What are you reading?

TMS

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Well, after my last post I read The Door of the Unreal by Gerald Biss, which was decent, I guess. Not much you can do with such hackneyed subject matter. (Can you guess what the book's about after I tell you that it involves a disappearance on the night of a full moon and a character named Professor Wolff?) After that I skipped ahead from the authors starting with B to Joseph Conrad and read The Secret Agent. I liked it pretty well, though not as well as Heart of Darkness. After that it was back to the Bs, re-reading various short stories by E. F. Benson (brother of the last Benson I mentioned) and Algernon Blackwood.

The past few nights I've been reading something a little more modern, William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist. It's too early for me to really give an informed opinion yet on it, but I doubt it will become one of my favorites. As with R. H. Benson's stuff, the religious thrust is a little too obvious. And anyway, sacrilege and expletives don't frighten me.
 

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After finishing The Exorcist I read the other two novels I got from the library, Robert Bloch's Psycho and Ramsey Campbell's The Hungry Moon, the latter of which I've just finished tonight. Psycho was an interesting read. I really need to see Hitchcock's adaptation sometime. The Hungry Moon is my second Ramsey Campbell novel, and I liked it not only as a horror novel but as a satire (the book's about a sleepy English town invaded by an army of insufferable American evangelists who take over and inadvertently awaken an ancient evil in the process).
 

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I'm almost done with Catcher in the Rye and working on my fourth-odd run through of Son of a Witch. Also need to finish Flowers in the Attic.
 

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Flowers in the Attic.
I just found this mention kind of funny given your avatar and post in the pairings thread.

I'm going to start reading H. Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines tonight, the first of the Alan Quatermain novels. I've previously read Haggard's non-Quatermain novel She, which was decent but not one of my all-time favorites, and I doubt Mines will be either. I remember reading one author's comment on the novel (I think it was M. R. James) about how he stopped reading after the author had the moon drastically changed phases in too short a time.
 

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Well, it's been half a year since I last posted in this thread. I've been meaning to post again for some time now, but I kept putting it off. I can't recall everything I've read since my last post, so I'll just hit the highlights.

I read another Ramsey Campbell novel, The Darkest Part of the Woods. I also read some Ray Bradbury short stories, my favorite probably being "The Foghorn," which inspired an episode of Pokemon and the movie The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, notable for its own influence on the original Godzilla. The story itself is much more beautiful and haunting than its bastard children might lead one to expect. Then there's been a number of standard ghost stories by Marjorie Bowen and Mary Elizabeth Braddon. I stepped outside the fantasy genre long enough to read The Thirty-Nine Steps, the first of John Buchan's espionage novels, which was adapted into an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Its protagonist, Richard Hannay, I had previously met reading the supernatural story "The Green Wildebeest." Finally, I read two non-supernatural American Gothic novels by Charles Brockden Brown (Wieland; or, The Transformation and Edgar Huntly; or, Memoirs of a Sleepwalker) that were somewhat interesting.

On the non-fiction side of things, I've been slowly reading through yet another collection of H. P. Lovecraft's letters, this time to Robert Bloch, who was a young protege of his before becoming famous as the author of Psycho.
 

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I noticed that when I have many books that interest me I have a tendency to jump between them and ending up only reading part of each book and not finding the time to finish it because I began reading another one... and so on. Anyway in the last five or so months I did my best to change my reading habits and actually read some books completely...

I started off with a bit of science fiction, Stansilaw Lem's "Solaris" which I found really intriguing, especially the detailed history of the fictional science of "solaristics".

After that I read "A Scanner Darkly" by Phillip K. Dick after watching the (in hindsight surprisingly faithful) movie adaptation.

For pretty much the same reason I also read "The Martian" by Any Weir and I have to say that it's one of the most entertaining works of hard science fiction I've read so far, very much focused on the practical and scientific challenges rather than the more metaphysical themes of Solaris... Personally I think that those two books fit together very well as a sort of contrast; Solaris deals with the limitations of science and human reasoning while The Martian is all about ingenuity and what we can achieve using science.

I got halfway through Daniel Quinn's philosophical novel "Ishmael" before deciding that it would probably one of those rare books that I won't finish on purpose. It just took too long to make some very basic points using arguments I don't necessarily agree with. In this regard the book reminds me of Scott Adam's "God's Debris", which I read quite a few years ago, as both novels describe a Student-teacher dialogue detailing a rather eccentric worldview mostly demonstrated using simple and sometimes rather questionable metaphors. The main difference of course being that Quinn seems to be serious whereas Adam's theory was intentionally flawed and the book's point was a challenge to the reader to find the mistakes.

Now I'm currently reading "The Island of the Day Before" by Umberto Eco, the author of one of my favourite books ever (I mostly picked this book up now because he died around two weeks ago), I'm halfway through and so far it's interesting...although it's considered one of his lesser works since neither the plot nor the characters are particularly inspiring by themselves but the book uses them mostly just as framing devices for an exhaustive analysis of 17th century science metaphysics and general worldview. While the research and knowledge put into that is impressive it would probably just be very boring for anyone not already interested in that particular subject matter. It's also an interesting coincidence that I'm reading it after The Martian as one of the main plot points of this book are the various ways people tried to correctly calculate latitude and (more importantly) longitude, which also comes up in "The Martian" at one point (but of course the protagonist in that novel already knows the correct method).
After finishing this book I plan to read one of Eco's more famous works, "The Name of the Rose", (which was adapted into a movie starring Sean Connery which I already saw but aparrently half of the book was left out).

