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 Post subject: Re:What Are You Reading?
PostPosted: Tue Jan 13, 2009 11:22 am 
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ds23pallas wrote:
Currently I am reading "The Hotel New Hampshire" by John Irving. Just prior I read "A Prayer for Owen Meaney", one of my favourites.
I was a HUGE Irving fan, though I did not care for Setting Free the Bears or The Hotel N.H.

Owen Meany might be my favorite book OF ALL TIME! (emphasis added) I haven't read any of his more recent stuff (anything after Owen Meany). I liked Garp and Cider House Rules.

After a while, his books kind of sound the same, but Owen Meany really stands out to me.

I've read it three times and I found some new stuff in it each time.

The wiki entry on Irving has a nice chart of his recurring themes:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Irving


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 Post subject: Re:What Are You Reading?
PostPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 10:26 am 
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I have now moved on to "The Rector of Justin" by Louis Auchincloss. I recently watched the movie version of "The Late George Apley". I read the novel by John P. Marquand years ago, and I enjoyed the movie version immensely. I thought that Ronald Colman as George Apley (pictured below) was excellent.

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The following evening I watched the movie version of "The Comedians" by Graham Green. Great book - movie not so much, despite the all star cast (Alec Guinness, Peter Ustinov, Liz Taylor and Richard Burton).


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 Post subject: Re:What Are You Reading?
PostPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 11:36 am 
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It's not for everyone, but Ayn Rand emigrated from Russia in the 40s. In '43 she wrote her first novel, "The Fountainhead".

In '57, she wrote her last novel, "Atlas Shrugged". I read it in '58. It had a profound affect on my philosophical outlook.

I'm back into it again 50 years later. It is the best overview of western civilization, and where we are today, that I have come across.

It is a novel,that takes place in the '50s. It depicts the capitalist system that existed in the US, at that time, and the hazards that threatened the system, and our way of life.

It is @ 1,000 pages, and parts become a bit pedantic.

She uses the railroads to typify American industry. Today, she would probably use the software industry. She uses a character by the name of John Gault as a "Warren Buffet" like individual. She casts Gault as an inventor. Today, he might be a venture capitalist, or one that runs an entity such as Berkshire Hathaway.

Her theme is "objectivism", or the moraliy of self interest. Today, Objectivism might be called Libetarianism,

At any event, some of you, that haven't read it, may find that this will give you some earthshaking insights into our world, as it exists, at this instant. Others will take a pass. As I said, it's not for everyone.


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 Post subject: Re:What Are You Reading?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 21, 2009 10:27 am 
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Well, I'm a sort-of English major (Secondary Education with an emphasis in English), so I'm reading quite a bit right now. Walt Whitman, Toni Morrison, Strunk and White, and all kinds of ridiculous lit-theory stuff. Currently I'm trying to wrap my head about Saussure and his "Course in General Linguistics" Very confusing stuff, but I'm very interested in it. Next we'll be going to Derrida, which I'm a little apprehensive about.

Conor

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 Post subject: Re:What Are You Reading?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 21, 2009 11:11 am 
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Sweet tap-dancing Jesus, Conor, what have you gotten yourself into?

As an antidote, I suggest the fine novels of Dan Jenkins - especially the ones narrated by Billy Clyde Puckett. I am currently reading "Rude Behavior," which has made me laugh out loud seven times thus far.

If you ever told your cohorts in English Department Land you were reading Jenkins they would first say "Who?" and then, if they looked into it, they would waste no time handing you the broken piece of pottery.

So be wary.

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 Post subject: Re:What Are You Reading?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 21, 2009 12:21 pm 
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I recently slogged through "Ivan's War" a book by British historian Catherine Merridale. It is a sociological account of the troops of the Red Army in WWII. It was okay, but, given the subject matter, pretty scholarly and dryly (boring) written. I was looking to get a real feeling of what it was like on the ground at Stalingrad, defense of Moscow, battle of Kursk, et als, but this book did not deliver. I have read "Citizen Soldiers" by Stephen E. Ambrose, which was an amazing account of life of the U.S. troops in the battles across Europe. It was more conversationally and descriptively (interesting) written. I give "Ivan's War" 2 out of 5 paper clips (with apologies to Patrick and his coils).
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I also just finished a Tony Hillerman mystery. He died a few months ago. He wrote police detective fiction about the people of the Native American Reservations in the 4 corners area (Ariz., Utah, N. Mex. and Colo.). Pretty interesting and well written detective stuff about a culture and part of the country of which I know nothing. Not your average blood and guts or phony sexy police novels. I liked it and am looking to read another one (whatever the next one in sequence is). I give it 4 out of 5 paper clips.
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Next, I am onto "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn." My wife just read it for her book group, and she said it was good. I will report further.


