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What are you reading?Summer 2010


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#1 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 14 June 2010 - 05:03 AM

Revisiting Markova's "Giselle and I" and Joan Brady's "Unmaking of a dancer". Just finished Dostoievsky's "The village of Stepanchikovo"-(what a delicious short novel!)- and revisiting again his "White Nights"...(read it many years ago, but in Spanish..)

#2 dirac

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Posted 30 July 2010 - 05:27 AM

I liked "Unmaking of a Dancer" althought it's an odd book in some ways. I think we have a thread on it somewhere. Joan Brady has also written a very good novel unrelated to dance, "Theory of War."

Currently reading "Woe to Live On" by Daniel Woodrell, about the Confederate bushwhackers. Excellent.

#3 Alexandra

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Posted 30 July 2010 - 11:41 AM

"The Reliable Wife," by Robert Goolrick, which is oddly distasteful and extremely compelling at the same time. (To say it's about a mail order bride in the winter of 1907 isn't fair, but it's a start.)

I had half-finished "The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo" by Stieg Lasson, when a friend demanded I put it down and read "The Reliable Wife" right this minute. I was enjoying the Lasson and intend to go back to it. It's wonderfully written (translated), a real old-fashioned curl up by the fire book. It's been 100 degrees here most of the summer, though.

I haven't read about Confederate bushwhackers since "Rifles for Waitie" backs in high school, and hadn't heard of this one. Thanks, dirac!

I'm on summer break and read dance books all year, so I'm trying to avoid them this month :) I'll be eager to read what y'all are reading.

#4 chiapuris

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Posted 02 August 2010 - 08:32 AM

Current reading:

1) Justice What's the right thing to do?
by Michael Sandel
Based on one of the most popular courses at Harvard, dealing with the big questions of political philosophy.
My book club's current choice; we discuss it next Sunday. Almost finished with it.

2) The Girl who Played with Fire
a novel by Stieg Larsson
The second volume of the trilogy dealing with abuse of women in modern society; the first volume is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
My reading during the London trip to see the Bolshoi and the Mikhailovsky companies. Halfway through it.

3) Naming Infinity A true story of religious mysticism and mathematical creativity
by Loren Graham and Jean-Michel Kantor
A fascinating story of a heretical sect of the Russian Orthodox church called Name Worshipping, and its effects on the famous Moscow School of Mathematics and its work on the nature of infinity - leading to the founding of descriptive set theory. The Name Worshipping sect had started at the Russian St. Pantaleimon monastery on Mount Athos, Greece in early 20th c.
Started reading it in London. Halfway through it.

#5 chiapuris

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Posted 02 August 2010 - 08:33 AM

Current reading:

1) Justice What's the right thing to do?
by Michael Sandel
Based on one of the most popular courses at Harvard, dealing with the big questions of political philosophy.
My book club's current choice; we discuss it next Sunday. Almost finished with it.

2) The Girl who Played with Fire
a novel by Stieg Larsson
The second volume of the trilogy dealing with abuse of women in modern society; the first volume is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
My reading during the London trip to see the Bolshoi and the Mikhailovsky companies. Halfway through it.

3) Naming Infinity A true story of religious mysticism and mathematical creativity
by Loren Graham and Jean-Michel Kantor
A fascinating story of a heretical sect of the Russian Orthodox church called Name Worshipping, and its effects on the famous Moscow School of Mathematics and its work on the nature of infinity - leading to the founding of descriptive set theory. The Name Worshipping sect had started at the Russian St. Pantaleimon monastery on Mount Athos, Greece in early 20th c.
Started reading it in London. Halfway through it.

#6 dirac

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Posted 02 August 2010 - 08:56 AM

These sound fascinating, chiapuris. We have a stand-alone thread on Larsson, here. Would love to hear your comments.



#7 Helene

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Posted 03 August 2010 - 10:17 PM

I finally finished Alex Ross' "The Rest is Noise". I found the infighting surrounding Schoenberg's music dull, but for me, the highlight was Part III: 1933-45, "The Art of Fear: Music for All; Music in Stalin's Russia", "Music in FDR's America", and especially "Death Fugue: Music in Hitler's Germany", which I found fascinating. I also like the next two chapters, "Zero Hour: The US Army and German Music" and "Brave New World: The Cold War and the Avant-Garde of the Fifties". What followed left me indifferent.

While I was poking through Ross' book, I detoured to "Tall Man: The Death of Doomadgee", a non-fiction work about the death of an aboriginal man in police custody and the trial/hearings of a policeman.

Then I went on to Jessica Stern's frightening memoir "Denial: A Memoir of Terror", in which she tells the story of the brutal rapes of her and her sister as teenagers, how she became a terrorism expert, and how she, with the help of some great police work, learned about the man who had raped them and at least 42 other girls, mostly in their own houses, and often with family members in the house at the same time.