Apart from that... I've began reading the classic chinese masterpiece "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" a few months ago and I intent to finish it after getting some other entries on my reading list out of the way.
I will probably have to start from the beginning again because with its unending stream of complex political backstabbing over an entire century while the plot follows a very large collection of characters each of whom has like five different names and titles depending on who addresses them... I don't trust my memory to enough to just jump in in the middle again.
 

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I've been considering reading The Name of the Rose recently (also on account of Eco's death). It's not in my usual wheelhouse, but it sounds interesting nonetheless. What you say of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms reminds me of the time I started reading The Tale of Genji, back when I was obsessed with Japanese culture (real culture, I mean, not just pop culture). I actually enjoyed what I read of it, but I kept getting confused by the multitude of characters.

Recently I've been reading some ghost stories by A. M. Burrage. They aren't anything particularly imaginative conceptually, being pretty standard ghost stories, but they can be very effectively written at times. My two favorites so far have been "Smee" (for which Burrage is perhaps best known) and "For One Night Only."
 

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What is it about this thread that is so forgettable? It's been seven months since I or anyone else posted in it, so I have a lot of catching up to do. I may miss a few things here and there, but I'll hit the highlights of what I've read.

As best I can tell, what I first read after my last post were two collections of pulp fiction, Murgunstrumm & Others by Hugh B. Cave and Far Lands, Other Days by E. Hoffmann Price. As one might expect from their being pulp fiction, neither book is particularly great. Of the horror stories in Cave's book (back in the 30s and 40s he wrote them at a dizzying pace, and it often shows), some were competent and others were crap. A lot involved vampires. The only really great story, in my opinion, is "The Watcher in the Green Room," though it too has its flaws. "The Whisperers" and "Stragella" have some particularly interesting ideas in them, but the former is ruined by superfluous eroticism and the latter by virtue of turning out to be yet another goddamn vampire story. "Horror in Wax" was amusing, at least, since it's about a character named Luigi taking revenge on a character named Mario.

Price's book is a little better. He was a well-traveled man, notable from my point of view by being a friend of Lovecraft's who provided the story germ for what became "Through the Gates of the Silver Key." Overall, Price was a better writer than Cave, and his horror/fantasy stories are pretty decent, though often marred by standard pulp tropes. Price mostly shines, actually, in non-supernatural adventure stories like "Allah Sends a Reaper" and "You Can't Eat Glory," which rely more on character development.

After finally getting through those two books, I decided to read the last four stories in Robert W. Chambers' collection The King in Yellow, which I hadn't read before because they aren't supernatural. The first of them, "The Street of the Four Winds," I actually really liked. Though not supernatural (at least in any overt way), it is strange and striking. By the way, someone on another forum recently linked to this page where someone reviews some of what is today Chambers' lesser-known work (like the romances he specialized in), most of it inferior to what is best known today. Even if you've not read anything by Chambers (and I've only read two of the ten books included), the reviews are pretty damn funny.

Well, after I finished with The King in Yellow leftovers and all that pulp, I decided it was time to read something I knew I'd enjoy. Since I'd recently seen a mock trailer for Tolkien's Silmarillion, I figured I'd finally get around to reading The Lord of the Rings, which I'd started before but never finished. I reread The Hobbit first, then read Lord of the Rings itself, and then The Silmarillion. Needless to say, it was good. Often it reminded me of the work of Lord Dunsany, an excellent fantasy writer who influenced both Tolkien and Lovecraft (as well as other fantasists like Neil Gaiman). Whereas Dunsany and Lovecraft took a rather haphazard approach to developing their fictional worlds, however, Tolkien tried to make sense of everything in Middle Earth, and it was interesting to see how that consistent structure works in practice. The Silmarillion didn't bore me the way it has some readers. While I don't have the patience to create a fully realized world like Tolkien did, I do think it would be fun to try my hand someday at writing some pseudo-essays about fictional lands and histories.

After finishing with Tolkien (for now), I borrowed an Agatha Christie collection, The Golden Ball and Other Stories, from the library. Besides the mysteries she's best known for, Christie also wrote some supernatural horror stories, some of which were in the book. They were pretty good, though not quite masterpieces. "The Gypsy" was probably the best of the five. The non-horror stories in the book were fun, good for light reading. Also, just as Cave anticipated Nintendo, Christie anticipates Ian Fleming by having one of her protagonists named James Bond, though it's a common enough name, and he shares little in common with the secret agent.

