Author Topic: Unofficial What are you Reading Thread?  (Read 622850 times)

Salty

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Re: Unofficial What are you Reading Thread?
« Reply #2835 on: March 02, 2017, 05:21:53 pm »
I just finished reading The Conjure Man Dies, which is the first published detective novel written by a black man, Rudolph Fisher.

It's awful. It was written in 1932, so it is naturally rough since that genre hadn't quite had time to mature. It is certainly very interesting, especially from a cultural perspective. The plot itself is relatively interesting, if hackneyed and weird.

The problem with the book is shit like the scene where a woman is dancing in a club and the narrator points out that, "this young lady was proving beyond question the error of reserving legs for mere locomotion"

BLECH.

Fisher was a doctor, and his book reads like it. He uses way too many $10 dollar words where a $0.10 word will do, and he really likes to show off his keen intellect. It just comes off showboaty, especially for genre fiction. It was painful to read and I am glad I am done. Fisher might have gotten somewhere with a lot more time and effort, but he died from a botched stomach surgery two years after publishing.

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Cain

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Re: Unofficial What are you Reading Thread?
« Reply #2836 on: March 02, 2017, 06:05:48 pm »
That's one thing I always admired about Chandler's prose - it was simplistic on vocabulary, but clever as hell on imagery and simile. 

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Re: Unofficial What are you Reading Thread?
« Reply #2837 on: March 02, 2017, 06:24:12 pm »
I just finished reading The Conjure Man Dies, which is the first published detective novel written by a black man, Rudolph Fisher.

It's awful. It was written in 1932, so it is naturally rough since that genre hadn't quite had time to mature. It is certainly very interesting, especially from a cultural perspective. The plot itself is relatively interesting, if hackneyed and weird.

The problem with the book is shit like the scene where a woman is dancing in a club and the narrator points out that, "this young lady was proving beyond question the error of reserving legs for mere locomotion"

BLECH.

Fisher was a doctor, and his book reads like it. He uses way too many $10 dollar words where a $0.10 word will do, and he really likes to show off his keen intellect. It just comes off showboaty, especially for genre fiction. It was painful to read and I am glad I am done. Fisher might have gotten somewhere with a lot more time and effort, but he died from a botched stomach surgery two years after publishing.

I feel this way reading a lot of published journal articles from 40, 50 years ago. I'm like WHAT ARE YOU DOING WHERE ARE YOUR CONTROLS THIS ISN'T EVEN SCIENCE DAMMIT.

But, as painful as it is, there is value in reading pioneering work. Helps you know where your intellectual forbears were coming from.
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”


Salty

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Re: Unofficial What are you Reading Thread?
« Reply #2838 on: March 02, 2017, 06:26:15 pm »
That's one thing I always admired about Chandler's prose - it was simplistic on vocabulary, but clever as hell on imagery and simile.

Never read him, I will do so!
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Salty

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Re: Unofficial What are you Reading Thread?
« Reply #2839 on: March 02, 2017, 06:27:41 pm »
I just finished reading The Conjure Man Dies, which is the first published detective novel written by a black man, Rudolph Fisher.

It's awful. It was written in 1932, so it is naturally rough since that genre hadn't quite had time to mature. It is certainly very interesting, especially from a cultural perspective. The plot itself is relatively interesting, if hackneyed and weird.

The problem with the book is shit like the scene where a woman is dancing in a club and the narrator points out that, "this young lady was proving beyond question the error of reserving legs for mere locomotion"

BLECH.

Fisher was a doctor, and his book reads like it. He uses way too many $10 dollar words where a $0.10 word will do, and he really likes to show off his keen intellect. It just comes off showboaty, especially for genre fiction. It was painful to read and I am glad I am done. Fisher might have gotten somewhere with a lot more time and effort, but he died from a botched stomach surgery two years after publishing.

I feel this way reading a lot of published journal articles from 40, 50 years ago. I'm like WHAT ARE YOU DOING WHERE ARE YOUR CONTROLS THIS ISN'T EVEN SCIENCE DAMMIT.

But, as painful as it is, there is value in reading pioneering work. Helps you know where your intellectual forbears were coming from.

Yeah, that's definitely why I took the class. I thought of all the often unnoticed Black roots of nearly all American art and realized there are probably a lot of literary roots as well that just don't get taught or talked about.
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Cain

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Re: Unofficial What are you Reading Thread?
« Reply #2840 on: March 02, 2017, 06:41:37 pm »
That's one thing I always admired about Chandler's prose - it was simplistic on vocabulary, but clever as hell on imagery and simile.

