Re: Notes from the decidedly mediocre reading

1

I mean no slight to The Goldfinch, which I have not read. It just seemed like an odd choice, especially since an explicit part of the support for the choice was its popularity. Ok, and also because having read The Secret History I'm a tiny bit skeptical.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08- 7-14 10:06 PM
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So you're saying the reader tried to tartt things up a bit.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 08- 7-14 10:18 PM
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3

With organic thistle honey.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08- 7-14 10:19 PM
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4

I thought of going to an event where someone was talking about the development of internet infrastructure, but decided not to.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 08- 7-14 10:36 PM
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That all sounds winceworthy. I haven't read The Goldfinch either but actually did get a kick out of The Secret History. Also I was impressed to learn, tangential to the actual Fabritius goldfinch showing at the DeYoung, that the painting contains embedded debris from the explosion that killed the artist.


Posted by: lourdes kayak | Link to this comment | 08- 7-14 10:41 PM
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I really disliked The Secret History and didn't like her next book. Haven't gotten to The Goldfinch yet, but I suppose I should. I just paid my library fine, so I can start loading up on books again. (Oh, and write my chapter update for Piketty. Eek, that should have gotten done tonight.)


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 08- 7-14 10:42 PM
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What's the force of that "should" if you tend to dislike the author? Read something pleasurable!


Posted by: lourdes kayak | Link to this comment | 08- 7-14 10:48 PM
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8

Obligation has nothing to do with pleasure, at least in Thornworld.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08- 7-14 10:52 PM
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9

I'm trying to figure out all the ways 8 is wrong, but I don't know. People like it and reading even a long novel doesn't take much time. It's not as if I'm rereading the others just to be sure I don't like them, which I think I've only done twice with The Secret History.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 08- 7-14 10:57 PM
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10

Rereading a book to make sure you don't like it sounds like something lurid would do. Your rigor impresses me.


Posted by: lourdes kayak | Link to this comment | 08- 7-14 10:59 PM
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11

People like it and reading even a long novel doesn't take much time.

Maybe not for you. It takes me weeks to read a book. Sometimes months.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08- 7-14 11:00 PM
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12

I don't read many novels, though.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08- 7-14 11:01 PM
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13

Well, right, I was only speaking for myself. And some books take longer, but something like The Secret History I could knock out in an hour or two or so and so my three readings would only take me until when I'm supposed to be at work tomorrow.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 08- 7-14 11:02 PM
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10.1 is crazy. I am also a pretty slow reader, although I think I used to be quite a bit faster. Maybe I have a brain tumor.


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 08- 7-14 11:28 PM
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There's no shame in being a slow reader.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08- 7-14 11:29 PM
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16

I got a kick out of The Secret History but I had classed in the "that was a fun read!" class, y'know?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08- 8-14 12:15 AM
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17

That essay sounds hilariously horrendous. The Goldfinch sounds non-hilariously horrendous.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 8-14 4:10 AM
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16: But I hated it SO MUCH! I was so angry at them and at her writing and at the predictable twists of the story and it made me figure I was just a jealous hater or poor sport or something. At least one reread as well as The Little Friend was while I was staying in my grandmother's senior living building and only had the library there to work with, though why I didn't go with the Xaviera Hollander memoir instead is beyond me. I have no idea who donated the books that ended up there.

In other news, is anyone else reading Grossman's Magician books? The first two both made me probably even angrier than Tartt, but perhaps there will be a self-aware twist in this one and not just torture and slut-shaming and pure feminine martyrdom.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 08- 8-14 5:32 AM
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I read the first two, thought they were well done in term dog what they were trying to do, and really didn't enjoy them for reasons like yours.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 8-14 5:43 AM
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I enjoyed The Secret History, which I read just a few weeks ago, but it was clearly more in the trashy-fun category than the doubtlessly-excellent-literary category. Also I read Special Topics in Calamity Physics not all that long ago and it was a better attempt at the same sort of thing.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08- 8-14 5:48 AM
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Okay, so are you going to read the third one just to be done with it or do you not do stupid things like that? Because I pretty much guarantee I'll finish the trilogy, despite not having wanted to go on after the first book. I think at the time I thought it was an independent sequel and not the middle of three books.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 08- 8-14 5:49 AM
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20.2: Oh, I wanted to read that one when it came out but could never remember the title. I also can no longer remember the other titles I'd gotten confused with it.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 08- 8-14 5:55 AM
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but something like The Secret History I could knock out in an hour or two

I can never comfortably sustain a reading pace of more than a page or maybe page-and-a-half per minute, which for a book like that means it takes, I don't know, six to ten hours to read. When some of you write about how you read an order of magnitude faster I always wonder if it's worth trying to actively develop that ability.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08- 8-14 5:57 AM
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19: well, if that's what's going on meow that's a different story.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 8-14 5:58 AM
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It is much faster to re-read a book than to read it the first time. I used to love re-reading books - through my 20s - but I haven't done so in years.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08- 8-14 6:18 AM
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Look, autocorrect fish, okay?

