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#16 bart

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Posted 29 July 2009 - 11:36 AM

I'm sure it is a wrong-headed comparison, but 'Gone With the Wind' is definitely profound, if not subtle.

I think this is one we just have to agree to disagree about.

Mitchell's book definitely depicts, and has thoughts about, profound topics. I'm just saying that what she does with this as a writer -- and what Lampedusa does with his own social or political concerns -- are quite dissimilar.

#17 papeetepatrick

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Posted 29 July 2009 - 11:50 AM

I'm sure it is a wrong-headed comparison, but 'Gone With the Wind' is definitely profound, if not subtle.

I think this is one we just have to agree to disagree about.

Mitchell's book definitely depicts, and has thoughts about, profound topics. I'm just saying that what she does with this as a writer -- and what Lampedusa does with his own social or political concerns -- are quite dissimilar.


Didn't you misunderstand me? I meant I agreed that the Amazon.com review was 'wrong-headed' precisely because they are dissimilar. I just wanted to add something about what I felt about 'Gone With the Wind'. Just added this in case you had thought I meant your assessment of the amazon.com review was wrongheaded. I couldn't think that anyway, since I haven't read the Lampedusa, but what you had said about that review did make it sound very superficial. Anyway, no offense meant.

#18 dirac

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Posted 29 July 2009 - 06:37 PM

I noticed that the book is described in the Amazon.com review as "an Italian equivalent to Gone With the Wind."


I expect that the reviewer meant only to say that both books are epic sized period stories set in turbulent times. Some readers could certainly be led astray, though. :wink:

Certainly, Mitchell isn't Lampedusa. Gone with the Wind is a better book than it's usually given credit for being, however. But, like GWTW, I'm a hardcore fan.

(It's off topic, but the film of Gone with the Wind is better than Visconti's picture -- and I don't think it's even that close.)

It is about the ruling classes and their point of view and doesn't really intend to be 'sensitive to issues' of the social sort.


And Mitchell is actually pretty good about making distinctions among those in the ruling classes - it 's one of the things people miss about her. The book isn't really about moonlight and magnolias.

Was 'The Mind of the South' really hateful, Patrick? I didn't detect hatefulness. (Love-hate, yes.)

Thank you for chiming in, GWTW. The only book of Byatt's I tried was Possession, and I was unable to get through it, I fear.

#19 papeetepatrick

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Posted 29 July 2009 - 07:08 PM

Was 'The Mind of the South' really hateful, Patrick? I didn't detect hatefulness. (Love-hate, yes.)


Yes, in some ways it was, dirac. And precisely for some of the things we love just now in this thread. His attempt to destroy literally everything about the Southern ethos is borne of his own self-hatred. He not only trashed Margaret Mitchell, but even said Faulkner was guilty of 'subscribing to the Southern Myth'. And also that, in the certainly vainglorious claims of some Southerners that there culture was the greatest in history, he then concluded things like that, if Southerners were not buying recordings of classical music in some stores he surveyed, that they had 'really almost no culture at all'. Much of the Southern Myth is hyped-up nonsense, but New Orleans is proof that it reall exists in a unique form, even after Katrina. I went there again for the first time since childhood, just 4 months before Katrina, and I said yes, THIS is what proves that there really is a such thing as a Unique Southern Culture. And, although there are visually and decoratively other lovely Southern old cities, like Charleston and Savannah, it is New Orleans that is an utter original. He was simply unwilling to give any credit for a very difficult region, and certainly blood-drenched and with hideous problems of poverty and racism in much daily life, but he simply reduced it too far, while along the way he did do many polemics against Southern tradition and bigotry that were very astute and well-placed. But every single tradition needs that, whether French or English or Chinese. I might also note that, stupid as it was for Southerners to think their culture was 'the greatest', since it was a very young and undeveloped one as it was, that was not unlike some of Gingrich's statements about American culture when he and the Toefflers were big. I was pretty young when I read it, but even though I now respect 'Gone With the Wind', and do also think it is a truly great film, I could have listened to that part MAYBE about the 'false Southern myth', but, oh brother, when he started in on Faulkner, I said 'wait a minute, kid. There's whippersnappers, and then there's whippersnappers.'