Sometime after starting on the Christie collection I got to thinking about mystery stories, and how I would like to read some of her famous mysteries besides And Then There Were None, which I read back in middle school. Turns out, I have been introduced to Poirot and Marple before, though I barely remember it. I went digging through old books and found an anthology I read when I was younger called A Century of British Mystery and Suspense. This was actually rather a landmark volume for me, since besides Christie's detectives it also introduced me to the literary James Bond with "Octopussy," Jeeves and Bertie Wooster with "Jeeves and the Stolen Venus" (I've yet to follow up with the series), and possibly even to Sherlock Holmes with "The Copper Beeches," though if I recall correctly the first Holmes thing I read was actually The Hound of the Baskervilles. Also, to my surprise, I saw when going over the table of contents that the anthology had also introduced me to the aforementioned Dunsany. I'd totally forgotten about it by the time I read his earlier works of fantasy, but his mystery story "The Two Bottles of Relish" was included in this book. It's a good story, and I'm glad I rediscovered and reread it. I may have to give Dunsany's other late work a try now as well.

Finally, A Century of British Horror and Suspense introduced me to G. K. Chesterton's character Father Brown (earlier in this thread I mentioned reading Chesterton's unrelated novel The Man Who Was Thursday). I've been mostly sticking to reading alphabetically through the authors on my list. Before Christie I read a few Chesterton stories such as "The Angry Street," which are good but a little too whimsical and allegorical to be taken as serious supernatural stories. But after Christie renewed my interest in the mystery genre I decided to go ahead and buy the complete Father Brown stories, and recently I've been reading through the first collection in the omnibus. So far I like the stories very well. Brown and the recurring character Flambeau are fun. Brown can be a little sanctimonious at times, but that's his job, and though brilliant at solving mysteries he's not portrayed as flawless. One thing I like about the stories is that even though they aren't supernatural they often provide great intimations of horror when the cases involve the surreal or seemingly inexplicable. I noticed it also in Thursday, and together with Chesterton's wit and humor it's one of the big draws of his work, at least for me. I doubt he had it in him to write a straight horror story, though.

Okay, finally done. But surely I haven't been the only one reading the last seven months. What have you guys been looking into?
 

Shining Celebi

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Well, since TMS covered a few months, I suppose I'll cover the past six months or so.

Re-reads:

Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant
I had last read this about six years ago, and I had liked it very much at the time. It is, incidentally, very highly praised and was one of the most popular books ever written at the time. Grant ended up publishing the memoirs just before he died, with Mark Twain's help. I really am not a terrible big fan of military history per se, but there's enough of the human element to make it interesting to me. Unfortunately, because it was what was most in demand at the time, the really big focus is on the Civil War, with a little bit on the Mexican-American war, and it ends after Lee's surrender, so you miss out on his accounts of the Presidency and whatnot. There's a lot of little vignettes that drive home how different life was back then. For example, he talks about how trains, a recent invention, and their blazing speed of 20mph, seem to have annihilated distance. What you really get from it, I think, is that Grant was a genuinely nice guy. Some of the politics are interesting if you're into the pre-war period; it's fascinating to me that abolitionists were an absolute minority even at the opening of the war, and large majority after. I think we've seen a similar massive shift with sentiments on say, gay marriage, but I don't think they happen very often. Also, it turns out Ulysses was his middle name, not his first, and S was his brother's initial, but the guy who recommended him for West Point mixed them up and he ended up sticking with it.

The History of the Peloponnesian War
I last read this about fifteen years ago, and it was one of the books that influenced me most. It was much less impressive this time around, although I think part of it was this translation happened to be substantially more dense. Still, it's pretty great. If you thought people 2500 years ago were simple, this is probably the book to convince you you're wrong, and Thucydides writes as a historian today would write, there's no filter of myth and legend like you might expect. There's a lot of machinations and plots, and plagues, and interesting characters, like Alcibiades and Nicias and Brasidas. It's also interesting to see a direct democracy in action. Briefly, framing is that in the wake of the Persian War (see: 300), a coalition of the victorious Greeks form the Delian League for the future defense of Greece from Persian Empire. The Delian League ends up becoming the Athenian Empire, which riles up Sparta, which comes across as a strange kind of status-quo conservative, and Persia is always meddling too. There's lots of realpolitik gold. For example, the Athenian ambassadors to the Melian elite, on a looming invasion: For ourselves, we shall not trouble you with specious pretences--either of how we have a right to our empire because we overthrew the Mede, or are now attacking you because of wrong that you have done us--and make a long speech which would not be believed; and in return we hope that you, instead of thinking to influence us by saying that you did not join the Lacedaemonians, although their colonists, or that you have done us no wrong, will aim at what is feasible, holding in view the real sentiments of us both; since you know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.

Sherlock Holmes
Massive collection of all the Sherlock Holmes stories written by Doyle. They are all excellent. Some writers have ups and downs. Doyle is a consistent producer. Interestingly, I had more fantastical dreams each night after reading them. I don't know why, since none of the stories are particularly fantastic. I don't have much to say except they're good, and give you a nice window into one man's vision of Victorian-era England, and that after reading them I realized how much better the original stories are than the new show. (A lot.)

New Reads:

Collected Fictions (Borges)

Borges is a great fantasy writer. Highly recommend. Most people have probably read The Garden of Forking Paths, but he has a lot more and much of it is more fantastical. He tends to have two types of stories, Argentinian westerns and fantasy. Both are good, but I prefer the latter. I would hate to talk too much about any of the stories, because they are the kind that spoiling sometimes, well, spoils.

