroup is the same as Cormac McCarthy, Bill Maher, and (yikes!) Bill O’Reilly. Through the Irish kings. And over 4% Neanderthal, more highly thought of than they used to be in the days of Alley Oop.

    Elitist me, I always figured that way back I was more Jewish. After all, take away the Jews from the Arts in this country, where would we be? Almost all of my favorites authors and actors would be gone. Even Jack London. And Jews write the best Christmas carols, at least some of my favorites.

    Robert B. Parker’s FOOL ME TWICE, ghostwritten by Michael Brandmann. It was a free or bargain download from BookBub and it opens in the fall. I’m enjoying it so far. It has an interesting cover too, the devil as a chess piece.

    WHO WAS CHANGED AND WHO WAS DEAD by Barbara Comyns. This was originally banned in Ireland in 1954 when it was published. It is a horror novel written with a charming/alarming sense of delight. This new edition has an introduction by Cormackian and author Brian Evenson, and I highly recommend it as well as everything else he has written.

    Brian Evenson says:

    She creates a paradoxical sense of a world that might want to embrace you lovingly–unless instead it wants to smother you.

    Sample sentence:

    “Suddenly with a swift movement he sliced his throat right across like a great smile.”

    Kinda reminds me of the cat smile when they slashed the baby’s throat in Cormac McCarthy’s Outer Dark. This is the Halloween season.

    Claire Fuller’s SWIMMING LESSONS (2017). This is a new book with an interesting premise. There are mysterious disappearances and the clues are to be found in books. And the first clue is found, oddly enough, in a copy of Barbara Comyns’ WHO WAS CHANGED AND WHO WAS DEAD, the title of which comes from Longfellow, who is the source of the “L” in Richard L. Serendipity all around.

    Other books I plan to read/revisit before Halloween:

    RED LEAVES (2005) by Thomas H. Cook. Haunting and it breaks my heart every time.

    FINDING PETER (2015) by Exorcist author and comic, William Peter Blatty. A masterpiece in the Stephen King sense of the word. I love it.

    The Church of Dead Girls (2005) by Stephen Dobyns. I see different things in this each time I read it. It is deeper than you might think.

    26 Oct 2017 at 1:17 pm #9865

    Richard L.

    Halloween joke: What do you get when you cross a vampire with a snowman?

    Give up? You get frostbite.

    Knock, knock.

    Well, that won’t work. Nobody else is here. You can’t even tell a knock-knock joke.

    Well, if someday the two-headed inhabitants of Maple Street happen upon this computer and are of an archeologist or musical/literary bent, they might find the conversation between 2017 Booker Winner George Saunders and musician Jason Isbell interesting. Here, gentlemen, is the link:


    It is a long interview but gets really interesting when they start talking about their subconscious/muse, something McCarthy might find interesting. Both denounce President Trump a bit, and both talk at length about their creative processes.

    Jason Isbell talks about having an epiphany on a plane, or another plane, while reading Jennifer Egan’s A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD, which won the 2011 Pulitzer, and Saunders recommends her new novel which I have not yet read. Jason Isbell says he finds Peter Matthiessen and Denis Johnson inspiring.

    Speaking of prizes, I predict that one day they will publish Cormac McCarthy’s WHALES AND MEN in a prize package along with Peter Heller’s WHALE WARRIORS and Farley Mowat’s WHALE FOR THE KILLING.

    Crews, in BOOKS ARE MADE OF BOOKS, cherry-picks WHALES AND MEN for prime quotes enough to make both of your heads say WOW.

    07 Nov 2017 at 3:20 pm #9874


    Thanks for letting me know about Books are made of books, Richard. I can’t wait to read it.

    07 Nov 2017 at 6:11 pm #9875

    Richard L.

    De nada. Good to see someone dropping by.


    Recently read, reading now, or about to read:

    The new Cormac McCarthy Journal. Splendid essays here, and the reviews have led me to other wonders.

    CORMAC MCCARTHY AND PERFORMANCE: PAGE, STAGE, AND SCREEN by Stacey Peebles. I bought and downloaded it on Kindle.

    This is Indian Summer, named thus for the Ohio Valley Native American after-harvest custom for sports, hunting expeditions, and war. For me, it has always been the reading season for hunting stories and war stories–such as BUTCHERS CROSSING by John Williams.

    I’m about to binge read Stacey Peebles’ Iraq War narratives, WELCOME TO THE SUCK, along with Linda Nagata’s THE LAST GOOD MAN, Roger D. Hodge’s TEXAS BLOOD, and William Hogeland’s AUTUMN OF THE BLACK SNAKE.

    War on several fronts.

    The book by Roger Hodge has blurbs by some of my favorite authors including Ron Rash, Tom Bissell, William T. Vollmann, and John Jeremiah Sullivan. It includes an expanded essay on NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN too.

