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Just finished Ask the Dust by John Fante, a slim novel which didn't live up to the extravagant praise I've heard from Bukowski fans. Henry Miller and Hubert Selby did this kind of thing much better.

I'm currently reading Middlesex, has anyone else read it? I remember it being discussed elsewhere and people were criticizing the fact that it won the pulitzer prize. Maybe not Pulitzer Prize worthy

Several of the pieces in Paris to the Moon appeared earlier as Gopnik's monthly Letters from Paris to The New Yorker. His use of adjectives to describe the weather, the neighborhood, etc impressed me

is eagleton these days just an all-purpose attack-dog, being aimed hither and thither by editors and publishers?

 

I missed this. It just so happens I recall coming across Eagleton's first (I think) book in a library once. Before he was a leftist-critical theorist-type guru, he was a youthful religious existentialist, complete with Colin Wilson haircut and polo-neck sweater. So I guess he has spent some time on theology at some point.

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Jane Eyre.

 

Maybe if I'd read it during high school, when I was supposed to, I would like it better. I'm just about 70 pages in and, for christ's sake, does anyone in england write about anything other than the poor mistreated orphan?

I loved, loved Jane Eyre. But I read it when I was about thirteen, and something tells me that a thirteen-year-old girl is the ideal reader for this book. My mother gave it and Gone With the Wind to me, saying she had loved them when my age. :P

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But did you like it? Did you stay up very late unable to put it down and then read it through again right after you finished the first time?

 

There is a very good film version with William Hurt of all people playing Mr Rochester and Charlotte Gainsbourg as Jane. And Elle Macpherson as Blanche. :P Yeah, yeah I know Orson Welles did it first a hundred years ago but in that film the actress playing Jane was all wrong--I think it was Joan Fontaine?

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reading yet again (for class, yet again) paul scott's "the jewel in the crown" (the first in the raj quartet). i'm liking it more this time than i did the last time, but not as much as the first time.

 

ended up disliking it again. all this liberal broadmindedness--give me kipling and his mixed up, honest ambivalence any day.

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Do you not teach Kipling as part of your syllabus?

 

Meanwhile, on the subject of old reliables, I re-read and enjoyed Sinclair Lewis's Main Street on some recent cross-country flights. Well, at least, I can remember starting it and reading a good deal of it when I was too young to really get it.

 

For those who don't know, it's the tale of a bright, independent-minded and progressive city girl who marries a country doctor and goes to live in a very small town in remote Minnesota. Yes, it's a horror story :P . The satire of provincial life is famous; it is also interesting that the author eschews obvious opportunities for melodrama - Carol is no Emma Bovary or Effie Briest. If anything, the novel could use a little more tension in the second half. The ending is either flat and disappointing, or bravely realistic - but I found something touching in the eventual and belated development of the doctor character.

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Do you not teach Kipling as part of your syllabus?

 

i do. in fact, this class began with "naboth" and "on the city wall". the latter is a far more interesting narrative of colonialism than either "a passage to india" or "the jewel in the crown"--which followed it (with tagore sandwiched in between). the next time i teach a version of this class i'm going to ditch scott and replace with "kim".

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Do you not teach Kipling as part of your syllabus?

 

Meanwhile, on the subject of old reliables, I re-read and enjoyed Sinclair Lewis's Main Street on some recent cross-country flights. Well, at least, I can remember starting it and reading a good deal of it when I was too young to really get it.

 

For those who don't know, it's the tale of a bright, independent-minded and progressive city girl who marries a country doctor and goes to live in a very small town in remote Minnesota. Yes, it's a horror story :P . The satire of provincial life is famous; it is also interesting that the author eschews obvious opportunities for melodrama - Carol is no Emma Bovary or Effie Briest. If anything, the novel could use a little more tension in the second half. The ending is either flat and disappointing, or bravely realistic - but I found something touching in the eventual and belated development of the doctor character.

I re-read Madame Bovary this summer and enjoyed it very much.

 

Another tale of provincial life that I just finished is Marcel Pagnol's, The Water of the Hills which includes Jean de Florette and Manon of the Springs. I had seen the excellent Claude Berri moves of the same name so the imagery was already in my head before I read the books. I enjoyed the books very much but it would have been interesting to read them before seeing the movie versions.

 

I need to get back to "My Name is Red"...

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I'm getting through "My Name is Red" slowly--I"m not half way through it yet. I'm appreciating it, but it is taking a bit of concentration for me given the way the novel is structured. Also, I know little about Islam and the history of the Ottoman Empire, etc so that I feel like I am missing many angles although it is very interesting at the same time. I haven't been able to read it for long stretches right now and that is interrupting the flow. I guess the answer is, I'm intrigued, but probably more due to my own fault, it is going slowly.

 

I'm finding it dense reading too, despite all the Ottoman history we studied in high school. But it is making me want to go back and read the story of Leila and Majnun (as well as the other ones). It's weird, the original poems of Majnun Leila (Literally: the man driven mad by his love for leila) are in Arabic, and we read those in school, but then Nizami wrote down their story in Persian, which I have not read. I never realized Persian literature was so popular in Ottoman Turkey, I was barely aware of anything but Arabian Nights (surprisingly entertaining read BTW, very raunchy) until I left Lebanon. The poems of Majnun are usually attributed to a poet named Qays but there is some disagreement about whether there really was such a person, and even some disagreement about whether the poems were about an actual Leila or whether they are examples of devotional poetry like Rumi's. This, too, I learned only after I left high school. :P

 

BTW: Library, duh. I forgot that there exist libraries for things other than math books. :P

The libraries are my friends as my house already has overflowing book shelves in every room.. literature, non-fiction, cookbooks and textbooks... It's great that you are doing some "outside" reading during your studies. I had a long semi-drought period for non-technical reading during grad school and postdoc--not that I recommend this, but it happened.

 

Thanks for the additional context/background on My Name is Red...

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Do you not teach Kipling as part of your syllabus?

 

i do. in fact, this class began with "naboth" and "on the city wall". the latter is a far more interesting narrative of colonialism than either "a passage to india" or "the jewel in the crown"--which followed it (with tagore sandwiched in between). the next time i teach a version of this class i'm going to ditch scott and replace with "kim".

 

basically, you get paid to convince young people to read fiction. some of us should be so lucky.

 

i strongly recommend that you add My Pet Goat to your syllabus as required reading.

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Henri Murger, Scenes de la Vie de Boheme. Yes, in English. The short stories in which the opera La Boheme originated. Also Andre Malraux's Spanish civil war novel, Man's Hope. And some poems by Rene Char. And a book about Charles Peguy which I stumbled across in a second-hand store yesterday. :P

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Do you not teach Kipling as part of your syllabus?

 

i do. in fact, this class began with "naboth" and "on the city wall". the latter is a far more interesting narrative of colonialism than either "a passage to india" or "the jewel in the crown"--which followed it (with tagore sandwiched in between). the next time i teach a version of this class i'm going to ditch scott and replace with "kim".

 

basically, you get paid to convince young people to read fiction. some of us should be so lucky.

 

well, teaching accounts for 40% of the expectations placed on me. but i wish even that part of it were as simple as you make it out to seem.

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