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 Post subject: Re:What Are You Reading?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 21, 2009 2:21 pm 
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^I'm digging your rating system. Very clever.

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 Post subject: Re:What Are You Reading?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 21, 2009 4:41 pm 
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Patrick wrote:
Sweet tap-dancing Jesus, Conor, what have you gotten yourself into?

As an antidote, I suggest the fine novels of Dan Jenkins - especially the ones narrated by Billy Clyde Puckett. I am currently reading "Rude Behavior," which has made me laugh out loud seven times thus far.

If you ever told your cohorts in English Department Land you were reading Jenkins they would first say "Who?" and then, if they looked into it, they would waste no time handing you the broken piece of pottery.

So be wary.
Hah! That's the scary thing: I have no idea what I've gotten myself into, because it is so difficult to understand. At the same time I'm reading Strunk (or White) talking about the concrete rules of our language I'm reading Saussure say that all of language is completely arbitrary and the rules are only rules because they've been rules since someone agreed they would be rules, and not because of some base, logical reason that they should be rules.

My professor's explanation of what Derrida will be saying was even better. Something like: "Derrida will say that what you are reading is what you are reading because what you are actually reading is what you aren't reading.

*pop* (head)

Conor

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 Post subject: Re:What Are You Reading?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 21, 2009 7:24 pm 
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I'm currently reading Anna Karenina by Tolstoy translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. I'm a little over halfway through and it lives up to its reputation.


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 Post subject: Re:What Are You Reading?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 22, 2009 9:27 am 
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^Anna is a good book, if a bit "soap opera-y".


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 Post subject: Re:What Are You Reading?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 22, 2009 10:01 am 
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redmanca wrote:
Patrick wrote:
Sweet tap-dancing Jesus, Conor, what have you gotten yourself into?

As an antidote, I suggest the fine novels of Dan Jenkins - especially the ones narrated by Billy Clyde Puckett. I am currently reading "Rude Behavior," which has made me laugh out loud seven times thus far.

If you ever told your cohorts in English Department Land you were reading Jenkins they would first say "Who?" and then, if they looked into it, they would waste no time handing you the broken piece of pottery.

So be wary.
Hah! That's the scary thing: I have no idea what I've gotten myself into, because it is so difficult to understand. At the same time I'm reading Strunk (or White) talking about the concrete rules of our language I'm reading Saussure say that all of language is completely arbitrary and the rules are only rules because they've been rules since someone agreed they would be rules, and not because of some base, logical reason that they should be rules.

My professor's explanation of what Derrida will be saying was even better. Something like: "Derrida will say that what you are reading is what you are reading because what you are actually reading is what you aren't reading.

*pop* (head)

Conor
Editorial in the NY Times today by the editor in chief of the American Heritage Dictionary of all people, chiding those who care about grammar and usage. He is particularly concerned about those who try not to split their infinitives, thinks we're all niggling pedants.


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 Post subject: Re:What Are You Reading?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 22, 2009 4:58 pm 
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Sartre wrote:
redmanca wrote:
Patrick wrote:
Sweet tap-dancing Jesus, Conor, what have you gotten yourself into?

As an antidote, I suggest the fine novels of Dan Jenkins - especially the ones narrated by Billy Clyde Puckett. I am currently reading "Rude Behavior," which has made me laugh out loud seven times thus far.

If you ever told your cohorts in English Department Land you were reading Jenkins they would first say "Who?" and then, if they looked into it, they would waste no time handing you the broken piece of pottery.

So be wary.
Hah! That's the scary thing: I have no idea what I've gotten myself into, because it is so difficult to understand. At the same time I'm reading Strunk (or White) talking about the concrete rules of our language I'm reading Saussure say that all of language is completely arbitrary and the rules are only rules because they've been rules since someone agreed they would be rules, and not because of some base, logical reason that they should be rules.

My professor's explanation of what Derrida will be saying was even better. Something like: "Derrida will say that what you are reading is what you are reading because what you are actually reading is what you aren't reading.

