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2012 books -- what sticks out for you?


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#16 Ed Waffle

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 06:11 PM

I am late to the Hilary Mantel party, having only finished Wolf Hall yesterday; I have Bring Up the Bodies requested at our library but may just buy the ebook and not wait for a copy to be returned.

After talking with and about the Occupy people last year it was time to read a bit more deeply into nonviolent resistance to state power which included Civil Resistance and Power Politics, The Experience of Non-violent Action from Gandhi to the Present, edited by Garton Ash and Roberts; Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict by Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan--it won some prestigious and (in one case) lucrative awards; and a bunch of stuff by Gene Sharp who seems to be a reluctant eminence grise to popular movements all over the world. I thought From Dictatorship to Democracy, Waging Nonviolent Struggle and all three volumes of The Methods of Nonviolent Action are particularly good.

Like a lot of people in the US and UK I enjoy translated Nordic crime fiction and managed to find a couple of new (at least to me) authors: Harri Nykanen whose Nights of Awe is the first of a series featuring Ariel Kafka, a Helsinki detective and "one of only two Jewish policemen in Finland". The other is Quentin Bates, an English writer who lived in Iceland for many years, wrote Frozen Assets, a police procedural and first of a four novel series. It has a bit of a "ripped from the headlines" cast, from environmental issues to the Icelandic banking collapse. He writes in English.

Broken Harbor, another harrowing combination of detective fiction and social analysis through the Dublin murder squad by Tana French--she is really good.

#17 sandik

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 07:49 PM

"one of only two Jewish policemen in Finland".


I don't know about you, but a statement like this always makes me wonder about the other Jewish policeman!

Thanks for the non-violent lit list -- I will look for some of these!

#18 Quiggin

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Posted 20 December 2012 - 12:57 AM

I am reading Woes of the True Policeman, Roberto Bolaño’s last book, about a fifty year old widower and college professor, Amalfitano, and his daughter Rosa who accompanies him on his travels. It written in short chapters which “oscillate” in tone between the comic and the strange and enigmatic. It is dedicated to the memory of Manuel Puig and Philip K Dick.

Amalfitano and his friends wander through the various quarters of the small Mexican town of Santa Teresa where he lives in a kind of academic exile. During their walks they discuss art (one of them forges Larry Rivers paintings for a client in Texas) and literature (another belongs to the Barbaric writers movement). In one chapter Amalfitano compiles his Notes from a Class in Contemporary Literature: The Role of the Poet, some of which goes –

Happiest: García Lorca
Most handsome: Rene Crevel
Fattest: Neruda and Lezama Lima
Banker of the Soul: T. S. Eliot
Whitest, the alabaster banker: Wallace Stevens
Worst house guest: Allen Ginsberg
Best movie companion: Elizabeth Bishop
Most fun: Borges and Nicanor Parra
Least desirable as a literature professor: Charles Olsen
Best Hollywood gangster: Antonin Artaud
Best Hong Kong gangster: Robert Lowell
Best Miami gangster: Vicente Huidobro
Best nervous wreck: Roque Dalton. Also Diane di Prima ...

Another chapter begins –

So what did Amalfitano’s students learn? They learned to recite aloud. They memorized the two or three poems they loved most in order to remember them and recite them at the proper times: funerals, wedding, moments of solitude. They learned that a book was a labyrinth and a desert. That there was nothing more important than ceaseless reading and traveling, perhaps one and the same thing. That when books were read, writers were released from the souls of stones, which is where they went to live after they died and they moved into the souls of readers as if into a soft prison cell, a cell that later swelled or burst.



Oh and in the book all poets are gay (except for a few Russians). “According to Padilla, remembered Amalfitano, all literature could be classified as heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual” is the opening line.

*

I have Roberto Calasso’s new Baudelaire book on order at the library, rather harshly reviewed by John Simon in the Times, who probably should not have been the person chosen to review it. The part I quickly looked at followed Degas tottering around Paris, old and almost blind, visiting old sites like the empty lot where his house had recently stood. In his new apartment all the paintings lean against the walls as if it were just a temporary abode.

Also am interested in Per Petterson’s books just reviewed in the New Yorker, very plain but lovely descriptions of things and situations of everyday life, no frillings. And I liked the stories in Don Delilo’s The Angel Esmeralda – from late last year – especially the one about an accountant in minimum security prison, who each evening watches his two teen daughters recite surrealist rap versions of news headlines on a cable tv network.

#19 dirac

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Posted 20 December 2012 - 12:10 PM

Hello, Ed, it's good to hear from you as always. Non-violent resistance is a fascinating subject. I have the impression that it works better in some cultures than others - there are circumstances where the opposition would be only too pleased to be able to mow you down unimpeded. Gene Sharp's name keeps coming up in my reading these days, I had never heard of him until Occupy.

I have Roberto Calasso’s new Baudelaire book on order at the library, rather harshly reviewed by John Simon in the Times, who probably should not have been the person chosen to review it.


I know what you mean. On the other hand, given the bylines one usually sees in the NYTBR, the Times probably doesn't have that many critics handy who can tackle all the literary and artistic aspects of the book, including the translation, and Simon can do that. (Review here.)


Mannered utterance often turns impenetrable. If you are given to labeling forbiddingly opaque statements with question marks, your margins will easily inherit 70 or more — many more if you are less forgiving. But first, let us give praise where praise is due. At his best, Calasso can be quite impressive, as in the following:

Modernity: a word that emerges and rebounds between Gautier and Baudelaire in the space of a little more than 10 years . . . between 1852 and 1863. And this was always done with caution, with the awareness of introducing an alien notion into the language.....


Currently reading Paul Preston's "The Spanish Holocaust," which is mainly about the Franco terror.

#20 Ed Waffle

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 05:37 PM

One of the points that Sharp makes is that the type and intensity of non-violent protest has to be appropriate regarding the regime that is being targeted--it can be anything from mass action to subversive work slow-downs. Whatever methods that are used in a rebellion--and Sharp's list is exhaustive or close to it--it all must be part of removing the consent of the governed from illegitimate (dictatorial) rulers.

#21 dirac

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Posted 24 December 2012 - 04:16 PM

One of the points that Sharp makes is that the type and intensity of non-violent protest has to be appropriate regarding the regime that is being targeted--it can be anything from mass action to subversive work slow-downs. Whatever methods that are used in a rebellion--and Sharp's list is exhaustive or close to it--it all must be part of removing the consent of the governed from illegitimate (dictatorial) rulers.


That makes sense.

Whitest, the alabaster banker: Wallace Stevens


A nice parlor game in the making, Quiggin. I wouldn't mind seeing a couple of movies with Robert Graves. Not to nitpick, but wasn't Stevens in insurance?

#22 Quiggin

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Posted 26 December 2012 - 12:39 PM

A nice parlor game in the making ... Not to nitpick, but wasn't Stevens in insurance?


Stevens worked for Hartford as a lawyer and dealt with surety and fiduciary bonds. One of his aphorisms is "money is a kind of poetry," and his wife Elsie is supposed to have been the model for the Mercury dime, so there is a bankerly connection. And he once wrote to his wife, from Fort Snelling, Minnesota, "the way the wind rolled in the grass was better than the Russian ballet, although not unlike it."

My favorite category was Best nervous wreck.

Bolaño madly categorizes everything. "That there was nothing more important than ceaseless reading and traveling, perhaps one and the same thing." could the mainspring of all of his novels.


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