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I'm a bit behind here.

Louis MacNeice, The Earth Compels

Ben Lerner, The Topeka School. I didn't like it as much as his first two novels; disjointed.

Eimear McBride, The Lesser Bohemians. Almost gave up on her after 2020's Strange Hotel, but this novel, her second, has a lot to recommend it. Genuinely experimental, right down to font size; told in the unfiltered voice of a young Irish girl coming to London to audition for theater roles. There are some lines which could have been written by Beckett in his comic mode. I just felt disappointed by the switch of focus to her older male lover in the second half (and the ending).

J.H. Prynne, Torrid Audacious Quartz. Tremendous: and plenty of opportunity to google minerals and flowers you've never heard of/

"        "        , Kazoo Dreamboats (a re-read)

William Feaver, The Lives of Lucian Freud. Due to a library mix up, I'm reading the two volumes of this massive bio in reverse order. Massively entertaining. Who didn't Freud know? Good on his art, but explicitly written by a close friend and fan.

Peter Weiss, Aesthetics of Resistance (Volume 2). Still no paragraph breaks (see above), and Bertold Brecht is now a main character. I'm glad I read this (Volume 3 is yet to be translated). I had felt that anyone with a decent knowledge of history and politics in 20th century Germany, France and Spain could keep up with the lengthy policy and strategy debates. Volume 2, however, lands the reader in Sweden, and I confess I started skimming the detailed analysis of the parties of the Swedish left in the 1930s.

 

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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

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Erica Hunt, Jump the Clock: New and Selected Poems (thanks to a rave review by Ben Lerner).

Agustin Fernandez Mallo, The Nocilla Project. Three related novels just published as a box set by FSG. Fernandez Mallo is a physicist, and he approaches fiction as a fierce experimentalist. But these are not hard reads. The general approach is very short pieces of apparently disjointed narrative, which turn out to have interesting connections (but there's much more to it).

J.H. Prynne, Passing Green Parnassus

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Little Boy. This is rather under-sold in the descriptions and review I've read. It tends to be classified as a sort of novelized autobiography. In some editions (not mine), it bears the title Little Boy: A Novel. But it's much more like a book-length prose poem. After starting at the beginning, Ferlinghetti abandons chronology, embraces repetition, and jumps all over his life in a breathless torrent of language, using not only any poetic devices which come to hand, but relentless allusions to fiction and poetry. This is an old guy with all of American literature at his fingertips. The whole thing is very, very well done.

Otto Friedrich, Before the Deluge. A good political and cultural history of Berlin in the 20s. Familiar but highly readable.

I finished the Feaver biography of Freud. Reading the first volume second meant it ended with the painter reaching his prime rather than on his deathbed. Rather invigorating.

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Robert Stone, A Hall of Mirrors.

I hadn't read any Stone, and I should probably have started with Dog Soldiers. But this 1967 novel looked so relevant: the main character drifts insincerely into a position as a right-wing radio host, and the book closes with a fantastic set-piece of a white supremacist rally turning chaotic.

But there's really not much juice to it. The main characters seemed to have wandered in from a novel by Nelson Algren or Carson McCullers. I've read a lot of novels about New Orleans and/or alcoholism and/or poverty and/or prostitution, and this isn't the best one.

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It was a review of that volume which made me think I should try him. The review was glowing.

Now reading a 1927 detective novel by J.J. Connington, Murder in the Maze. No, I hadn't heard of him until I picked up an old survey of detective fiction. The writing isn't great, but a neat set-up: two identical twins (who always dress similarly) murdered around the same time at two different spots in a maze. 

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I think I read something similar, I’ll give it another try but really didn’t like what I read.

I’m about halfway through the committed, which is pretty enjoyable and has a lot of funny philosophy jokes. the characters from his first novel end up in paris in the early eighties, deal drugs, talk politics, things get existential.

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On 10/26/2020 at 2:29 PM, bloviatrix said:

Just started Bill Buford's Dirt over the weekend.

Finally got around to this. It's an easy read, although really bad behavior in restaurant kitchens no longer comes off as very cool. One irritant: as the main character, he too often plays the fool, and unconvincingly. It seems to be a narrative device, but on p205 after months cooking in France (and in a previous book in Italy) he doesn't know how to make a vinaigrette?

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J.H. Prynne, Orchard

Sarah Moss, Bodies of Light

Young woman growing up in 19th century Manchester, artist father and feminist mother, qualifies to be a surgeon. It's good, but it didn't want to make me read everything else she's written.

John Cottingham, In Search of the Soul

Berel Lang, Heidegger's Silence

Both the above disappointing, because they present themselves as philosophical inquiries but don't really afford much weight to evidence which is inconsistent with their pre-ordained conclusions.

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Eat a Peach by David Chang.

What a good time I am having with this. I hesitated to pick it up, thinking "What don't I know about this story already?" But in fact the walk down memory lane is a big part of the fun. Of course I was around for so much the early days of the Chang empire (as were others here). I remember the borderline hysteria from Craft fans when Marco opened a restaurant in a ghastly neighborhood like the East Village. I remember when there was nothing you'd want to eat at the Noodle Bar other than the pork buns.

And as I'm reading, I'm adding color from my own memory; yes, the decision to cook what his chef friends wanted to eat was critical, but the book doesn't mention the brief late night menu aimed at off duty chefs with items like an entire Epoisses.

It also makes me think how much time has passed; but almost everything makes me think that these days.

It also reminded me of this seminal piece on the "Pooh of Chang."

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5 hours ago, Wilfrid said:

the book doesn't mention the brief late night menu aimed at off duty chefs with items like an entire Epoisses.

How could he leave that out?  To me, that's like the key moment in his development:  when he stopped being a noodle (and bun) chef.

Forgive me for putting it this way, Wilf, but it's like a Beatle writing a memoir/group history and leaving out Rubber Soul.

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19 minutes ago, StephanieL said:

I liked the ramen at Noodle Bar.

I only went there once (wasn't crazy about it), and the vegan ramen was the only thing I could eat. This was when Chang was trying to antagonize everyone who didn't eat pork. It worked on me.

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19 hours ago, Sneakeater said:

How could he leave that out?  To me, that's like the key moment in his development:  when he stopped being a noodle (and bun) chef.

Forgive me for putting it this way, Wilf, but it's like a Beatle writing a memoir/group history and leaving out Rubber Soul.

Like I said, he does make a big deal out of the change of direction, just doesn't mention that late night thing (which was probably quite short-lived).


Fascinating passages where he explains how so many innovations arose from limitations (space, hardware, staff) rather than creative thinking.

 

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Gary Panter's Jimbo, Adventures in Paradise.  What an eyeful of apocalyptic and other visions from the 70s and 80s that resonate today.  Published by the New York Review of Books (!).  He may outlast Hemingway.

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