A Thousand and One Nights (aka Arabian Nights)

Also highly recommend. I ordered the second volume but, so far, only have read the first, which is generally believed to be older and better. They had been previously somewhere on my list, but I picked it up at the recommendation of Borges. The recommendation was sound. Anyone who likes fantasy and short stories will like A Thousand and One Nights. Arabian Nights is probably a misnomer, as the Arabs were mainly the collectors of the stories and not the inventors. Famously, the framing device is a story-in-a-story, but sometimes it nests several levels deep. Maybe ironically, that makes it hard to stop after a single 'night', because if you're nested a couple levels down you probably want to finish so you don't forget who is telling the story of the story of the story and why.

The Divine Comedy
I had obviously read the Inferno ages ago, but I never read the Purgatorio and the Paradiso along with it. I did, again, at the recommendation of Borges. It was, indeed, divine. I can only wonder if the reason the Inferno is pushed so hard alone is because we moderners are capable of appreciating only hell.

Pre-Suasion, Influence
A++ social psychology. A lot of it is common sense, assuming you're not autistic, but a lot of it is not, and even what is affects you much more than you think. I basically regard it as a brainwashing defense. You could look at them as manuals for how salespeople, marketers, and advertisers will manipulate you, and how it is they usually succeed whether your recognize it or not. A lot of it is scary stuff. You may concede that it is well-understood that people are fundamentally irrational but it's still shocking to see and understand. A lot of the time there's nothing you can do to mitigate it, but sometimes depending on what they're doing you can counter it. Mostly in interpersonal sales-type interactions. The safest thing to do is just live in a cave. Except you have to sell yourself in the labor market, so you probably want to internalize some of it for your own active use.

How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big
Scott Adams is an interesting guy, so I bought his book. It probably isn't worth it unless you get it cheap or free. There's a lot of interesting anecdotes, a little bit of his life story, and his general advice, which is good, but I at least already practice his whole "systems" thinking deal, which I don't think is that unusual.

Some Random Lord Dunsany Collection
I liked it. Don't have a lot to say about it. The period and style of Dusany's fantasy (and that of his contemporaries) is vastly superior to modern fantasy in general.

The Hero With A Thousand Faces
There's nothing wrong with this book, exactly. I think it would be a great read for a lot of writers and psychologists and so forth. (George Lucas thought so, anyway.) But if you're already very familiar with Jungian psychology and the collective unconscious, there isn't really anything new here. It is basically Jungian psychology mixed with comparative mythology (i.e., stories.) That said, this is much, much more accessible than the many tens of thousands of pages that constitute Jung's collected works.

There were some others, but I need to be spending this time reading rather than writing what I read.
 
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TMS

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Oh, right, I forgot to mention non-fiction, not that I've read anything too terribly notable. I finished that book of Lovecraft's letters to Bloch and sundry other (then) young writers, and read some of the fiction and non-fiction of those correspondents that was included in the appendix. I also read Unsolved Mysteries of the Sea by Lionel and Patricia Fanthorpe, looking for inspiration for the story I'm currently writing. The book had its ups and downs. If you're horribly bored, you can read my 3-star Amazon review of it here. Recently I've been reading through a couple books of "true" ghost stories, including two about Savannah, Georgia, where my parents recently took a vacation. On a trip to Michigan with them and my brother and and sister-in-law, I bought a trio of books about Michigan ghosts, but haven't gotten around to reading them yet.

Sherlock Holmes
Massive collection of all the Sherlock Holmes stories written by Doyle. They are all excellent. Some writers have ups and downs. Doyle is a consistent producer. Interestingly, I had more fantastical dreams each night after reading them. I don't know why, since none of the stories are particularly fantastic. I don't have much to say except they're good, and give you a nice window into one man's vision of Victorian-era England, and that after reading them I realized how much better the original stories are than the new show. (A lot.)
Nothing beats the original Holmes stories. Your dreams sound interesting, and I'd be interested in hearing more about them (here or elsewhere) if you don't mind. Actually, have you read any of Doyle's actual fantastic fiction? I haven't gotten around to reading any of his science fiction novels yet, but his horror stories are pretty damn good.

EDIT:
As a matter of fact, by an odd coincidence I had a Sherlock Holmes dream myself last night. It was probably inspired by one of the videos in this Cracked article. In the dream the joke was that Dr. Watson was in a Sherlock Holmes video game but you never saw him because he was always right behind you.

Anyone who likes fantasy and short stories will like A Thousand and One Nights.
I have no idea what adaptation I read of the "Arabian Nights" when I was younger, but I do remember reading the stories of Sinbad that were summarized in the Unsolved Mysteries book I mentioned above. I need to read the whole thing properly some time.

The Divine Comedy
I had obviously read the Inferno ages ago, but I never read the Purgatorio and the Paradiso along with it. I did, again, at the recommendation of Borges. It was, indeed, divine. I can only wonder if the reason the Inferno is pushed so hard alone is because we moderners are capable of appreciating only hell.
Reminds me of the Robert Browning quote used in Rudyard Kipling's story "At the End of the Passage," "There may be a Heaven; there must be a Hell." I'm one of those people who has only read Inferno.

