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What are you reading?

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I was looking at Salon.com's "What to read in August" item (link below if you're interested), and it inspired me to inquire of all of you what you are or plan to be reading for the duration of the summer. Don't be shy -- it can be a masterpiece, it can be beach reading. We don't make judgments here. :) Any recommendations? or turkeys that require public health warnings? Let's hear about it.


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I went and bought the book "Twelve" by Nick McDonell

I head read about him somewhere. He's 18 and a first time writer.

Piece of "fluff" but horrific. It's about a drug dealer amongst the NY private school set. I found the whole thing completely unrealistic, unimaginative and I was just saddened that Mr. McDonell is a product of the private school system in NYC. The fact that he's been made an overnight "sensation" had his book optioned for a film is also a sad commentary on today's world, but... maybe New York Magazine will do a feature on him soon.

Otherwise, Margaret Atwood's "Blind Assasin" was good fun!

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I always re-read in August. A corpse is nice, preferably on the premises of nuns, or academics. A little Rex Stout, or Ed McBain. Simenon. P.G. Wodehouse.Dorothy Sayers. Some years, Jane Austen. This year, Arlene Croce. And cookbooks, I read cookbooks. But Wodehouse is the best summer reading--the Blandings Castle stories. The sun shines, the breeze blows, the heart lifts, and the old prose improves, by association. Blitheness is all, in August.

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For my school's summer reading list, the honors students had to read A Separate Peace and Dandelion Wine. SP was extremely haunting, and although I enjoyed DW, I thought it odd it didn't have a plot except to describe the summer of a boy.

Just for fun, I've become acutely interested in Truman Capote's short stories, especially the ones about his own life experiences.

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Originally posted by Nanatchka

But Wodehouse is the best summer reading--the Blandings Castle stories. The sun shines, the breeze blows, the heart lifts, and the old prose improves, by association. Blitheness is all, in August.

"The Crime Wave at Blandings" must be the most satisfying story written in the 20th century. I enjoy Wodehouse greatly during the summer. And fall, and winter, and spring.

The books currently beside my bed are Borges' _Collected Fictions_ and a collection of Lord Dunsany. After reading a Dunsany story I often have ideas for music or imagine ballets. This doesn't happen when I read Borges. This surprises me, because Borges is by far the superior writer.

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Right now I'm reading 2 books, "Sophie's World" and "Kiss of the Spider Woman". You've probably all heard of Sophie's World. For me, it's a good introduction to western philosophy. I became interested after visiting Greece. The style and language make it easy to follow and still very interesting. Kiss... is by the Argentine writer Manuel Puig. I'm about half way through now. It's almost entirely dialogue which makes it fast paced and one quickly identifies with the 2 main characters. There are little stories within the main story, as one of the characters describes movies to the other (they share a jail cell). It's also been made into a play and a movie, though I haven't seen either.

I'd recommend both books.

I also went to the used book shop and bought:

~"Before Night Falls" Reinaldo Arenas

~ Diaries of Vaslav Nijinsky

~ "La machine infernale" Jean Cocteau

But I haven't started those yet. Has anyone read them and what did you think?

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I've just finished "Desolation island" by Patrick O'Brian (actually I had read several others in the same series which take place later, but that one was missing in the library): not one of my favorites, but it's still good to read about Aubrey and Maturin, and sometimes I found myself giggling in the metro. I'm reading "The three sons of Heart-of-Stone" by Mor Jokai (1825-1904), ranslated from Hungarian, which takes place around 1848 in the Austro-Hungarian empire, sometimes it's a bit melodramatic and also I'm a bit lost with some of the historical details, but on the whole it's very interesting. Also I've just started reading Julian Barnes' "Flaubert's parrot" (and now feel like reading more Flaubert).

In my reading list for the next weeks, there is Wilkie Collins' "Basil" (recently translated into French), Isaie Spiegel's "A ladder towards the sky" (translated from Yiddish),

re-reading some books by Edith Wharton and perhaps Raymond Queneau, and also some travel guides about Tuscany and Umbria. And cookbooks, like Nanatchka! :)

Paquita, several years ago I've read "Adios a mama" by Reinaldo Arenas and remember finding it a bit disappointing, but I don't know "Before night falls". I've heard some excerpts of Nijinsky's diaries (is it the recent uncensored version? In the previous version, some parts had been cut by his wife) in a public lecture by Redjep Mitrovitsa, and itr was extremely moving, some parts sounded very logical and "normal" and some others were really bizarre and crazy, also he seemed to be longing for affection and understanding so much... (But I admit being also a fan of Mitrovitsa, I think I'd be happy just hearing him read a phonebook.

