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What non-comics are you reading these days?


#2514

Currently reading The Kindness of Strangers, a memoir by Salka Viertel, who was an Austrian stage actress during the First World War before moving the the US in the 1920s and becoming a screenwriter in Hollywood.

The book was originally released in 1969 (she died in 1978 at age 89), but was recently republished by the New York Review of Books, which “rescues” books that it feels are deserving of a new audience. As a Christmas gift my kids bought me a 1-year subscription to the NYRB book club, which will send me one book each month. I’m excited to see what each month will bring. I should add that one of my favorite books is John Williams’ Stoner, which was another book rescued by NYRB that I discovered by accident and fell in love with.


#2515

I finished binging the Kenzie and Gennaro series by Dennis Lehane. It was a really fun read. I lived in Waltham Massachusetts when I was in 11th and 12th grade, so I enjoyed the setting as well as the story.

Now I’m reading Elevation by Stephen King. I said it was too expensive for me for how short it is, but I found it at the library. I don’t usually take books out from the library, I find them kind of gross, but this one’s new enough that it hasn’t been handled by countless people, and it’s short enough that I can easily finish it in the seven days you get with a new release. Hope it’s good.


#2516

Just finished Elevation. Needful Things was supposed to be the last Castle Rock story, and I wish he had stuck to his word. There was no reason this had to be in Castle Rock. I wouldn’t have liked the story either way, but I probably would have been less annoyed by the whole thing if it had taken place in a different town. I haven’t read the other short stories that have taken place in Castle Rock since Needful Things, and I’m guessing I would find them equally annoying.

Update: I just saw Elevation won best horror on goodreads choice awards for 2018. Seriously? This is not horror. And it sucked.


#2517

Finished the book I was reading with essays on Shin Buddhism, I added Albert Hourani’s A History of the Arab Peoples to the mix of stuff I’m reading.


#2518

The Turkic Languages


#2519

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#2520

Had read To Kill a Mockingbird sometime in the late 80s. Just started re-reading it. Appreciate it a bit more now.


#2521

When I lived upstate, the county library had this. One day I will get it, as I am a linguistics major, and I create languages, like Tolkien


#2522

I’ve gone back and read most of the classics that I was required to read in grammar school and high school, including The Great Gatsby, A Separate Peace, The Hobbit, Lord of the Flies, 1984, The Stranger, and Old Man and the Sea, among others. Every one of them is a true gem that is worthy of a second chance.


#2523

I did some reorganzing of my bookshelves and now I have space to buy some new stuff.


#2524

On vacation I read a great nonfiction book called Black Hand by Stephen Talty, about the pre-Mafia Italian crime syndicate in the US circa 1900-1920. Now I’m reading Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold.


#2525

That’s funny. I’m about to start a book on the Black Hand.


#2526

I’ve been on that same kick of re-reading. Also just read The Hobbit, Mice and Men, and Great Expectations. For most, there is a reason why they are classics.


#2527

Inside Scientology: The Story of America’s Most Secretive Religion


#2528

Der Kintsmakher Fin Liblin-
The Magician of Lublin
A Yiddish work by Nobel-prize winning author Isaac Bashevis Singer. I’m reading it in the original, to test my Yiddish comprehension.


#2529


#2530

More Discworld:

Witches Abroad: A fun one. The parody of a group of British ladies going on holiday to Europe feels a bit dated in places (the stuff about postcards, food, etc), but it’s nice to spend time with Granny, Nanny, and Magrat, so it doesn’t matter that much.

One issue is that Pratchett spends so much time going through general “witches on holiday” stuff that the story feels a bit rushed once they actually get to it. The idea of Granny having a “bad” sister is a decent one, but she doesn’t get a lot to do, partly as her identity is being kept a secret despite being obvious.

I like the fairytale parodies (the Red Riding Hood bit is great), but The Fairy Godmother stuff feels a bit underdeveloped too; the witches make a big deal out of the magic wand, but nothing much comes from it. The voodoo stuff is good though, and I would have liked to see more of Mrs. Gogol and co.

Small Gods: I loved this book. It feels like an expansion of some of the smaller elements of Pyramids, about the nature of Belief, and works really well.