    November is also a great time to do research, the paper chase.

    A BRIEF HISTORY OF EVERYONE WHO EVER LIVED (2017) by Adam Rutherford. This book is about the recent advances in the study of genetics. If you haven’t kept up, you’ve been left behind because it moves like an express train. For instance, if you’ve followed the research on “the language gene,” FOXP2, you know that there were what were then thought to have been false claims, followed by additional research and now new discoveries.

    When I was a kid, I was a believer in the evolutionary gradualism of ape, to ape-man, to man. I no longer believe that it happened that simply. You need to see what the new genetic evidence shows, and Rutherford examines it nicely here. Richard Dawkins gave this book a blurb, and I’d be delighted if it turns out that he did read it. This is amazing stuff.

    IT’S ALL RELATIVE: ADVENTURES UP AND DOWN THE WORLD’S FAMILY TREE by A. J. Jacobs. This book was just released today and I’m still reading it. He does some good genealogy but is more showman and stand-up comic than researcher. Read the Rutherford instead or read them both in tandem.

    BABYLON BERLIN by Volker Kutscher. A mystery set in Germany before the Nazis took over. It is suppose to be the basis of an upcoming TV series. Translated from the original German.

    Don DeLillo’s ZERO K. I set it aside for now in favor of other things, but it is bound to be a good one.

    John Langan’s THE FISHERMAN. More of a hunting story than a fishing story, as two men, widowers, search for their lost meaning after their wives have died. Epic horror, as in Poe’s nevermore poem. It has won awards and genuine praise.

    Tom Holt’s THE MANAGEMENT STYLE OF THE SUPREME BEINGS (2017). Fathers and sons, fantasy. Looks interesting. Not sure when I’ll get to it.

    CIRCLES IN THE SNOW by Patrick E. McManus. It opens the second week of December, so I’ll put it back to read then. Small-town-sheriff novel.

    THIS IDEA MUST DIE: SCIENTIFIC THEORIES THAT ARE BLOCKING PROGRESS edited by John Brockman. This is a marvelous collection of scientists and other academics knifing each others ideas. I love a good debate and there is lots to think about here. Max Tegmark argues against the use of infinity, which struck me as strange, since I figured he’d be arguing for adding just another one or zero. You should read Thomas Metzinger on Cognitive Agency. A hell of a good book.

    THE SEVENTH FUNCTION OF LANGUAGE (2017) by Laurent Binet, as translated from the french by Sam Taylor. By the author of the brilliant HHhH, which I loved, by the way. I was disappointed in this one, however. I don’t care if Binet is straight or gay, but the stringing of homosexual innuendoes and a passage through a homosexual orgy made me seek out a more entertaining book, according to my own taste.

    If that’s your thing, well, this might be for you. Binet can write beautifully at times.

    The axe making a 7 on the cover is very clever, by the way, and the seventh function of language, according to the novel, may be magic or myth or numerology. Excerpt:

    [Professor Herzog (Bellow, Whitey) points out the James Bond’s boss is M. M is an old man, but a feminine figure, the M of Mother, the nurturing mother who gets angry when Bond does something silly but who always indulges him, the representative of the Queen who Bond wants to please by succeeding in his missions.]

    “Which brings us to those three magic figures: 007. Double 0 is the code for the right to commit murder. . .Death is nothingness, and nothingness is zero. But murder is more than death, it is death inflicted on another. It is death times two, it is the death of the other and the inevitable exposure to his own death. . .

    “As for 7, it was obviously chosen because it is traditionally one of the most elegant numbers, a magical number charged with history and symbolism; it is an odd number, like the number of roses we give to a woman, and prime in order to express a singularity, a uniqueness, an individuality that confounds the whole impression of interchangeability suggested by an identification number…

    “Where Number 6 is a revolutionary, 007 is a conservative. The function of 007 is to guarantee the return of the established order. Umberto Eco calls James Bond a fascist.” Professor Herzog goes on to explain Q and other Bond motifs..at length.

    John Crowley’s KA (2017). Just out this last week, this is Crowley’s first book in more than a decade. I don’t read a lot of fantasy, but I shall read this one, especially as it might relate to Roberto Calasso’s KA or perhaps even to his work of Kafka, K.

    Which reminds me. I still have to find time for John P. Anderson’s work on Kafka:


    11 Nov 2017 at 8:16 am #9881

    Richard L.

    Hey, this is Veteran’s Day, and a shout-out to all you other veterans out there. This is our day, right? In this city, you can get a free haircut today. A free meal at The Golden Coral Restaurant. A free desert at Cracker Barrel.