Never read him, I will do so!

You should, Raymond Chandler is about the biggest influence on hardboiled detective fiction there is (only possibly being beaten out by Dashiell Hammett).  His literary style is interesting too - it's the written equivalent of a punch to the gut.

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Re: Unofficial What are you Reading Thread?
« Reply #2841 on: March 02, 2017, 06:47:39 pm »
I just finished reading The Conjure Man Dies, which is the first published detective novel written by a black man, Rudolph Fisher.

It's awful. It was written in 1932, so it is naturally rough since that genre hadn't quite had time to mature. It is certainly very interesting, especially from a cultural perspective. The plot itself is relatively interesting, if hackneyed and weird.

The problem with the book is shit like the scene where a woman is dancing in a club and the narrator points out that, "this young lady was proving beyond question the error of reserving legs for mere locomotion"

BLECH.

Fisher was a doctor, and his book reads like it. He uses way too many $10 dollar words where a $0.10 word will do, and he really likes to show off his keen intellect. It just comes off showboaty, especially for genre fiction. It was painful to read and I am glad I am done. Fisher might have gotten somewhere with a lot more time and effort, but he died from a botched stomach surgery two years after publishing.

I feel this way reading a lot of published journal articles from 40, 50 years ago. I'm like WHAT ARE YOU DOING WHERE ARE YOUR CONTROLS THIS ISN'T EVEN SCIENCE DAMMIT.

But, as painful as it is, there is value in reading pioneering work. Helps you know where your intellectual forbears were coming from.

Yeah, that's definitely why I took the class. I thought of all the often unnoticed Black roots of nearly all American art and realized there are probably a lot of literary roots as well that just don't get taught or talked about.

So true. And the really good ones are shamelessly ripped off without acknowledgement.
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”


Salty

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Re: Unofficial What are you Reading Thread?
« Reply #2842 on: March 02, 2017, 08:10:11 pm »
It seems The Conjure Man Dies was also an elegant deconstruction of different racial issues such as power acquired through Black people taking advantage of their own community, the exclusion of the working class, and the freedom that comes with bucking the dominant paradigm.

Who knew?!*













*Black people.
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Salty

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Re: Unofficial What are you Reading Thread?
« Reply #2843 on: March 15, 2017, 06:04:50 pm »
My last reading for African American Literature was "Black No More". It was incredible.

George Schuyler, the author, was a fascinating person. During his hey-day he was often referred to as "the Black Mencken" and he certainly exemplified what Mencken referred to as "the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos"

In the book, a doctor creates a procedure by which Black people can be transformed into White people. Skin, hair, and facial features are made White. It costs $50.

It is a satire with sci-fi aspects. It is easily one of the best sci-fi stories from the 30's I have ever read.

The main character seeks a White woman who spurned him, Helen. He goes through the process and after he find she is the daughter of the leader of what passes for the KKK, he becomes it's leader. You sort of have to be familiar with figures of the Harlem Renaissance to get all the brutal jabs he delivers to people like WEB Du Bois and Marcus Garvey.

What I love about Schuyler is, he pulls no punches, gives no fucks. A deeply principled contrarian and Discordian, IMO.

His solution to the race problems of America is miscegenation, which is amazing all by itself considering it was basically illegal.

Also, the book points out an often forgotten fact: few Americans have zero Black of Native American ancestry. The beginnings of this country was, uh, mingled. Can't wait to bring that up on FB some time soon.
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Re: Unofficial What are you Reading Thread?
« Reply #2844 on: March 16, 2017, 04:10:11 pm »
My last reading for African American Literature was "Black No More". It was incredible.

George Schuyler, the author, was a fascinating person. During his hey-day he was often referred to as "the Black Mencken" and he certainly exemplified what Mencken referred to as "the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos"

In the book, a doctor creates a procedure by which Black people can be transformed into White people. Skin, hair, and facial features are made White. It costs $50.

It is a satire with sci-fi aspects. It is easily one of the best sci-fi stories from the 30's I have ever read.

The main character seeks a White woman who spurned him, Helen. He goes through the process and after he find she is the daughter of the leader of what passes for the KKK, he becomes it's leader. You sort of have to be familiar with figures of the Harlem Renaissance to get all the brutal jabs he delivers to people like WEB Du Bois and Marcus Garvey.