You could still call it 'love/hate', I suppose, but I could remember very few things he said except that the stereotype of 'the true Southern lady and her kindness' is true, of course, and also he did say that 'the South by now had a flourishing literature'. I don't know, I don't mean I don't think it's a great book in some ways, but as a Southerner myself, you have to go through some of that battle within yourself, and I came out knowing that I belonged in a big city that the South doesn't have anything like, but I changed my mind about a lot of the things that he condemned and that I agreed with him about at the time.

Like what you said about the distinctions among the ruling classes. Indeed it is about much more than moonlight and magnolias.

#20 GWTW

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Posted 29 July 2009 - 11:56 PM

Thank you for chiming in, GWTW. The only book of Byatt's I tried was Possession, and I was unable to get through it, I fear.


If you couldn't get through Possession, I wouldn't even bother with The Children's Book... If you do want to read any Byatt, I would start with either 'Angels and Insects' (Victoriana) or 'The Virgin in the Garden' (1950s England).

#21 vagansmom

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Posted 30 July 2009 - 07:22 PM

I realized recently that I have spent much of my summer reading what I call "quiet novels." These are the kinds of books I avoided through most of my life, but happily discovered about a decade ago. Mostly contemporary novels, although Willa Cather and Rumen Godden's books often fit the category. Often, these books are loaded with visual imagery, but don't have much dialogue, hence my term "quiet."

I'm halfway through Olive Kitteridge, the 2009 Pulitzer Prize novel by Elizabeth Strout. It's billed as a novel in short stories where we learn more about Olive Kitteridge within each short story, even though she's often peripheral to them. Strout's prose is poetic and, my terminology again, quiet.

This summer, I've also been immersed in Alice McDermott's novels. I started off rereading Charming Billy, a portrait of an Irish Catholic alcoholic. I then went on to Child of My Heart, a devastatingly sad book. I'm now almost finished with "At Weddings and Wakes", a novel that's told through the eyes of the Irish Catholic children. Spare, possessing even less dialogue than most of her other novels, but riveting. Her books are often character portraits, and they're peopled by personalities I grew up with.

And then for just plain fun, I'm reading Tana French's The Likeness. I'd read her first novel, In the Woods, and liked it even though it's a mystery and I wouldn't call myself a mystery book reader. Everyone tells me that this second book of hers is much better. So far so good although I have the same quibble with this book as I did with her first novel. She's set both books in Ireland, but the words and phrases her characters use are by and large American, not Irish. Luckily, her stories are interesting enough to make me forget. :)

#22 dirac

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Posted 31 July 2009 - 02:40 PM

Thanks, vagansmom. I really don't read enough fiction these days, so it's good to hear from those who do.

#23 Helene

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Posted 02 August 2009 - 12:12 PM

So far,

The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (Bacevich)
Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free (Pierce)
Assassination Vacation (Vowell)
Bad Mother: (Waldman)
Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and America (Tough)
Red and Me (Russell and Steinberg)
In Defense of Food (Pollan)
My bi-annual re-read of Middlemarch (Eliot), stretching it out until it was gossamer

I haven't been able to get into Sidney Poitier's memoir, The Measure of a Man, and I've skipped to Mark Twain, although I may try to read Julie and Julia before I see the movie next Saturday.

This Kindle will be the financial ruin of me :lol:

#24 Giannina

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Posted 02 August 2009 - 01:24 PM

Bart and I had an exchange on another reading thread about Christopher Hibbert and his history books. I am now reading his latest, "The Borgias and their Enemies"; it's Hibbert at his best.

Have also read a couple of tomes on Renaissance paintings in London's National Gallery. The theme is a current passion of mine and the reading is delicious.

Giannina

#25 bart

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Posted 02 August 2009 - 02:27 PM

Giannina: you convinced me to keep my Italian theme going. I've just ordered the Hibbert from Amazon. Love those Borgia's! I hope he doesn't go overboard in de-mythologizing Lucrezia and turning her into a dull victim of the men in her life.

Having just spent time in 19th century Sicily with The Leopard, I'm heading off to the library in a few days to get as many as I can of Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano novels, which take place in a contemporary Sicilian city. I learned about this series only last week when I came across a review of the 10th Montalbano book -- August Heat -- but I'll start with the first and try to proceed in order.

Sicily may not be all that different from south Florida, where I now live. They seem to share hot and sultry summers, seering sunlight, baroque extremes of wealth and poverty, political corruption, a propensity for violence, and an unending parade of loony and sometimes dangerous characters.