:rolleyes: )

Tancos, it doesn't surprise me that Borges doesn't make you think of ballets: I love his books too, but to me they're generally so abstract that it's so different of the world of ballet for me...

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Thanks for the great question!

I recently finished "Beautiful Bodies," a novel by Laura Shaine Cunningham, which I enjoyed very much. It's about six women friends who get together for a sort of baby shower on a dark and stormy night. Not exactly an original concept, and not the sort of thing an old geezer like me is expected to read, but Laura Cunningham is a wonderful writer. For those who don't know, she is the author of two memoirs, "Sleeping Arrangements" and "A Place in the Country." I recommend "Sleeping Arrangements." It's about being brought up by a pair of bachelor uncles, and is one of the most unforgettable American books of recent years.

Now I'm reading "Seabiscuit: An American Legend," by Laura Hillenbrand. This book is No. 1 on the New York Times Paperback Bestseller List, where it's been for 18 weeks. It restores one's faith in popular taste that such a good book is a bestseller. Oddly enough, I picked up a hardcover copy in Saratoga last month at the Lyrical Ballad Bookstore -- a new book at an antiquarian shop. But what better place to buy a book about horseracing than Saratoga? Anyhow, it's a remarkable story, and it's not just about horseracing. Set in the 1930s, it's really a portrait of an era.

I have a friend who works for Penguin International who gives me advance copies of books she thinks I'll like. So next I'll be reading the proofs of "The Terra-Cotta Dog," by the Italian writer Andrea Camilleri (a man). This is the second Inspector Montalbano mystery to be published in this country. They are set in small-town Sicily, a milieu with which I'm ancestrally familiar. The first, "The Shape of Water," got a nice little notice in the Times Book Review a couple of months ago.

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My daughter and I have been reading memoirs of kids/teens around the time of the Holocaust. Two about a Hungarian Jewish girl who spends time in various concentrations camps (book 1) and then rebuilds her life (book 2). Of course, their titles and the author's name don't spring to mind. Another book by a woman who was a resistance fighter in Poland in her late teens. Her ingenuity and quick thinking really captivated me. And finally, "German Boy", about a 10-year-old German boy whose family flees the advancing Russian army. I was least sympathetic to the last one. For one thing, the amount of detail provided far exceeds what I believe a 10-year-old would take in, much less recall 50 years later. Second, although I wouldn't wish this kid's life on anyone -- and he was just a kid -- I have more trouble casting him in the role of victim. Third, when he finally gets around to protesting, at the end of the book, that he was just sick and horrified when he found out what the war was all about, it just feels like too little -- or maybe too much -- too late.

What I really want to get back to is "The Far Side of the World", MY next read in O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series. Estelle, I have to disagree with you, I really liked "Desolation Island".

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Treefrog, actually I liked "Desolation Island", it's just that I liked some others of that series even more! (By the way, I once sent a letter to my boyfriend via the Kerguelen islands: I just put a fake address in the Kerguelen islands on the verso, and his address as the sender's address. It came back with a stamped message "that person doesn't live at that address" about... three months later. So even if I will probably never go to that place, at least that little piece of paper did! :) )

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I just finished "Moscow Farewell"- by George Feifer. It is his account of a year he spent in Moscow in the seventies.... I enjoyed it immensely, although it was a little slow from time to time. However, I found his descriptions of Russian life very interesting, and he is a good storyteller.

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My reading these days is geared towards a visit to Tuscany I'll be taking later this year. Right now I'm reading That Fine Italian Hand by Paul Hofmann, a German who lived in Rome for many years when he was a correspondent for the New York Times. It's a general overview of Italian society, a bit dated as it was published in 1990. Next on my list is Vanilla Beans and Brodo by Isabella Dusi, a memoir of an Australian couple who moved to Montalcino, and the Insight Guide to Tuscany. I've read Insight guides for other countries I've visited and found them to be a very helpful introduction to their history, geography, and culture. I also plan to pick up my old copy of Janson's History of Art and bone up on Italian Renaissance art.

