dirac

Summer reading

32 posts in this topic

Hi, everyone. What are you reading this summer? Tell us about it here.

I'm revisiting Shelby Foote's "The Civil War," a multilvolume work I like to dip in and out of. (I have it in a collection of smaller volumes, not the three-volume version.) Anyone else?

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I'm reading Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. It is historical fiction about Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell, among others. It is the "sequel" to Mantel's prior novel, Wolf Hall, which I recently completed.

As an aside, Wolf Hall is being made into a BBC production starring Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell. It is scheduled to be broadcast on PBS in 2015.

I'm loving the Kindle which I bought earlier this year. It makes reading a book during my commute to and from work so much easier.

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My favorite books so far this summer have been the recently translated Maria Kallio murder mysteries by Leena Lehtolainen, Finland's renowned mystery writer: "My First Murder," "Her Enemy," and "Copper Heart." (According to the author bio, this series has been adapted for Finnish TV.) The protagonist is a policewoman/lawyer whose family would like her to drop police work. I'm hoping these continue to be translated into English -- they've been translated into other languages for a long time -- especially since these books are from the mid-90's, and she's published every year since.

I also enjoyed "Save Our Ballet" and "Balanchine's Dancing Cowboy," and I'm very glad I read Barbara Bocher's "The Cage."

I've put aside Daniel Pink's "Drive" to read "Alone," the new John Curry biography, which I'm reading very slowly. Reading about Curry is far from enjoyable -- he was rarely a happy man -- but I'm glad to be immersed in thinking about him. The opposite of the rather dreadful "Push Dick's Button" by Dick Button.

I'm also in the process of re-reading Lis Harris' "Holy Days," originally a multi-part series in "The New Yorker" about a year of (mostly) weekends she spent with a Lubavitch family in Brooklyn, and slowly pushing through Tito Gobbi's memoir, "My Life." So much had been written about living in Vichy France under German Occupation and about German artists and whether they left or stayed and how and why that it was interesting to read something about what it was like in Italy under German local control. It's a physical book, though, and right now it's sitting in another city.

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I'm re-reading Misia by Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale. I pulled it off my shelf, but I think it's now out of print. Misia Sert was muse to Renoir, Lautrec, Vuillard, Bonnard, Marlarme' and many more. Friends with Chanel, Cocteau, Stavinsky, Satie, Colette, and most notably Diaghilev. She knew Everyone and her Salon spanned both the end of the 19th and into the 20th Century. To read about that time and everyone involved is fascinating. Why this story has never been made into a film is beyond me. There isn't any part of her life that doesn't just literally leap off the page. Ravel's "La Valse" was dedicated to her. It's especially interesting reading for the time around the First World War. This book was originally published in 1980 by Alfred A. Knopf. Well worth seeking out a copy from some used book seller.

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Amusing Ourselves to Death, by Neil Postman.

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Amusing Ourselves to Death, by Neil Postman.

I remember that. I should probably read it again. I seem to read everything again eventually. happy.png

I've been rereading (or re-rereading), a little at a time, Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov and Walker Percy's The Second Coming. I'm now reading, for the first time, Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage and, for a book group, John Steinbeck's Cannery Row. I recently read Julian Barnes' novella The Sense of An Ending, which won the Man Booker award in 2011. I'm slowly working through a collection of Auden's poems. For nonfiction, I recently read Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy. I want to reread Paul Tillich's The Courage to Be, and read all of Thucydides' The Peloponnesian War, which I only read parts of in school.

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I seem to read everything again eventually. happy.png

I love to re-read, which gets in the way of reading for the first time...

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I read Fosse. Took awhile - it's quite the book, and I kept looking things up on youtube as I read along.

:)

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I read Fosse. Took awhile - it's quite the book, and I kept looking things up on youtube as I read along.

smile.png

I imagine it could have just about doubled the time it took!

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Jane Gardam: 'God on the Rocks' and the "Old Filth" trilogy. Started to read the "Patrick Melrose" novels by Edward St.Aubyn --extremely funny and extremely cruel. Had to put them down. Has anyone read them? Jane Gardam is a wonder --very very graceful.

I read on my ipad kindle. When I get restless I watch ballets on You Tube. I'm an ipad addict!

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macnellie, I'm reading the Patrick Melrose novels now. It's no doubt that Edward St. Aubyn is a wonderful writer; there are places I laugh out loud and then cringe at the cruelty. These are characters that are not fun to be around but I will read to the finish. On the other hand Alice McDermott's Someone is lovely and I hated to say goodbye to those characters.

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Thank you Barbara! I know I'll hope back to them--I got caught by them immediately. I'll try"Someone..." never read McDermott.

Thanks again and try Gardam!