*pop* (head)

Conor
Editorial in the NY Times today by the editor in chief of the American Heritage Dictionary of all people, chiding those who care about grammar and usage. He is particularly concerned about those who try not to split their infinitives, thinks we're all niggling pedants.

That is very interesting, Sartre, thanks for pointing it out. Saussure has something to say about that; in fact, it plays into his hand quite nicely.

There is nothing technically "wrong" with a split infinitive - though many I suppose would disagree. Because of this it is primarily a stylistic objection, much in the same way that one person prefers sonnets because they are neat, tidy, and conform to overt rules and another prefers free verse because it is, well, more free and thus more easily adapted to different situations. (I really don't want to debate poetic forms; I know one can be creative in a sonnet and one can follow strict rules in free verse). Neither poetic form is "correct" in absolute, even though your everyday English teacher/professor might tell you so. It is a stylistic distinction. Even though Strunk hates extraneous words and yells at you from the page to "Omit unnecessary words!" unnecessary words are not incorrect in a concrete way, Strunk just thinks them bad style.

To bring it back to split infinitives, since neither position is technically correct or incorrect, it would be wrong to teach one position as correct. I am aware that for a long time before my schooling (I never heard the rule until my sophomore year in college) split infinitives were in fact taught as concretely incorrect, and so many people learned a stylistic preference as a concrete rule. Saussure would call this an "idiom" of the English language. By idiom he means a rule that is taught as a rule that doesn't have any real reason for being a rule (though he later argues that all rules and indeed all of language is the same way). To put it another (hopefully more understandable) way, there is no solid grammatical basis for not splitting infinitives, and so the learner (or speaker or writer) of a language must accept the rule on faith alone and not on fact. This all points to Saussure's idea of the arbitrary nature of language.

I do realize that absolutely no-one asked for that, but I had some time to kill and felt like trying to see if I actually understood what I read.

p.s. Patrick, it looks like I'm becoming one of them!

Conor

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 Post subject: Re:What Are You Reading?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 22, 2009 6:42 pm 
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redmanca wrote:...
My professor's explanation of what Derrida will be saying was even better. Something like: "Derrida will say that what you are reading is what you are reading because what you are actually reading is what you aren't reading.

*pop* (head)

Conor
*sigh* And a smile. This sort of thing is the reason I found myself, happily, outside the walls of the academy during the late 80's, when even after the French had long given up on such minor nihilistic nonsense many American professors were stuffing themselves with it like stoners wolfing frozen pizza at three in the morning.

The illogic of the explanation is familiar enough. "What you are reading is A because it is A except that A is actually not A." Now Derrida the master obscurantist would deride my analysis by stealing a physical metaphor from Nietzsche and freighting it with constructs of quickly moving air, something like "You do not comprehend A because A is beyond logic which is a regressive modality bound by non-linear realities that affect transitional movement in language and thought."

Yes, you'll have to know Derrida and Foucault to graduate from most English programs these days and I think you already display a good grasp of Saussure. But I hope you'll also sneak in much extracurricular reading from people like Jacques Barzun and others, including the many novelists and writers mentioned already.

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 Post subject: Re:What Are You Reading?
PostPosted: Sat Jan 24, 2009 8:40 am 
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I'd tell Saussure to kiss my fanny, except he'd probably enjoy it.

I could wear a necktie around my head and tell the gang back at the academy I am post-post-modern, but I'd still look like a nitwit with a necktie around his head.

I just finished Ian Rankin's last entry in the John Rebus series, "Exit Music." The more I think about it Rankin works much the same territory as James Ellroy, without getting mired in all that "zippity oop boop boppity bop" stuff.

Neither Rankin, nor Ellroy, nor anybody else who writes successful fiction gives a damn about Saussure. If you really want to watch a Full-Bore Academic Freakout tell 'em, you admire the works of Mickey Spillane.

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 Post subject: Re:What Are You Reading?
PostPosted: Mon Jan 26, 2009 9:50 am 
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Patrick wrote:
Neither Rankin, nor Ellroy, nor anybody else who writes successful fiction gives a damn about Saussure.
That's interesting. Earlier in the class we were reading something from the 1940's about objective criticism and the author (a proponent of objective or new criticism) basically said that for Matthew Arnold and Samuel Coleridge, being good literary critics "dried up the poetry" in them. You could probably say the same for writing fiction and linguistics. Who knows, maybe when they were little kids Derrida and Saussure wanted to be fiction authors?

(I do like Saussure's mustache though)

Conor

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