And I'll probably read the third at some point. They hit me on the point where I'm not sure if I hate the author or if I just hate all the characters, and I liked everything about them except the characters and plot.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 8-14 6:19 AM
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27

23: You need to use 12% of your brain.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08- 8-14 6:25 AM
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28

i didn't think The Goldfinch was terrible, but i'm really puzzled by the acclaim and popularity. while the writing was often great, it was too long, the overall plot wasn't that interesting, and and the main character was often a stupid, unsympathetic, asshole.


Posted by: cleek | Link to this comment | 08- 8-14 6:53 AM
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29

My version is funnier.


Posted by: OPINIONATED AUTOCORRECT | Link to this comment | 08- 8-14 8:12 AM
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30

Neb, I'm actually in the middle of Past Continuous now. So no spoilers for now, but what did you think of it?


Posted by: Awl | Link to this comment | 08- 8-14 9:25 AM
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31

I still haven't read it!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08- 8-14 9:31 AM
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32

That good, eh?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 8-14 9:32 AM
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33

I have heard very good things from someone I respect!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08- 8-14 9:35 AM
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34

We were always in the middle of Past Continuous.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 08- 8-14 9:36 AM
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35

I didn't really like The Goldfinch. It was.......fine. I don't really enjoy books where the characters continuously make really stupid decisions and put themselves through misery. Some people like that sort of thing, though.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 08- 8-14 10:35 AM
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36

In other words, I concur entirely with 28. There were passages I loved. I learned a lot about mixing my uppers and my downers. And a little bit about restoring furniture.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 08- 8-14 10:36 AM
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In other news, is anyone else reading Grossman's Magician books?

I tried, because they were supposed to be Harry Potter for adults, and I love HP more than a grown person should. (Though not to scary amounts, I promise.)

But really, I just hated it and could not finish.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 08- 8-14 10:38 AM
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but something like The Secret History I could knock out in an hour or two or so

Dude, that is impressive. There are some books that long that I can take down in two hours, but they have to be total mind candy. I can't imagine reading something more dense at that speed!

Also I read Special Topics in Calamity Physics not all that long ago and it was a better attempt at the same sort of thing.

Totally on my list of things to read! Need to move it up the queue. (Which, now, thanks to Goodreads, I'm informed has over 600 books in it. Some day?)


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 08- 8-14 10:42 AM
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39

I started Special Topics and stopped after not very many pages, because it seemed like a re-do of The Secret History and I couldn't see the point. But if it's actually better maybe I should revisit it.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08- 8-14 10:48 AM
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40

I've never actually managed to finish The Secret History. I do mean to try again...


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 08- 8-14 10:57 AM
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38.last, 39: I wouldn't say it's great literature or anything, but I thought it was fun. As I think I mentioned here before, there were lots of Nabokov allusions which fell a little flat because the writing is of distinctly sub-Nabokovian quality, but I think that's forgivable.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08- 8-14 11:12 AM
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I enjoyed Special Topics. I just finished her second novel Night Film which wasn't quite as good, but still enjoyable in a Beach Reading sort of way.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 08- 8-14 11:18 AM
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Update: The Goldfinch is terrible, but a little bit hilariously terrible, pace 17. I did manage to "finish" it in two sittings, but skipped the last few pages because it came to my attention that I was not getting paid to read them. Main character not so much unsympathetic asshole as so incompetently drawn as to have no recognizable human qualities; just moves the plot along. And: so long. So terribly, terribly long. I don't know why I thought it would be a quick kill. I'm going to have a bad-art hangover tomorrow.


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 08- 9-14 2:00 AM
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44

37: Harry Potter for adults is Harry Potter.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 08- 9-14 2:36 AM
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45

Harry Potter for adults is surely Strange/Norrell.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08- 9-14 3:51 AM
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46

something like The Secret History I could knock out in an hour or two

I'm with essear on this one. We've done various reading speed tests here, but this still seems very, very fast to me; like, at that pace, how fast you turn the page starts to matter. It's 550 pages!


