There is a treasure trove on the second floor of our public library. It’s called the “Children’s Section”, and it’s located just below the “Adult Section”.
Particularly the collection of books for 15+ year-olds is a goldmine. Fortunately we have a great curator who manages to keep the avalanche of Young Adult template fill-ins to a minimum, and focus on quality of writing above popularity of genre.
I’m reading De Kronieken van Goud en Bloed by H. P. Janssens now. (“Chronicles of Gold and Blood” would be a literal translation.) Ambitious and well-researched 16th century historic novel about religious prosecution. The mystery of “the Kathar necklace” looms in the background…
Most importantly, the characters are complicated people. No sign of a True Hero™ so far. Just a girl and a young man trying to live their life according to what they have been taught, wondering where all the blood is suddenly coming from…
It is a difficult read, and the book is probably going to fall apart before I finish it, but I am enjoying it.
@dogdennings One thing that makes Infinite Jest easier to read than other long books is that many of the chapters are short. Also, it is more character- and symbol-focused than plot focused, so you do not have to follow the plot too closely. You can start reading just about anywhere and skip anything you want, and you won’t necessarily lose anything.
Following the main characters is mostly manageable. It’s probably impossible to track every single symbol, but the most common ones should pique your interest. IIRC mirrors are used a lot, kind of as a symbol of the gap between “self-reflection” and connection with other people.
Whether anyone finds it satisfying to make those symbolic connections between the chapters is probably up to the reader, since they don’t really pay off in plot advancement.
IIRC the most complicated part of the plot is tracking who possesses “The Entertainment” at any given time. There are guides that can help with that, but I’m not sure I really ever figured that part out.
I finished it!
And wow, I really thought I had figured everything out just before the end, and then the book just took another swing at me and left me even more confused.
It is a great book, a very confusing book, a really-well written one with quite compelling characters. I’m really glad I read it.
Have you taken a good look at the very last sentence? And then flipped back to the very first?
You can start again if you want. If you can even use the concept “start” or “beginning” in a meaningful way for this text.
Reviewers and essayists have called it a circular text. Delaney himself points out that the reader has many entry points into the story.
The complete ending-beginning sentence “I have come to wound the autumnal city.” is repeated in full somewhere in the sixth or seventh chapter.
And here I was trying to connect some passages to others to make a timeline… Damn… that broke my brain again.
(Makes more sense to why a lot if not all scenes start with the end of a sentence and why they end with only a start…)
It certainly puts the whole experience of reading Dahlgren in a new perspective.
I’ve been in Stormlight limbo for a while now, but there are some intermezzo-books I hadn’t read. They’re about characters that maybe don’t get as much attention in the main series.
Edgedancer, about the wonderful character Lift’s background, was great.
Now I’m starting Dawnshard, which has Rysn the trader as main character.
I’ve been told to read Edgedancer before Oathbringer, and Dawnshard before Rhythm of War. I’m not sure if it really changes anything if you read them later, but I’m partway through Edgedancer now and I’m guessing Nalan realizing he can’t kill all the Surgebinders is going to be important.
I found this a really interesting thread to read!
I’ve just got back from a long anticipated trip to Italy with my family so all the Italian recommendations were very welcome.
I read Pompeii by Robert Harris while we were there and highly recommend it, both for being a cracking yarn and an impressive bit of world-building / research. Harris tells the story through the eyes of the aqueduct inspector from Rome who has to deal with the local gangsters who control the city. Nobody sees the twist in the tectonics coming!
I haven’t read many fantasy titles this year but I did read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke before Christmas and absolutely loved that. I’m quite late to this particular dance but for anyone who hasn’t come across this book and enjoys historical / fantasy - you’re in for a treat.
I’ve never read a book by Italo Calvino - is Invisible Cities the best place to start?
This thread put me in mind of which books / stories / films might convert to / inspire IF projects so I’ll start a thread for that question.
My first foray into Calvino’s writings was a collection of three novellas: Our Ancestors. The stories are The Cloven Viscount, The Baron in the Trees, The Nonexistent Knight. I was about 14 when I first read this book and I was mesmerised. Far too young to understand the deeper metaphors, but they worked on an adventure story level, and they must have made a deeper subconscious impression. I must have read it about four times now, each time understanding more as I grew in life. I keep remembering the stories in certain circumstances of life.
I have a copy of Invisible Cities, but I haven’t read it cover-to-cover in one go. I feel it’s less of a story and more a peruse-at-will work, going back and forth through the descriptions and reading (re-reading) a chapter at a time.
And then letting it simmer for a while.
Like you, I also love Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrel. I don’t know why, but in my mind I associate this novel with Gormenghast by Melvyn Peake, which is also a very good (but demanding) read.
Oh, and regarding Pompeii, it might be a good experience to read Mary Beard’s Pompeii right after Robert Harris’s. Mary Beard is a historian of Classical Rome. She writes very accessible, thoroughly documented non-fiction books about that period, and she actually references Robert Harris’ novel as a good example of fiction about the volcanic eruption. (Particularly the broken waterlines right before the eruption.)
The only one i have read is La Giornata di uno scrutatore. I liked it a lot, but i’m not sure if it’s one of his more representative works. It’s realistic literary fiction, without the fantasy themes or the non-linearity he seems to be most known for.
I’m halfway through Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir, who also wrote The Martian.
It reminds me a lot of The Planiverse by A. K. Dewdney. A plot that is flimsy and captivating at the same time, serving as a frame for scientific thought experiments. Emphasising the S (for both “scientific” and “speculative”) in SF!
I’ll take this opportunity to tag @inventor200 here too, because I think you must read this.
Just read and enjoyed The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas, set in Holland in 1672. It’s remarkably short by his standards, but I found it compelling and tightly written. The tale of a mild mannered tulip grower who gets caught up in the fallout from violent real life Dutch political events (this bit is very gruesome: be warned), while at the same time trying to grow a fabled black tulip. There’s also romance, and intrigue galore. Recommended.
Next up for me fiction wise is Harry Harrison’s The Technicolor Time Machine which sees Hollywood film makers use a time machine to go back to the 11th century and film a movie using real Vikings. The concept of this is bonkers and brilliant. And it starts in a zippy manner. So I’m already amused as I read.
I watched this reading and Q&A by Sarah Pinsker last night, and then I’ve been reading the collection (Lost Places). I’m enjoying them: interesting mix of a… dunno, colloquial tone? Like a historian retelling folktales? And then the weirdness, other-worldliness. And very abrupt endings, like, wait, then what happens? But also they feel like effective, thought-provoking places to stop.
Kinda like the grown-up version of scary stories around the campfire, except they’re (mostly) only lightly spooky and several are actually pretty hopeful.
Seven of these twelve stories are freely available in online magazines, not maybe the ones I thought were most fun, but I thought they were all good, e.g. Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather (a story of a pair of mysterious disapperances styled as annotations in an online catalog of folk music: reminds me a bit of the poetry appreciation thread or Bez’s Hidden Gems, Hidden Secrets), or The Mountains His Crown (a small act of resistance to a capricious fantasy king) or A Better Way of Saying (a short but rambling story about a young man in 1915 who briefly had a small magical ability in his life), or perhaps most haunting Left the Century to Sit Unmoved, about a pond that (maybe?) occasionally eats people.