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A wholehearted recommendation: Infinite Variety: The Life and Legend of the Marchesa Casati by Ryersson and Yaccarino. You might have come across references to Casati if you spend any time with memoirs of society or the arts. In the first decades of the 20th century, she went everywhere, met everyone, and was painted or photographed by many of them.

In a nutshell, she looked like a living Aubrey Beardsley figure, dressed in spectacularly outlandish costumes (if at all), and created the white face/dark eyes goth look seen everywhere from Theda Bara to Lorde.

But the important thing is that every page of this book has some hilarious, outrageous, unbelievable scene or incident. It's just the most sheerly entertaining book I've read in months. Great illustrations too.

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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

yes, there’s a great lecture class from the 30s where he talks about how the animal is world poor which has a long section on boredom. but I feel like there have been a few books about animal’s experience written by philosophers.

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It's a weird book. I can't believe I'm saying this as I usually don't care about these things, but the project itself as well as the book that results from it come from a place of white upper middle class male privilege that was hard to look past sometimes (and that the author is otherwise extremely self-aware made it somehow more notable.)

The thing is, the book is really worth reading as there are moments of great insight (philosophical, biological) as well as a lot of very funny passages. There were also quite a few passages which were likely complete nonsense but would have taken too much effort on my part of pull apart why. That this is the first real book I've read all the way through since the second MiniB arrived in my life should be high enough praise. 

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A bonanza time for Jeremy Prynne fans. He just turned 84, and what a sprint he's putting on. At least two books last year, three this year already, with two more already announced.

But also, we now have a late Prynne style. He long ago squeezed the lyricism out of his work, turning to obscure and scientific and technical vocabularies. The result was forbidding blocks of verse with rare glimpses of meaning.  Starting (I think) with 2019's Of Better Scrap, he introduced new sonic qualities, working at the syllabic level: not just occasional internal or half rhymes, but multiple variations of them, sonic attention to vowels and consonants. This creates a remarkable music when the verse is read aloud, even though meaning is utterly allusive. It's as if he has not just the English language, but all its niche idioms at his fingertips, and he can play it like an organ.

Rather inspiring.  (There's also Parkland, a book-length prose poem like nothing he has written before.)

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On 7/3/2020 at 11:55 AM, AaronS said:

yes, there’s a great lecture class from the 30s where he talks about how the animal is world poor which has a long section on boredom. but I feel like there have been a few books about animal’s experience written by philosophers.

Mouthfuls, the site where you can tell Heidegger jokes and someone gets them. The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics - the animal is poor in world. I think it’s the only place he addresses animals, which don’t have the mode of being of Dasein but which also aren’t just rocks or trees or briefcases.

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Vicki Baum, Grand Hotel. It’s nicely done. The scenes between Gaigern and the dancer one can only think of as Garbo are actually erotic. Much amusement  the self-obsessed doings of the business men. 

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Susannah Clapp, With Chatwin, a very good memoir by his editor.

Donald A. Lowrie, Nikolai Berdyaev: Rebellious Prophet, for Russian existentialism fans only.


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I just compiled a list of my quarantine reading, 44 books in 97 days (including book length poems). It seems in some ways like a strange dream.  My personal calculation of quarantine starts the day the bars closed, and effectively ended the last week of June, with the city starting to open up and work getting busy again. 

Feuchtwanger,     Success

“                              The Oppermans

“                              Paris Gazette

Shoptaw,             Outside Looking In

Cowper,               “The Task”

Thomas,               Ecstatic Religions

Durr,                      Rilke: The Poet’s Trajectory

Koestenbaum,  Camp Marmalade

Poe,                   Eureka

Wordsworth,    “The Prelude”

Bellow,             Dangling Man

Williams,           Hardcore

Spengler,         The Decline of the West

Zukofsky,         A

Le Queux,        Fatal Fingers

Lawrence,        Seven Pillars of Wisdom

Genet,             Funeral Rites

Saramago,        The Cave

Fuentes,          Terra Nostra

Browning,        “The Ring and the Book”

Sinclair,            London Overground

Foucault,          The History of Madness

Merrill,             The Changing Light at Sandover

Woolf,              Fade Out

Durrell,             Tunc

“                       Nunquam

Acker,              In Memoriam to Identity

Milton,              “Paradise Lost”

Pasternak,        Dr Zhivago

Amis,                The Egyptologists

Adorno,            Negative Dialectics

McKay,             Romance in Marseille

Root,                The Food of France

Spicer,             The Collected Books

Austen,            Northanger Abbey

Berdyaev,        Spirit and Reality

“                       The Destiny of Man

Hugo,               Les Miserables

Olson,              The Maximus Poems

West,               Day of the Locust

Behan,             Borstal Boy

Sapper,            Temple Tower

Kerouac,          On the Road

Smith,              Patchen: Rebel Poet in America


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Last couple of weeks:

Sophie Cabot Black, The Exchange (poetry)

Raymond Crump, Chords (poetry. An obscure British poet who seems to have died young within the last two years. He published one small book and some poems in small press magazines around 1968/70, then started writing again around 2010. It's wonderful stuff, but still from a small press).

Andrey Bely, Petersburg (disappointing for such a highly esteemed novel, but I seem to be reading a translation which, although recent, is not highly regarded).

Vivian Gornick, Unfinished Business: Notes of a Chronic Re-reader 

Murray Kempton, A Part of Our Time (gone stale, sorry).

James Aubrey, Brief Lives (didn't read all of them).

Pascal Garnier, C'est La Vie (awful: Modiano light, and Modiano is lighter than his reputation suggests).

Velimir Khlebnikov, King of Time (selected writings of a major Russian poet of the early twentieth century somehow off my radar until a few weeks ago).

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