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Started to read the "Patrick Melrose" novels by Edward St.Aubyn --extremely funny and extremely cruel. Had to put them down. Has anyone read them?

I've read the first three "Patrick Melrose" novels and have been steeling myself for the final two. By "read" I mean "listened to the audiobooks," which worked well for these novels: the narrator was excellent and I suspect that I wouldn't have made it through Patrick's epic bender in "Bad News" otherwise. (I'm pretty sure I got a hangover by osmosis.) But they are excellent books -- and funnier than they have any right to be. I didn't much like Donna Tartt's "The Goldfinch" to begin with, but comparing Theo's East Village drug adventures with Patrick's made it seem like particularly weak sauce, despite its way too many pages.

While I wait for David Mitchell's new novel to come out, I've decided to read Lev Grossman's "Magicians" trilogy, since the final volume has gotten some very favorable reviews. I'm about 2/3 of the way through the first one, and I can't quite figure out who the intended audience is. It's a little more grown up in some of its concerns than your typical young adult novel, but doesn't quite feel adult adult either. I'm thinking maybe a bookish 19 year old who grew up on Narnia and Hogwarts, with a little of Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy thrown in? (Now Pullman's novels are some YA books that adults have every reason to enjoy ...)

But none of the new fiction I've read so far this year has really grabbed me as much as two new novels I read last year: Rachel Kushner's "The Flamethrowers" and Caleb Cain's "Necessary Errors."

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Martin Duberman's biography: The Worlds of Lincoln Kirstein. Massive detail; a comprehensive look at Kirstein and the incredible spheres he inhabited. Also, Varley O'Connor's The Master's Muse. I was highly skeptical about this novelization of Tanaquil Leclerc's life from shortly before her life-changing illness until after Balanchine's passing. But it was really good! I don't know if the events in it are true or not, but the writing is good and the story has an air of believability.

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I've read the first three "Patrick Melrose" novels and have been steeling myself for the final two. By "read" I mean "listened to the audiobooks," which worked well for these novels: the narrator was excellent and I suspect that I wouldn't have made it through Patrick's epic bender in "Bad News" otherwise. (I'm pretty sure I got a hangover by osmosis.) But they are excellent books -- and funnier than they have any right to be. I didn't much like Donna Tartt's "The Goldfinch" to begin with, but comparing Theo's East Village drug adventures with Patrick's made it seem like particularly weak sauce, despite its way too many pages.

Kathleen, I couldn't agree more with your comparison between St. Aubyn's and Tartt's description of the descent into drug abuse. I loved The Goldfinch (and Tartt's other books) but her description paled in comparison.

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While I wait for David Mitchell's new novel to come out, I've decided to read Lev Grossman's "Magicians" trilogy, since the final volume has gotten some very favorable reviews. I'm about 2/3 of the way through the first one, and I can't quite figure out who the intended audience is. It's a little more grown up in some of its concerns than your typical young adult novel, but doesn't quite feel adult adult either. I'm thinking maybe a bookish 19 year old who grew up on Narnia and Hogwarts, with a little of Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy thrown in? (Now Pullman's novels are some YA books that adults have every reason to enjoy ...)

Maybe I just know a bunch of geeky kids, but several high schoolers I know are deep into the Magicians books.

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Maybe I just know a bunch of geeky kids, but several high schoolers I know are deep into the Magicians books.

That sounds about right. I suspect that the Magicians books have the most juice if middle school is behind you, but the magic that Narnia and Hogwarts may have had for you is still fresh in your memory.

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Thank you Barbara! I know I'll hope back to them--I got caught by them immediately. I'll try"Someone..." never read McDermott.

Thanks again and try Gardam!

Read about the Gardam trilogy and immediately put them on 'my list'. Will read as soon as I'm done with Patrick Melrose!

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Martin Duberman's biography: The Worlds of Lincoln Kirstein. Massive detail; a comprehensive look at Kirstein and the incredible spheres he inhabited. Also, Varley O'Connor's The Master's Muse. I was highly skeptical about this novelization of Tanaquil Leclerc's life from shortly before her life-changing illness until after Balanchine's passing. But it was really good! I don't know if the events in it are true or not, but the writing is good and the story has an air of believability.

I too was pleasantly surprised by The Master's Muse. There's a spirited discussion of the book in the Writings on Ballet thread.

The Kirstein book also sparked discussion in that forum.

Great responses, everyone. Keep them coming!

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No Fixed Points: Dance in the Twentieth Century. Not new, either (2003), to continue in the negative, but it's wonderful to have these formerly unrelated individuals and companies, once more or less peripheral to my mind, set in perspective, not to mention a few pages here and there about projects I never heard of before but which read like they would have been a delight to have seen. That's because Reynolds has found for us, her readers, witnesses who evoke the quality of the movement they saw, if not the specific moves.