Some Random Lord Dunsany Collection
I liked it. Don't have a lot to say about it. The period and style of Dusany's fantasy (and that of his contemporaries) is vastly superior to modern fantasy in general.
Just out of curiosity, which collection was it? And was Dunsany another of Borges' recommendations?
 
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ShindoW

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Oh, man I forgot about this thread.
I actually don't make time to read much, but in the last six months...
I finished Son of a Witch again. I pick it up because it's probably my favorite book and I enjoy it. I actually just started another re-read.
I haven't found any decent fanfiction in awhile, but it's what I read most. There was an interesting fic about Takeru as an alcoholic. Wasn't the best thing ever written and it has a sequel that's being slowly updated, but it's fun to read. Better than the other 10 fics that were never finished I was reading. Most stuff right now is OC or contains Sorato, so pickings are slim.
Book wise, I refound my love for Fat Kid Rules the World and I decided to buy the book version. I enjoyed the book and as expected, the film/book have differences I enjoyed and loathed. I would re-read the book, though. Only took 2 days because I plowed through it; it isn't very long either.
I guess since I'm writing full time now, it takes up all my time.
I'm sad I'm missing the library book sale this weekend near my hometown, 2 hours away. I am an avid lover of hardcovers and library binding. I usually check Barnes and Noble's bargain bin, but it was all trash last time I went. I ended up picking up that issue of Anime USA or whatever that had Tri in it instead.
 

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I guess since I'm writing full time now, it takes up all my time.
Just keep in mind that it's nearly impossible to write well if you don't read a lot. As Stephen King says, "If you don't have time to read, you don't have time to write."
 

Shining Celebi

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I'm currently reading Herodotus, who I long ignored on account of his reputation as a fabulist, which seems largely unearned. He does take more of a personal tone than Thucydides or a more modern historian would, but based on the footnotes and my knowledge he seems actually pretty good. Usually when he tells you something that is obviously silly, he mentions that he doesn't believe it but wants to earnestly report what They say in the absence of certain knowledge anyway. He's pretty entertaining and his much-maligned digressions make him more worth reading, in my opinion. The History is nominally about the Persian War and its antecedent causes, but Herodotus digs pretty deeply and tells you the history of Egypt and the Scythians and the Persians and everyone else along the way.

It's really surprising to me what Herodotus and other Greeks did know almost 2500 years ago; they have a pretty accurate view of the world and a more scientific outlook than you might expect. Herodotus is aware of the circumnavigation of Africa[1], is aware of claims about the British Isles, from which much of the ancient world's tin is derived (he doesn't believe anyone could actually know they exist), has a pretty good idea of the East up well into India and the north into Russia, and there's lots of reasonable (and surprisingly accurate) speculation about geologic processes, climate, and so on.

One of the main reasons for my interest in ancient history is the customs and norms of ancient societies, and Herodotus includes a lot of that. I like to see how different cultures worked and how they changed or died out over time. It makes human nature seem a lot broader in scope and makes you wonder exactly how much is socialized into us and how much is inherent from birth. It seems to me that in our time we miss out on a lot of that because Western culture has really permeated the entire world to some degree or another. Not that it's necessarily a bad thing.

[1] Also, there's a funny story about a guy who was punished by a king (I forget whether Egyptian or Persian) and commanded to circumnavigate Africa as the Phoencians did or face impalement. He sails a ways down the coast, decides it's too far and gives up, and gets impaled.

Recently I've been reading through a couple books of "true" ghost stories, including two about Savannah, Georgia, where my parents recently took a vacation.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkM8hQESrP0&feature=youtu.be&t=12

(How I talk every time someone says Savannah.)

Sherlock Holmes
Massive collection of all the Sherlock Holmes stories written by Doyle. They are all excellent. Some writers have ups and downs. Doyle is a consistent producer. Interestingly, I had more fantastical dreams each night after reading them. I don't know why, since none of the stories are particularly fantastic. I don't have much to say except they're good, and give you a nice window into one man's vision of Victorian-era England, and that after reading them I realized how much better the original stories are than the new show. (A lot.)
Nothing beats the original Holmes stories. Your dreams sound interesting, and I'd be interested in hearing more about them (here or elsewhere) if you don't mind. Actually, have you read any of Doyle's actual fantastic fiction? I haven't gotten around to reading any of his science fiction novels yet, but his horror stories are pretty damn good.
I'll talk about them in IRC every now and then, I'll get more on it. Usually when they're fresh on my mind is 4 AM when nobody is around. I used to keep a dream journal but I don't have time except on the weekends anymore.

I don't believe I've read any of his other fiction, but I'll check it out. Like I mentioned elsewhere, I like most fantastic fiction from the period, so it's hard for me to go wrong unless it's utter trash.

Anyone who likes fantasy and short stories will like A Thousand and One Nights.
I have no idea what adaptation I read of the "Arabian Nights" when I was younger, but I do remember reading the stories of Sinbad that were summarized in the Unsolved Mysteries book I mentioned above. I need to read the whole thing properly some time.
For what it's worth, the excellent translation I have is by Husain Haddawy.