On the opposite end of the spectrum was Sharon Oreck's "Video Slut: How I Shoved Madonna Off an Olympic High Dive, Got Prince into a Pair of Tiny Purple Woolen Underpants, Ran Away from Michael Jackson's Dad, and Got a Waterfall to Flow Backward So I Could Bring Rock Videos to the Masses", a very funny memoir of her years as a rock video producer in the pioneering days of MTV juxtaposed with her experience as a teenage mother/single mom.

I also just finished Stieg Larsson's "Millenium Trilogy".

I"m not sure where I'm going next, but I'm contemplating Irene Nemirovsky's "David Golder" -- I loved her series of stories, "Suite Francaise" -- but I'm also looking at two sets of DVD's for the sixth and seven seasons of "Shameless", "La Danse" is sitting on the shelf, and I can't stop myself from re-watching "Dancing Bournonville", at the expense of not having yet seen the Peters Martins profile in the Leth series.

#8 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 05 August 2010 - 12:19 PM

I'm currently working on Cuban-American author Eduardo Machado's "Tastes like Cuba", a story full of questioning on the subjects of exile, nationalism and sense of belonging. His fearless style and unbashed politicism in the face of dissent have made him a highly controversial figure to the Cubans and Americans on opposite sides of our long, intense conflict. From one of its chapters...

[size="3"][font="Comic Sans MS"]"We'd walk slowly up and down the narrow streets, taking in that treasure of a city. La Habana. Where every corner is a revelation and a contradiction all at once. Grand architecture and broken down bicycles. Prostitutes carrying their textbooks on their way to the university to study nuclear engineering. Military guards with machine guns helping little students in a fourth grade class in their crisp blue uniforms as they crossed a busy intersection. Poverty mixed with grand style. Struggle so full of pride..."[/font][/size]

#9 dirac

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Posted 07 August 2010 - 10:52 AM

1) Justice What's the right thing to do?
by Michael Sandel
Based on one of the most popular courses at Harvard, dealing with the big questions of political philosophy.
My book club's current choice; we discuss it next Sunday. Almost finished with it.



Sounds like a great choice for your book club, chiapuris - lots of food for discussion there. Let us know what you (and your club) thought of it.

#10 bart

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Posted 07 August 2010 - 05:11 PM

Yes, chiapuris, please tell us about what you and your group thought. I bought Michael Sandel's book on the strength of a couple of positive reviews (including The Economist) but I haven't been able to get to it yet. Apparently his course is the hottest ticket at Harvard.

#11 kfw

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Posted 08 August 2010 - 05:37 PM

Today a discussion with a friend led me to read a delightful essay from Wendell Berry's What Are People For? entitled "Writer and Region," which begins by discussing Huckleberry Finn and then opens out into a discussion of regionalism and community. I love Berry's fiction too, but he's every bit as much the great humanitarian in his essays.

This summer I read Alive at the Village Vanguard: My Life In and Out of Jazz Time, by Lorraine Gordon, owner and operator of the Village Vanguard, and widow of Max Gordon who first founded and ran the club. Gordon writes about early her love affair with jazz, and her first marriage with Blue Note records founder Alfred Lion, in which the two devoted themselves to the music, the musicians, and the label. She details her missionary efforts on behalf of the eccentric Thelonious Monk, but after that says relatively little about jazz until the final pages about her life as a club owner. She makes no case for this player or this historical period over another. She's no critic, but the anecdotes and stories are a treat.

Early on, Max's chief concern was the Blue Angel on the Upper East Side, a music and comedy club and apparently a hip high society place, which launched the careers of Mike Nichols and Elaine May among others. Lorraine's politics led her Moscow, Hanoi, and China. Max admired and collected paintings by Jacob Lawrence (a great favorite of mine). Dinner party guest Norman Mailer once got down on his knees and barked at her dog. Henry Kissinger climbed down the Vanguard's stairs one night and Lorraine refused to shake his hand; he then took a seat with Vaclav Havel. Best of all is the story of how Max asked Miles Davis to accompany a young woman singer, and Miles, "in his inimitable, charming way," and in his much imitated rasp, replied "I don't play behind no girl singers." He didn't, but Ms. Streisand quickly graduated from the Vanguard to the Angel, and even joined Lorraine in liberal activism before Broadway claimed her.

I also read David Hadju's Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn. I knew the basic story of how Strayhorn grew up in Pittsburgh, moved to New York to take a job with Duke Ellington after playing him a tune before a concert, and became an indispensible part of Duke's organization as a composer and arranger. I hadn't known that Ellington took writing credit for many things they wrote together or that Strayhorn wrote alone. It's fun to read about "Strays" first settling in in New York, very quickly becoming good friends with Ellington's son and daughter and moving into their family home in Harlem, furnished all in white. Everyone loved the guy for his warmth and his wit and his cooking. He was very close to Lena Horne, and helped her choose songs and develop her vocal style. She called him the only man she ever "really" loved.