But she usually gives no hint what the performances would have sounded like, had we been there, omitting to mention even the composers' names, not that that would go far even in the case of less versatile ones than, say, Stravinsky. When something is so good, the lapses are the more conspicuous, by contrast. But what she does give us is so rewarding that it's a real page-turner, for me.

Major whoops! here: "Reynolds" is of course Nancy Reynolds, and the other author of this engrossing read is Malcolm McCormick. I don't know who did what, but the combination certainly deserves more credit than I gave at first.

Edited by Jack Reed

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I recently finished "The Good Soldiers" by David Finkel, and am about to start his follow-up book "Thank You For Your Service".

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I just finished Bill Jone's biography of John Curry, "Alone." I can't say I enjoyed it, because being in the company of Curry, especially as he channeled his inner Jerome Robbins, is not an enjoyable experience, and to his credit, Jones didn't try to make it one. However, I am very glad I read it and was immersed in his world. Curry is the greatest skater I've ever seen. I had heard about the Elva Oglanby book, "Black Ice: Life and Death of John Curry," which was quashed by the family after its release, but besides (still) being too pricey, it was much harder to track in the pre-Internet days, and I had forgotten about it.

Jones portrays Oglanby, who was trying to be Curry's manager during his creative ice dance company days, fairly, in my opinion. Jane Hermann, at the time the Met Opera's head of summer planning, comes across worse, through her quotes and her actions. Oglanby and Spungen took bit hits financially, with Spungen having to file for bankruptcy.

It was great to read the words of his biggest British rival, Haig Oundjian, and to see the parallels between how each felt himself to be an outsider in the eyes of the British figure skating establishment, Curry because of perceived effeminacy and Oundjian because of his ethnicity. I remember seeing photos of Oundjian and seeing him skate, or at least the excerpts shown back then, and I never realized that he had a hard time of it because of his background.

It was also great to hear from the people who worked for him, even if their stories were brutal.

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The New Yorker has a list of requirements for a good summer read –

I like a summer read to be only as complex as a white cashmere sweater with a whiskey stain on it ...

http://www.newyorker.com/humor/daily-shouts/pick-good-summer-read

My white whiskey-stained read so far has been Cesar Aira's new book "The Conversations" concerning an argument between two friends who meet regularly at a cafe. Their conversations usually have a high philosophical tone but one day they decide to settle another sort of question.

Why, in the movie both of them have just seen, does a rustic Ukrainian shepherd, played by a famous movie star (Brad Pitt?), appear wearing an expensive Rolex watch? Was this a continuity error – a long interlude on how Hollywood films are made follows – or was it a part of an intricate subtext? The narration slips, like a fugue, between this discussion, the discussion of the discussion, the movie itself with all sorts of crazy characters running around the mountaintops, and the narrator recounting all of this to himself at night.

And since there's a big Matisse paper cut-outs show making the rounds and Matisse is always something of a summer pleasure, I have been reading different critiques about his work, about how it all works and when it doesn't.

Unlike the Cubists who wanted to objectify the space between objects, make space as physical as objects, Matisse wanted to make the spaces between things as ambiguous as possible... Which made me think of the spaces in Ratmansky's Trilogy, how he loosens his reins on space, how he tightens them up; his "arabesquing" patterns and Matisse's. (One critic, Marcelin Pleynet, breaks Matisse's name open, Ma – Tisse, to become My Weaving-together.)

Another interesting difference is that with the Cubists, Picasso especially, is that it was all about touch – the touch of the hand and the guitar to be touched – whereas with Matisse it's about the eye, how the eye runs over things: and the goldfish bowls in the paintings are surrogates for the incessant activity of the eye. (Are there ballets with a scruntizing goldfish-bowl subgroup in them?)

In TJ Clark's delightful review of the cut-out show there is this quote from Matisse –

Matisse, who admired Monet greatly, thought constantly about the contrast between a painting devoted to pleasure and the agony involved in its production:

A man who makes pictures like the one we were looking at [he is writing to his son about Rouault’s The Manager and a Circus Girl, but no doubt also about himself] is an unhappy creature, tormented day and night. He relieves himself of his passion in his pictures, but also in spite of himself on the people round him. That is what normal people never understand. They want to enjoy the artist’s products – as one might enjoy the milk of a cow – but they can’t put up with the inconvenience, the mud and the flies.

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n11/tj-clark/the-urge-to-strangle

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Quiggin -- your descriptions (of the books and of the film) are all quite engaging, but I was gobsmacked by the url of the web link -- "the urge to strangle"

Now there's a cliffhanger!

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