Some Random Lord Dunsany Collection
I liked it. Don't have a lot to say about it. The period and style of Dusany's fantasy (and that of his contemporaries) is vastly superior to modern fantasy in general.
Just out of curiosity, which collection was it? And was Dunsany another of Borges' recommendations?
It was actually at your suggestion, though he has been on The List since I saw some of Lovecraft's discussion of him. I...don't recall the collection, if I remember I'll look and edit later. It was supposedly complete.
 

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On the subject of that Savannah material, I've considering not bothering to finish the second book (Savannah's Ghosts by Al Cobb), since it isn't very well written, there are a number of typos, and the author likes to evangelize and to talk about the local ghost-hunting group he's a part of.

I'll talk about them in IRC every now and then, I'll get more on it. Usually when they're fresh on my mind is 4 AM when nobody is around. I used to keep a dream journal but I don't have time except on the weekends anymore.
Looking forward to it. I sometimes keep track of my dreams, and sometimes I just kind of let them slide unless they're something really noteworthy, or something I can use in my writing.

For what it's worth, the excellent translation I have is by Husain Haddawy.
Thanks.
 

Theigno

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Time sure flies, I totally forgot that I haven't posted here in 9 months... but in order to not ramble on for too long I'll restrict this post to what I've read within the last 5 months or so...

  • Notes from Underground (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
I didn't feel like throwing myself at one of Dostoyevski's longer works, so I stuck with one of his shorter but also relevant ones. I'm not too well informed about russian history so especially in the first more essay-like part I've probably overlooked many references to the specific contemporary works and schools of thought Dostoyevski is said to saitirizing/replying to with Underground but I still think there's still a lot of useful insight to be found here regardless; The points about human stubbornness, spitefulness and "pleasure in despair" are very convincing and the second part of the story illustrates them in action very well. There were points that were legitimately hard to read just because the whole plot is basically a sequence of increasingly awkward moments (there are some stories of Kafka that gave me the same kind of vibe, although in a slightly different way and the protagonist is truly an infuriating person. However there is something to be said about such expertly crafted and purposeful awkwardness and the "Underground Man" is a great example of a character who acts in irrational and self destructive ways but without seeming unnatural, there's a peculiar consistency, a warped internal logic about him, a very fascinating mixture.
Eventually I'll continue (or more likely restart) reading "The Brothers Karamazov", although I'm not sure where to fit it in at the moment.


  • The Crying of Lot 49 (Thomas Pynchon)
Another short entry, I basically searched for something weird to read... any yeah this book was pretty damn weird, following a rather clueless housewife as he discovers a nebulous conspiracy involving postal services.
I didn't end up liking it very much, there were nice ideas, some funny moments but the characters seemed too much like Caricatures, which rendered the air of confusion and conspiracy less effective. I usually like fiction that goes into the direction of absurdism but there was something about the novel's specific brand of absurdism that didn't really click with me. It gave me some slight second thoughts about reading some of Pynchon's more substantial works (at least it made "Gravity's Rainbow" lose a point on my personal reading relevancy scale) but maybe it something that grows on you when the plot has more time to develop or it might just be an outlier in general (I've heard that pynchon himself doesn't like it very much).


  • Anathem (Neal Stephenson)
This book is first and foremost a great piece of world building. Not only is it a very interesting world but it also comes with an extensive history since this particular world achieved the level of technology that we had around 3700 years before the story begins. And by now things look quite differently society has risen and collapsed multiple times, but the most distinguishing feature is that thinkers and scientists (the "avout") are living in isolated monasteries called "Concents", completely isolated from the outside world except on special occasions and lead a life of basically pure thinking and learning. The reason for why it turned out this way is revealed later and puts a bit of an dystopian spin on things. The first few hundred pages follows the more or less normal life of the avout in their community... and then the plot kicks in. Since all of the main characters are avout a significant part of the book is made up of philosopical discussions. For these people the implication events of the plot have for science and metaphysics are just as important as the events themselves.
There are arguments about platonic realism and nominalism, geometry, cosmology and many other topics, however since everything takes place in another world most of these things have different Names. Occam's razor is called "Gardan's Steelyard", and the multiverse is called "Polycosm" for example (this makes it very interesting to figure out specific references). Words from the book's made up language(s) are occasionally explained in form of entries in a dictionary, complete with etymology and different usages of the word during the different eras. There's even a glossary at the end of the book going over all of the new words... although personally I never really used it because I like the way the meaning of the words reveals itself through context. Apart from giving the novel an air of strangeness the made up language also serves to make a point about the theme of Platonism: That scientific and theoretic concepts exist on their own and are universal across cultures and (as the story posits) even universes, unlike words. Everything about this gives the book an immense sense of scale. Even though the main plot unfolds within less than two years you are always made aware of the influence the world's history has on what's going on. This is a world where everything is ancient, where people think truly long term and one of the themes is how knowledge is passed on or is lost and resurfacing throughout the ages.
As implied earlier, eventually matters of multiple worlds quantum physics make their way into the plot but the book treats it with thoughtfulness and restraint unlike most other fiction dealing with those themes. Many stories would plunge themselves into multidimensional chaos leaving logic by the wayside but Anathem finds more subtle ways to incorporate it into the plot.