In the meantime, I have just begun Umberto Eco's picaresque novel Baudolino. The main character is a polymath and teller of tall tales who seems to have met -- and given advice to -- just about major historical figure in late 12th century Europe and the Middle East (3rd and 4th Crusades), and to have participated first-hand in every political, artistic, and intellectual development.

"... everyone hung on my lips. If I felt like saying I had seen a sea siren -- after the emperor had brought me there as one who saw saints -- they all believed me and said good boy, good boy."

"This must have taught you to weigh your words."

"On the contrary, it taught me not to weigh them. After all, I thought, whatever I say is true because I said it."



#26 dirac

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 02:18 PM

Currently dipping into Hunting Eichmann, two biographies of Roger Casement, and The Real Nureyev.

#27 Helene

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Posted 16 August 2009 - 10:53 PM

I picked up Sidney Poitier's "The Measure of a Man", and liked it a lot more this time. I also read "Julie and Julia" (Powell) which I found annoying, but not nearly as annoying as how the film sanitized the Julie character, and I just finished "A Most Wanted Man" (LeCarre), which I'd been hoping to read for a while.

#28 bart

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Posted 17 August 2009 - 03:23 AM

I've just finished a number of titles in the Inspector Montalbano series by Andea Camilleri (mentioned above). I can't remember when I last read a police procedural series in which (a) I felt real suspense about how the plot would turn out and (b) I actually went back to re-read episodes or bits of dialogue that turned out to be important to the solution of the crime(s).

I have found myself "living" in the small-city southern Sicilian setting and among the characters, remembering when they last appeared and looking forward to meeting some of them again. There's a certain amount of plot repetition, and there has been a tendency for things to get a little baroque in the later novels. Also, Montalbano is committed to an improbable long-distance relationship with a woman in Genoa. Otherwise, I can understand the international popularity of the character and the stories. (There are "Montalbano tours" in Sicily just like there are "Gattopardo" tours.)

10 novels are currently out in English. I'd recommend starting with the first (The Shape of Water) and working your way through more or less in chronological order, though it's not essential.

:sweatingbullets: Reading the latest, August Heat, in the middle of a south Florida August was quite interesting.

#29 vagansmom

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Posted 17 August 2009 - 09:51 AM

I am 300+ pages into A Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. I'm only up to Lincoln's 1860 inauguration, but it turns out to be an easy read, so I should be finished with it soon. I've always been fascinated by William Henry Seward's historical reach, and this is satisfying a lot of my questions about him.

Also almost done with a Julia Glass novel, I See You Everywhere. Very disappointing. I loved her first novel, Three Junes, but didn't think her second one was very good, and I'm disappointed again with the third. I don't think I'll read any future novels of hers unless they win a big prize. :( This one feels rushed and doesn't give me any insights whatsoever about anyone, and even if it eventually does, I don't much care about these characters anyway. :( It's a very quick read, though, so I'll finish it.

Contrast that Glass novel with one I just finished a couple days ago. Elizabeth Strout's Pulitzer Prize winning Olive Kitteridge is a terrific novel (in 13 stories) whose main character is someone I'd probably dislike intensely. Doesn't matter though. Strout makes me want to understand her, to root for her even when I'm cringing at her behavior, and to want to know how the book resolves her life. I found it masterful. It's one of those books whose aura sticks with you for days and days after you've finished it.

I've also returned to a nonfiction book I started a few years back, but never finished: Leonard Shlain's The Alphabet Versus the Goddess. It's about literacy throughout history and how reading the alphabet has changed civilizations by changing our brain structure. Shlain develops an interesting theory about literacy's effect on women's lives. Fascinating.

This has been a terrific reading summer for me. I've had the great luck of being able to arrange my work schedule so that I can sit on a beach at the lake and read for a couple hours every single day. I NEVER get that kind of consistent reading during the school year except for the books my students have as required reading.

#30 dirac

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Posted 17 August 2009 - 06:52 PM

Thanks for continuing to check in, vagansmom. Goodwin is a very readable writer, although also a notorious plagiarist, alas. I've heard nothing like that in relation to Team of Rivals, though.

Contrast that Glass novel with one I just finished a couple days ago. Elizabeth Strout's Pulitzer Prize winning Olive Kitteridge is a terrific novel (in 13 stories) whose main character is someone I'd probably dislike intensely. Doesn't matter though. Strout makes me want to understand her, to root for her even when I'm cringing at her behavior, and to want to know how the book resolves her life.


One of the biggest challenges a writer can take on is to make a reader understand and even sympathize with a difficult character, I think.


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