Estelle, I'd be interested to know which guidebooks you are planning to read. There are so many that the trouble is choosing one!

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Old Fashioned, I would look at Capote's "A Christmas Memory" if you haven't already. I think you'd like that.

I also dipped into Wodehouse this summer. This time around I re-read "Right Ho, Jeeves," which I recommend, especially for the episode in which Gussie Fink-Nottle gets tanked up on a combination of booze and orange juice to give out the scholastic awards at Market Snodsbury Grammar School. (Actually, the title might have been "Thank You, Jeeves." My only beef with Wodehouse is that sometimes his titles are a trifle generic, although that wasn't always his fault.)

I just finished Calvin Trillin's "Tepper Isn't Going Out," a novel concerned with one of the major issues of our day, hitherto largely ignored by literature -- that is, parking. If this were any lighter reading it would just float off the table, but as one who lives in an area where parking issues can get pretty intense, I enjoyed it.

I also re-read Wharton's "The House of Mirth" after a viewing of the recent film version. It's odd how even inferior movies can impose themselves on your imagination. I thought Gillian Anderson was all wrong for Lily, but it took several chapters before I was able to get her image out of my head.

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dirac wrote:

It's odd how even inferior movies can impose themselves on your imagination. I thought Gillian Anderson was all wrong for Lily, but it took several chapters before I was able to get her image out of my head.

Indeed. The same thing happened to me with "The Age of Innocence". Michelle Pffiefer (who I adore in some roles) was not right for Countess Olenska, a character I fell in love with years ago. But the visual/aural memory of Pffiefer in Martin Scorsese's adaption of Edith Wharton's novel is so strong that it can't be extinguished.

I am currently reading novels in hundred page gulps. I recently discovered Robert Wilson, a British author of literary spy fiction. He has written several novels but only two have been published in the U.S.

The "Company of Strangers" and "A Small Death in Lisbon" both take place in Portugal during the period from World War II until the Portugese Revolution of 1975. Border's was marketing "The Company of Strangers" with a separate wrapper that said "As good as John LeCarre or your money back." Great marketing, since LeCarre, of course, is one of the touchstones for this type of fiction.

Additionally "Anil's Ghost" by Michael Ondaatje, who also wrote "The English Patient". It is set in Sri Lanka during the early 1990s, a period of horrible chaos and confusion. Political, communal and ethnic violence were part of every day life, and two different civil wars raged. It is told from the point of view of a young forensic pathologist, a native of Sri Lanka, who returns to the island nation as part of a U. N team investigating political murders and disappearances. She has trained in the charnel houses of Central American and West Africa.

This type of fiction doesn't take the place of history but can make it come alive in unexpected ways. I know a bit about Portugal and its disasterous African colonial wars during the 1970s, wars which lead directly to the revolution. And I am essentially innocent of any knowledge of Sri Lanka, other than what I have read in the Times.

In each case they are nations on the periphery--the Portugese are aware that they are the westernmost part of continental Europe and that, along with the very long dictatorship Dr. Salazar, has kept them isolated, physically, socially and politically from the rest of Europe.

Sri Lanka is also on the edge of a larger and more powerful civilization and must make adjustments as it moves (possibly) from post-colonial rule to democracy.

Speaking of movies ruining books, I haven't yet read "The English Patient" and may have a hard time, since Juliet Binoche was such an indelible presence in the movie made from it.

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Farrel Fan wrote:

Now I'm reading "Seabiscuit: An American Legend," by Laura Hillenbrand. This book is No. 1 on the New York Times Paperback Bestseller List, where it's been for 18 weeks. It restores one's faith in popular taste that such a good book is a bestseller.

This is a terrific book. I read it after some rapturous reviews, my wife read it immediately afterwards. It gives a good sense of slice of the 1930s and how Seabiscuit and the men and women around him were seen as real heroes. If I remember correctly, there were more column inches in newspapers in the U. S. about Seabiscuit during one year in the late 1930s than there were about Hitler, Mussolini and Franklin Delano Rosevelt--or something like that.

You don't have to know anything about horse racing or horses to enjoy this book.