  • Foucault's Pendulum (Umberto Eco)
After Anathem's dive into fictional history and The Crying of Lot 49's Conspiracy theme I decided to re-read one of my favourite novels of all time. It has been a while and it's definitely a novel that really benefits from multiple readings in any case (I also read "The Name of the Rose", but that was more than 5 months ago so I'm not going to go on about it except for saying that I quite liked it).
It's definitely one of the densest books I've read, Umberto Eco's reference pool is more like a reference ocean and the conspiracy theme enables him to bring up together historical events, all manner of mythologies and religions, cultural commentary, science and superstition, psychology and pretty much anything else. It can be overwhelming at times... it helps to pause and look up some of the more obscure terms that come up and things start off fairly extreme, as the first thirty or so pages are narrated from the point of view of someone whose mind has been almost completely lost to paranoia.
It's hard to describe the core plot of the book without misrepresenting it. It's not a conspiracy thriller in the conventional sense of the word; it uses conspiracies as a theme but the book isn't presenting them as plausible, instead it systematically takes them apart at the seams and pokes fun at their lack of common sense. It's all about how conspiracies manifest themselves what sort of mindset and psychology leads to people making up crazy theories about history, the logical fallacies involved, miscommunication, how basic human biases and perceptions based on nature get misinterpreted as cosmic connections and supernatural forces.
I can understand how "The Name of the Rose" became a more popular work, it's very exhaustive on philosophy and theology as well but it's still more approachable, mostly because on the surface it has the basic structure of a classic murder mystery and while fourteenth century theology and the power struggle within the catholic church at the time are themes that take some time to get used to, it doesn't venture outside of this specific time period whereas Foucault's Pendulum takes the mythology of all kinds of religions, innumerable secret societies, historic events from all over the globe on a time span of over 600 years and puts it all through the blender. At times the overwhelming nature of the references is used for dramatic and sometimes satirical effect: Whenever a crazy person "explains" the reasoning behind the conspiracy of their choice (this happens a lot of course since the book is all about those kinds of people... the protagonists work in a vanity publishing company that's basically an elaborate scam that exploits idiots who want to spread their "revolutionary" works), as well as in the aforementioned first chapters, the confusing nature of this mess of connections symbolism and history is part of the point, they don't actually mean anything they are empty attempts to make it seem like there's a big mystery, symbols that are thrown together so the one telling the story can make them mean what he wants them to mean and other parts of the book are dedicated to unraveling the same chaos.
In other words it's a novel that does very many things. The main story takes place over the course of more than ten years, in different countries and on different continents, there are chapters dealing with numerology, the Templars, the Rosicrucians, hollow earth theory, Brazilian cults of demonic possession, druidism, the Illuminati, alchemy, anything you can think of. In other Storylines the book portrays the political and cultural changes in Italy during and after world war two until the eighties (some of which I've heard was autobiographical), and there's recurring symbolism relating to the Jewish Kabbalah because one of the main characters has a special fascination with it.
In general I appreciate the book even more after reading it a second time.


  • Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (Haruki Murakami)
For quite a while I've wanted to read a Japanese literature that's not a Visual Novel and Haruki Murakami seemed like a good place to start.
The book is split up into two narratives, both are "mystery" to some extent: The first narrative is a thriller with a bit of science fiction with lots of pop culture references and some black humour throughout, while the second one is a more mystical and melancholic fantasy story about a newcomer in a mysterious town where he reads old dreams from unicorn skulls (the general concept would later inspire the Haibane Renmei an interesting mystery anime that I still need to finish watching at some point...). At first the stories are separate but over the course of the novel, connections between them become clear and over time both approach similar themes. The stories also both get weirder as the plot goes on but saying any more would be spoiling things. In any case I found exactly the kind of absurdism I enjoy and overall I would describe it a s a very elegant novel.


That's about it... I feel generally more like reading lately since I managed to modify some functions of my ebook reading software. There's quite a number of books in my "reading queue" and since I'm still on the mood for some large scale history (Hard Boiled Wonderland served mainly as a kind of palate cleanser) I'll probably give Romance of the Three Kingdoms another shot.
 
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Rohan

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  • Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (Haruki Murakami)
For quite a while I've wanted to read a Japanese literature that's not a Visual Novel and Haruki Murakami seemed like a good place to start.
The book is split up into two narratives, both are "mystery" to some extent: The first narrative is a thriller with a bit of science fiction with lots of pop culture references and some black humour throughout, while the second one is a more mystical and melancholic fantasy story about a newcomer in a mysterious town where he reads old dreams from unicorn skulls (the general concept would later inspire the Haibane Renmei an interesting mystery anime that I still need to finish watching at some point...). At first the stories are separate but over the course of the novel, connections between them become clear and over time both approach similar themes. The stories also both get weirder as the plot goes on but saying any more would be spoiling things. In any case I found exactly the kind of absurdism I enjoy and overall I would describe it a s a very elegant novel.
Wow, I haven't heard that title in a long while. Brings back memories of my college days and lazily relaxing in the library while binging on Murakami's works. Anyway HBW&EoE is (is my opinion) one of the weaker Murakami novels. The Wonderland parts were certainly fascinating (I do love me some sci-fi) but the fantastical End of the World just put me to sleep and the resolution just didn't give a satisfying payoff.
 