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08- 9-14 5:47 AM
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Oh, I was thinking it was 350-ish or so. But I don't force myself to read quickly, just go as fast as is comfortable for any given book. Four pages a minute doesn't seem insane and somewhere between there and five is what you'd need to do The Secret History in two hours. But I know I took 2-3 the first time because I remember staying up to finish it the night before a road trip. And as heebie says, rereading is faster. It's not as if I'm reading a whole Piketty chapter on my 20-minute lunch breaks, either. So it depends.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 08- 9-14 6:07 AM
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48

Ah, that's more comprehensible.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08- 9-14 6:28 AM
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49

OT:

Vice News seems to have mastered in a short time this summer the art of making warzone porn:

https://news.vice.com/video/the-islamic-state-part-1
https://news.vice.com/video/the-islamic-state-part-2


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 08- 9-14 6:34 AM
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"The Secret History", "The Goldfinch" and "The Magicians" all read as though they were written by the same person, and - though I enjoyed them - they have left me with an abiding determination never to become friends with any rich East Coast Americans, as they all seem to be incredibly annoying.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-11-14 2:53 AM
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re: 45

Or various bits of the work of Tim Powers. Who I really like, some of the time, but who is wildly inconsistent.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-11-14 4:29 AM
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Actually I think that Harry Potter for adults is John Le Carre's George Smiley books. Secret world with its own hierarchy and rituals and language (lamplighters, scalphunters, joes, networks, case officers) and a struggle against a shadowy evil force undermining the whole of society, but - since it's for adults - more moral grey areas and ambiguity.

(Charlie Stross made the comparison between Lovecraft-type horror and Len Deighton's spy novels. In Lovecraft you can invoke horrific, world-destroying forces with just a few words at the wrong time. Just like reality, if those words were "Execute the SIOP".)


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-11-14 4:49 AM
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Ok, the texts read at the reading are now online, so I can quote exactly how The Goldfinch was brought up:

Let's look instead at the infallible Donna Tartt. Her book The Goldfinch, is pretty much universally thought to be really good. I read it and loved it, and it was nominated for a gazillion awards, and won the Pulitzer Prize, and remains one of the top selling books of the year. Say what you will, these are all fairly good indicators of a solid novel.

I dunno, are all of those really even moderately good indications of a solid novel?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08-16-14 1:08 PM
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Eggers: "Do not be critics, you people, I beg you. … Do not dismiss a book until you have written one, and do not dismiss a movie until you have made one, and do not dismiss a person until you have met them."

Samuel Johnson: "You may abuse a tragedy, though you cannot write one. You may scold a carpenter who has made you a bad table, though you cannot make a table. It is not your trade to make tables."

Equally matched, I'd say.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08-16-14 2:13 PM
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54.1: you know, if he meaningfully followed through with his parallelism it should be "don't dismiss a person until you have made one".


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-16-14 2:23 PM
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Boy, childfree people are going to hate that.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-16-14 2:25 PM
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55: the essay-like thing I'm writing in another workspace makes this exact point!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08-16-14 2:25 PM
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Dave Eggers: bad at thinking, bad at parallelism!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08-16-14 2:26 PM
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Also, what counts as having made a movie? Does acting in one count? Being the continuity supervisor? Is cinematographer a lofty enough position?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08-16-14 2:27 PM
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Guys, guys. Do not criticize what Eggers is saying until you too have been an overrated ass.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 08-16-14 2:55 PM
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In other news, is anyone else reading Grossman's Magician books?

There's two out with a third coming? Boy, I do not track books lately. Read the first and was somewhat intrigued by the concept, but ultimately kind of bored. The "Harry Potter for adults" book that hooked me relatively recently was Lexicon by Max Berry (creator of NationStates). In retrospect a lot of plot holes and insipidity, but it worked for me during the reading.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-16-14 3:00 PM
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Speaking of books and rereading, my wife just finished God of Small Things and was so enthralled (and felt she had missed some things) that she immediately started reading it again. So I guess I'll read that when she is through (searching the archives it seems to have gotten a bit of praise here way, way back in the day). It seems to me that I have done that (immediate reread) at least once, but can't recall for which book(s). I did find myself retracing some threads in Life A User's Manual, but not a comprehensive linear reread.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-16-14 3:10 PM
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54.2, more colloquially: "You don't have to be a hen to know a bad egg." Or a bad Eggers!


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 08-16-14 3:10 PM
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