    At the Veteran’s Day Dance, they will have all the veterans line up by the stage and ask all the others, mostly women, to come up and hug or shake the hand of each veteran and say thank you for your service. They will play patriotic songs. Congratulations to us.

    Good stuff, right?

    Hell, no. I wish they wouldn’t. My war was an especially stupid war designed to make politicians look good. If the draft hadn’t been breathing down my neck, I would not have gone.

    Kudos to PBS for currently airing the series on Vietnam. Kudos to Stacey Peebles, Tim O’Brian, Michael Herr, Joseph Heller, Tracy Kidder, Cormac McCarthy, and to all those others who have written about war and its many personal narratives. And about its waste, about what a racket it is for the rich, for the people who continued to send guns that jam to the front in order to make money.

    We need a Veterans Day that gives thanks to veterans? Fine. But we would be better to stop and think about the stupidity of war politics and the frightening use of propaganda to incite fear to justify any war.

    I agree with Cormac McCarthy, who would say that war is a part of the human condition. But knowing that is valuable because we can now better see the slippery slope leading into any particular war and try to avoid it.

    01 Dec 2017 at 9:43 pm #9909

    Richard L.

    I certainly enjoyed Stacey Peebles’ WELCOME TO THE SUCK as well as her study CORMAC MCCARTHY AND PERFORMANCE: PAGE, STAGE, SCREEN. An intelligent treat. I’ll review them both at Amazon anon.

    Recently read, reading now, or about to read:

    THE CAPTAIN CLASS (2017) by Sam Walker. I loved Walker’s previous book on fantasy baseball and this looks mighty good. Which reminds me, I’ve been meaning to post a picture of us. I wore dress whites and went to a dance as the Love Boat Captain this last Halloween, my wife going as a mermaid.

    THE CUBAN AFFAIR (2017) by Nelson DeMille. I highly recommend this for the humor of DeMille’s captain narrator. It plays off Key Largo, Casablanca, Hemingway, and a host of other references, but the humor is DeMille’s own and I like it.

    OF SEA AND CLOUD (2014) by Jon Keller. This little known gem was published back in 2014 and I missed seeing any mention of it. It is the real deal, a fishing captain rebels against the corporate network that tries to make him conform. The prose sounds like Cormac McCarthy’s Hemingwayesque period, but this book is set on the rocky snowy coast of Maine. I looked up some interviews with the author and he names his referents, mostly his own experience as a fisherman. McCarthy was not mentioned. Keller eschews all quotation marks. A hell of a good yarn.

    THE BULLY OF ORDER (2014) by Brian Hart. Another class war novel from 2014 which I had not heard of until now. Damn it looks good, something like Ken Kesey’s SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION.

    AUTONOMOUS (2017) by Annalee Newitz. Entertaining sci-fi, the drug wars of the future. I’ve read a bit of this and intend to continue.

    MY LIFE WITH BOB (2017) by Pamela Paul. Great fun for this hopelessly addicted reader because it takes one to know one. A great opening chapter.

    DAYS WITHOUT END (2017) by Sebastian Barry. This year’s best western and written by a Britisher. It concerns the Sioux uprising during the Civil War, and I read a couple of non-fiction accounts of it a while back.

    CROOKED (2015) by Austin Grossman. Absolutely grand in audiobook, as the narrator can do Nixon and the other voices perfectly. Funny stuff, reminding me of the TV series BRAINDEAD. It starts out as familiar history, but this is sci-fi, at its most comic.

    I had such a good time with the above book that I picked up Austin Grossman’s YOU, and it is different yet also very funny, with lots of literary and pop culture references.

    02 Dec 2017 at 10:05 am #9912


    Good morning Richard. Just finished reading Louis Guilloux’s Blood Dark in it’s first new English Translation since 1936 and released in October by NRYB Classics. If this isn’t on your radar, well, I thought I should put it there.

    03 Dec 2017 at 11:58 am #9917

    Richard L.

    Thanks, Clem. Just now downloaded it and have read quite a bit of it. It is skillfully edited by Alice Kaplan whose book on THE STRANGER I read earlier this year. As I said earlier in this thread, I don’t consider THE STRANGER an existentialist novel any more. But rather, anti-existentialist–if anything. Kaplan’s book on the history of the novel, however, is extraordinary and highly recommended to all.

    Back to Louis Guilloux’s Blood Dark, I enjoyed the translator’s preface, about how the earlier title translates and the history of the various titles considered, how the earlier translation contained things appropriate for its date of publication and then-audience, but not so much now. The context in which it was written and the history and reception of the novel is also prime reading.

    After which I find the book itself fascinating. Many thanks.

    03 Dec 2017 at 12:16 pm #9918


    No problem Richard…I had just finished it yesterday morning and my immediate thought was “Richard might like this!” I do intend on reading Kaplan’s Camus book very shortly.

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