Brutha’s a great lead character, the jokes mostly work, and the story is strong.

Lords and Ladies: This one feels like a step back for the witches. The plotting is a bit off, the Shakespeare jokes don’t work that well, and the twists are all very predictable (of course Granny isn’t really dead). The fairy stuff is fine, but feels oddly generic.

I’m not sure why the wizards are in this book, except to allow Ponder Stibbons to give a loads of exposition on parallel worlds that never feels all that necessary. They don’t interact that many with the Lancre characters, and their being there at all feels forced (I was pleasantly surprised to see Casanunda back from Witches Abroad too, even if his appearance doesn’t make much sense either). I think The Bursar’s mental breakdown is supposed to be funny too, but it mostly just comes across as sad.

Pratchett continues to pretend Equal Rites didn’t happen, by giving Ridcully a very similar background as Granny Weatherwax’s childhood almost-love as the Archchancellor in that book had. It’s odd.

I do like a lot of the Magrat stuff in the book. The previous books often treated her rather condescendingly, so it’s nice for her to get to be both a protagonist and a hero here, even if it feels like she probably shouldn’t get married at the end.

Men at Arms: Another really good Watch novel. I especially like how the series starts to build on itself more here, bringing in Detritus and Gaspode from Moving Pictures, and the supernatural characters from Reaper Man. The whole “Gaspode can speak again” thing is a bit sweaty, but it doesn’t matter much.

The plot doesn’t make any sense, and I’m not sure if it’s supposed to, but I like the characters, including all the new ones. One thing the book has is the first time a death actually feels surprising. Usually the characters that die are the villains dying at the end, or minor characters who die at the start to kick off the story. Cuddy feels like a character being set up for future stories, and his death really hits hard.

One aspect that doesn’t work for me is Carrot’s dislike of werewolves, zombies, etc. It’s only there to introduce some tension into his relationship with Angua, but it’s unnecessary and feels completely out of character (and is completely forgotten by his next appearance).

Honestly, this book would be worth it just for the excellent section on Sam Vimes’ “Boots” Theory:

The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.

Soul Music: This feels very similar to Moving Pictures (down to Dibbler taking on the same role), but work much better for me. The jokes are funnier, Susan is a better lead character than Victor, and it’s better paced.

The Death plotline of him trying to deal with Ysabell’s death feels like a bit of an afterthought, and doesn’t measure up to the other “Death takes a break” stories, but it’s not bad.

Interesting Times: It’s been eight books since the last Rincewind story, which is probably why I was happy to see him back despite not really liking the earlier books.

I do love this one though. It’s odd how un-Discworldy it feels for most of it. Once Rincewind gets to the Agatean Empire, there’s basically no magic, no trolls, no dwarves, etc, until the ending. Even Death is barely in it, despite this having by far the highest body count of any of the books so far.

Instead it’s mostly a straight political thriller, as well as a rumination on age in the Cohen plotline. Lord Hong is a good villain, and it’s nice to see Twoflower again, even if he doesn’t get much to do.

While I like all the stuff with Cohen wanting to settle down as Emperor, it does cause the Agatean rebels to basically disappear from the book for the climax of their story.

Maskerade: Another book that’s very light on magic. The story could basically be done as an episode of Murder She Wrote without changing much.

It’s also the first real whodunit in the series. The two Watch books try at it, but there’s never much of a mystery in them. Some of the red herrings in this one got me, especially all the stuff about Andre the organ player.

I’d have liked a bit more of Nanny and Granny interacting with the regular Ankh-Morpork characters. We get to see Nanny interact with Nobby and Detritus, but I’d have loved a Granny/Dibbler scene, or a Granny/Vetinari scene.

One scene I did love is the one with Granny and Death at the inn, playing cards for the life of a baby. It has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the book, but it’s a lovely scene.


#2531

I added the Selected Prose of Ezra Pound to the reading mix. He was crazier than a bag of snakes and a fascist, but he was a brilliant writer.


#2532

I can understand the gist of what’s going on, though sometimes there are words I don’t recognize, or cannot tell the meaning in context. But I do get the gist of what’s going on, and I can tell he was a great writer, and I see why he won the Nobel- Singer is a master of metaphor.


#2533