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I always have a few books on the go. Currently I'm working on Pilgrim's Progress . My U.S. history teacher thinks it is absolutly vital that we attempt it. I'm also reading the book The Design of Everyday Things . I hope to attack Sophie's World before school starts.

CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corp.) is currently broadcasting Orphan at my Door by Jean Little in installments. I'm making sure that I tune in everyday, since Jean Little is one of my favourite authors.

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Ari: actually, so far I'm just reading a basic "Lonely planet" guide, because it's the only one that I've found at a not too expensive price including also Ombria (and part of our trip- our honeymoon, actually : )- will include Ombria).

dirac, I didn't find that Terence Davies's movie after "The House of Mirth" was "an inferior movie", actually I was prepared to be disappointed as very often it's hard not to be when seeing a movie after reading the book, and as at first I found that the choice of Gillian Anderson was so weird, but really liked it, and found that Anderson was quite good (even if not totally suited to the character). At least the story wasn't modified, unlike in many movies after novels (don't tell me about the numerous adaptations of Féval's "Le Bossu", my childhood's favorite book... :) )

For "The time of innocence", it was the opposite: I had seen the movie before reading the book, so I couldn't avoid imagining the characters with the faces of the actors.

Ed, about Portugal, if you have an opportunity to see it, you might be interested in the movie "Captains of April" by Maria de Medeiros, dealing with the Carnation revolution of 1975.

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Estelle, I didn't mean "inferior" as in lousy, although the movie wasn't flawless and I didn't care for the Christianizing of Rosedale: only that any movie will be inferior when compared to the depth and social detail in the novel. But the movie is certainly no travesty, like the Demi Moore "The Scarlet Letter."

As for Gillian Anderson -- no, she's not bad at all, although I don't think she's the kind of actress who can carry a movie by herself, which she has to do here -- Stoltz isn't much help. Lily is a goddess. That's why all the men are after her, and why all the matrons hate her guts. If you don't get this across right away, all else fails. For the life of me, I couldn't understand why all those guys were so hot for Ms. Anderson, or why the other women were so threatened. And, at the risk of sounding catty, I thought she looked right at home making hats.

I agree with you about Pfeiffer, Ed, although I have no desire to extinguish the recollection of Daniel Day-Lewis. As for "The English Patient," you're not missing all that much, although it is very different from the movie in major respects.

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Anyone reading Ian McEwan's "Atonement?" I'm almost to the end, and I've just loved it. The language is just ravishing! It's almost the opposite of a page-turner -- not that it isn't engaging, and I've been just gobbling through it to see what happens next, but that the writing is so beautiful that I find myself re-reading passages just to enjoy them again.

I'm also reading Suki Schorer's "Balanchine Technique." I'm a big Balanchine and NYCB fan, so I love the inside look at his classes and style. But I'm also slightly disturbed by it -- it advocates a number of things that I've always throught were verboten. (Heels coming slightly off the ground in demi-plie in some cases, for example.) I guess you have to buy into and train entirely in the entire Balanchine style, rather than just dabble and borrow from it. Fascinating, but not really useful for someone like me (adult ballet student).

Next on my list if I ever get more time (ever wish the New Yorker magazine would only publish monthly?!) is the novel "Lovely Bones," which is getting raves everywhere. Story is told in the voice of a young murder victim, which sounds like it would be totally gruesome but supposedly is quite wondrous.

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I just started reading Salman Rushdie's novel "Fury". Like some other of his books (Moor's Last Sigh etc), the style of writing is so captivating from the very first few sentences.

Also, I'm currently reading "Balanchine's Tchaikovsky" by S. Volkov. Since I recently finished reading Tchaikovsky's(I guess partly controversial ) biography by Anthony Holden, it's interesting to see how Balanchine's views of the composer are much more kind and romantic, compared to ones by Holden, who sometimes appears to be judgmental and harsh (or at least very direct) in his interpretations of Tchaikovsky's traits of character. (I hope my English makes sense:eek: )

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I'm not a big mystery fan but couldn't resist "A Small Death In Lisbon" , a city I have often enjoyed. It's a long book, 451 pages in paperback, got really great reviews and I'm not looking forward to the end. Maybe I can find something else by Robert Wilson. At Farrell Fan's behest I just finished "Holding on to the Air" by Suzanne Farrell and Toni Bentley, and loved it.

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