But Hadju rarely shows Strayhorn and Ellington together and I didn't get a clear sense of what their relationship was like. And while "Sweet Pea," beloved for his sunny disposition, eventually began to resent being so much in Ellington's shadow, it's not clear why he didn't insist on writing credit, and had to be practically pestered by a fan club into playing even one concert as a leader. As he aged he became sad, in part due to love troubles, in part due to being gay before that was widely accepted, and he drank and smoked like crazy. When he died of cancer of the esophagus in May, 1967, Ellington was "virtually paralyzed with despair" and, if the story is to be believed, initially resisted going to the funeral, "because I don't have anything but my kissy-blue shirts." Fortunately Strayhorn had been laid out in a blue shirt himself, so Ellington jumped up and dressed, and at the funeral delivered the famous eulogy reprinted on "... and his mother called him Bill," the tribute record recorded a few months later.

This summer I also read Edmund Morris' Beethoven: the Universal Composer and Dickens' Tale of Two Cities, and reread Ernest Becker's The Birth and Death of Meaning: an interdisciplinary perspective on the problem of man, a book of behavioral science which I'm NOT going to pretend I'm capable of summarizing well, except to say that it lays out Becker's theory of human nature. Becker's most widely cited book is The Denial of Death and I want to read that too.

Right now I'm in the middle of Virginia Woolf's Jacob's Room, and, again, Robin D.G. Kelley's exhaustive biography, Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original. Monk is my desert island jazz guy. Kelley is an historian whose field seems to be African-American history, and while he has no style to speak of, the book is a sometimes touching read in that the reader can sense his love for and involvement with the material.

"I'll never forget the day I read a book.
It was contagious,
Seventy pages.
There were pictures here and there,
So it wasn't hard to bear,
The day I read a book.
It's a shame I don't recall the name of the book.
It wasn't a history. I know because it had no plot.
It wasn't a mystery, because nobody there got shot.
The day I read a book--I can't remember when,
But one o' these days, I'm gonna do it again." -- Jimmy Durante



#12 papeetepatrick

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Posted 08 August 2010 - 05:52 PM

kfw--you probably knew that Barbra was at the Vanguard last Sep., doing songs from the album 'Love is the Answer' (haven't heard it, that title is none too scintillatingly original). The Clintons and celebs, and some contest winners there.

Had just been talking to somebody about Judy Holliday getting her start there with Comden and Green in 'The Revuers' way back when. I haven't been in a long time, although it's just a few blocks over from me.

The only song I always associate automatically with Strayhorn is 'Lush Life', which Ellington could never have been depressed enough to write. It's a great and unique song, and jazz and cabaret musicians never let it go out of style.

#13 kfw

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Posted 09 August 2010 - 06:07 AM

Thanks for the info, Patrick. I do remember reading about Streisand's appearance last year. I love, love, love the Vanguard, both for its sound and its atmosphere, and for its history. It's Jazz Mecca.

Lush Life is a song Strayhorn kept to himself for years and only performed privately, and he was upset when it was first commercially recorded, by Nat King Cole. You can hear Strayhorn himself singing it here on NPR.

#14 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 06:50 PM

I just started "Secret society: Abakuá ", by legendary Cuban ethnographer of Afro-Cuban culture and exiled author Lydia Cabrera-(RIP). Abakuá is an Afro-Cuban men's initiatory fraternity, or secret society, which originated from fraternal associations in the Cross River region of southeastern Nigeria and southwestern Cameroon. The first such societies was established by Africans in the town of Regla, Havana, in 1836, and this remains the main area of Abakuá implantation, especially the district of Guanabacoa in eastern Havana and in Matanzas where Afro-Cuban culture is vibrant. Initially, the Abakua accepted only blacks as members; however, in the late nineteenth century the admission policies of the society were liberalized to include also whites, which was not accomplished without conflict.
I tried many times to witness one of such ceremonies-(knew someone who was Abakua)-, and almost succeeded, but at the end it never happened.


[font="Comic Sans MS"][size="3"]"The oaths of loyalty to the Abakuá society’s sacred objects, members, and secret knowledge taken by initiates are a lifelong pact which creates a sacred kinship among the members. The duties of an Abakua member to his ritual brothers at times surpass even the responsibilities of friendship; so the phrase, “Friendship is one thing, and the Abakua another” is often heard. One of the oaths made during initiation is that one will not reveal the “secrets” of the Abakua to non-members which is why the Abakua have remained hermetic for over 160 years and is considered to be the most repressed and misunderstood Afro-Cuban religious practice. Attempts to break this oath by a member would result in his physical elimination". [/size][/font]

Members of this society came to be known as nanigos, a word used to designate the street dancers of the society. The nanigos, who were also called diablitos, were well known by the general population in Cuba through their participation in the carnival on the Day of the Three Kings, when they danced through the streets wearing their ceremonial outfit: a multicolored checkerboard dress, with a conical headpiece topped with tassels.




#15 Rosa

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Posted 15 August 2010 - 10:20 AM

So far...

Nemesis by Agatha Christie
Villette by Charlotte Bronte
Rebecca by Daphne du Marier
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Babe: The Gallant Pig by Dick King-Smith
mY Generation by Josh James Riebock
Abigail by Jill Eileen Smith


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