Shining Celebi

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I most recently finished Thomas Carlyle's The French Revolution, which is one of the best books I have read in a long time. I don't recall what, exactly, set me to reading Carlyle, but I have heard his name here and there and I ordered the book with my free Internet money some time ago, along with several of the books I mentioned above. This one took me the longest - it's very dense - but it is also definitely worth it.

Carlyle is one of the really great prose-writers of the English language, and the French Revolution is really a kind of prose-poem epic of the French Revolution. I can't say I ever had much interest in the subject, but that was because I hadn't read this book, and because I had greatly underestimated its significance. Carlyle writes history the way it should be written; you're not a spectator gazing aloof on Paris, you're in Paris, with occasional short excursions elsewhere, with all its sounds and smells and people. It's really something to watch the whole feudal European world just sort of fall apart - France begins in the wake of Rousseau and the 'Contrat Social' with some budget deficits (though Carlyle doesn't emphasize it, much of which was incurred by the French assistance in the American revolutionary war) and some other seemingly minor problems that need reform. The King and Queen don't really seem like bad people at all* - in fact it is very clear in the beginning the main obstacle to change and reform is the aristocracy and the clergy, who refuse to be taxed at all, leaving that all for the poor and middle class, who cannot be taxed any more than they already are.

It's really sort of like someone let the drain out on a bathtub. Things just start swirling, and you have the King in conflict with the other nobillity, then a National Assembly in order to remake the French social order - still with royalty, of course, and then the Assembly gets out of hand and you have a Constitution and limited monachy ('Hereditary Representative'), mass starvation among the common people, Bastille Day, European royalty getting upset about revolution against the established social order, and things get to swirling quicker and quicker, and you have public opinion of the king reverse itself almost instantly after he tries ineffectually to flee, his execution, the immediate radicalization of everyone in France, the mobilization of the entire French citizenry to stop the rest of Europe from crushing the Revolution, the guillotine, the roaring of Danton, the croaking of Marat, and Robespierre's scream as they all swirl and are swept into the abyss, as in the background all the while a young French artillery officer becomes more and more prominent.** And it's all just people, and you don't know whether to sympathize or despise.

* Marie Antoinette never said "let them eat cake" or anything like it.
** It didn't have to be Napoleon, it's always so weird to see how things could have gone. Had Mirabeau not fallen ill, had Robespierre not dared to kill Danton...

A+

Currently reading the Decameron, which is entertaining I guess, and cleverly written. Stories written in the 1300s a little ways after the Black Death. A little more sex than I was expecting. It's interesting to see the different attitudes that people had back then, I guess.
 

Tetra Seleno

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I finally finished reading Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton in the days leading up to the American Thanksgiving and I strongly recommend it over the Lin Manuel Miranda musical. Miranda's musical has its merits (the music is really enjoyable after all) but the musical is interested in very specific aspects of Chernow's biography. I would argue that the musical version overstates the rivalry between Hamilton and Aaron Burr while significantly understating the relationship between Hamilton and Washington. Additionally, the play's second act condenses some 500+ pages of content together, so if you want to read a more expanded version of the events detailed in the second act, then you should check it out.

Currently reading Susanna Clark's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell; started reading it on a plane and quickly devoured the first act of the book in a matter of hours. Was properly introduced to Jonathan Strange for the first time last night and I can't wait to pick it up again later today.
 

Exiled

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Since the Forgotten Realms novels came to an end (yeah, all the novels). I'm beginning to read some of the novels that seems interesting to me. I don't know if I wan to read all the Drizzt novels (there are a lot). I started with Brimstone Angels saga.
 

TMS

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My brother is a big fan of the Drizzt novels, and from the few I've read they are pretty good.

As for me, I've been working my way through library books full of horror stories. Most of it is stuff that I'm just rereading, though it's been so long in some cases that it might as well be new to me. I read through the Cthulhu 2000 anthology in its entirety for the first time. Generally I find myself disappointed with anthologies like that, but there's some good stuff in that one, among the usual handful of stories that were meh or that I could have done without. Of the stuff I hadn't read before, my favorites were "I Had Vacantly Crumpled It into My Pocket... [etc.]" by Joanna Russ, "The Shadow on the Doorstep" by James P. Blaylock, and "24 Views of Mt. Fuji, by Hokusai" by Roger Zelazny. I didn't bother to reread them, but "Black Man with a Horn" by T.E.D. Klein and "The Last Feast of Harlequin" by Thomas Ligotti are among the best stories in the book.

At the moment I'm reading through a collection of Ramsey Campbell stories, Ghosts & Grisly Things, which is pretty good, as might be expected, though Campbell's stories can sometimes be a little gritty for my tastes. Once I'm done with that I'll be moving on to some anthologies of ghost/gothic stories I uncovered recently in the library's Classics section.

Finally, I've been keeping on through the complete Father Brown stories. By now I've finished four of Chesterton's five collections.
 
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