What I love about Schuyler is, he pulls no punches, gives no fucks. A deeply principled contrarian and Discordian, IMO.

His solution to the race problems of America is miscegenation, which is amazing all by itself considering it was basically illegal.

Also, the book points out an often forgotten fact: few Americans have zero Black of Native American ancestry. The beginnings of this country was, uh, mingled. Can't wait to bring that up on FB some time soon.

That's one of the things I love about all the people getting 23 and me tests. Surprise! You're Black!
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”


tyrannosaurus vex

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Re: Unofficial What are you Reading Thread?
« Reply #2845 on: March 17, 2017, 02:15:59 am »
So I've just started The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. I remember watching The Power of Myth on PBS a lot of years ago so picked this up to reacquaint myself. It's well written, and it does a much better job than a lot of similar books at covering material from outside the western European traditions... BUT so far (I'm only into the second part) it seems almost comically male-centric, to the point of treating women as little more than props. I assume a few people from PD have also read this, so if you have -- does it continue this way or does it get better? If that's just how it is, do you think this outdated approach to the subject mortally wounds its conclusions?
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Re: Unofficial What are you Reading Thread?
« Reply #2846 on: March 18, 2017, 04:01:14 pm »
I haven't read that... now I'm interested in what people have to say about it.

I just started "Promiscuity", and so far it's pretty good. In chapter 2 the author ruthlessly excoriates evolutionary psychologists, which pleases me.

He has also made some really wholly unsupported statements about reproductive conflict and success, so I'm taking it all with a grain of salt. It was written in 2000, so it's still a bit mired in "The Selfish Gene" level thinking.
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”


tyrannosaurus vex

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Re: Unofficial What are you Reading Thread?
« Reply #2847 on: March 18, 2017, 04:18:17 pm »
I'm little farther along and the myopic male-centricity has subsided a little. He has given examples of female heroes, though not nearly as in depth. Most of the women presented in the book are archetypal. He relies way too much of Freud, but having written the book in 1948-49, I guess that's as close to modern psychoanalysis as he could reasonably be expected to get. I do find the overall direction compelling at least as a subset of historical/mythical storytelling, if not to the degree Mr. Campbell seems to think it applies universally. And even if the author himself is mired in sexism by default, he is able to convey his conclusions in a way that are [mostly] applicable to characters gendered otherwise. I mean, the "everything is a veiled Oedipus complex" nonsense only accounts for maybe 10% of the points.
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Re: Unofficial What are you Reading Thread?
« Reply #2848 on: March 23, 2017, 03:00:05 am »
Disclaimer: wow, this turned out to be a lot longer than I thought it would...

Finished The Hero with a Thousand Faces today. My first reaction is that I will have to give this another two or three reads before I catch most of it, because it's incredibly dense. Also, it's a few parsecs beyond my level of education in ancient cultures, myths, and psychology (even if it is outdated on the psychological front). That said, it's a decent introduction on its own to those concepts and for me anyway has been pretty enjoyable.

To my initial hesitation on the question of whether it was ridiculously male-centric, I am sure the case can be made that it is. The book is a deep dive into the history, purpose, and various forms of ancient mythology and how it relates to the human psyche and personal development. It is fixated on duality as the myths see it, the devolution from the divine One to the mundane 'everything else', so it treats gender as a fundamental pair of opposites for that reason. Although it goes to some length to insist on the necessary equality of the sexes, it still assumes there are fixed roles and attributes of each gender. To be honest, though, I'm not educated enough to know whether this stems from Campbell being some kind of chauvinist, or because the majority of mythologies around the world treat gender in that way. Do most mythologies and cosmologies assume such roles? (I'm not asking rhetorically -- I don't know).

I actually began reading the book because I read somewhere else that it has been a strong motivator for modern storytelling, especially in movies. Campbell's theory of "The Hero's Journey" is believed by some (now waning numbers of) people to describe a universal story formula that is followed by many of the most famous and influential stories from prehistory to the present. Allegedly, this has been boiled down to such a science by modern screenwriters that there are computer algorithms that can predict how successful a film will be based on how well its script adheres to this formula. So I was expecting a fairly straightforward description of that formula, with a bunch of examples for each station in the basic plot.

LUCKILY, the book's scope is much bigger than that. The Hero's Journey is certainly part of, and inseparable from, the soul of this book, but Campbell's aim isn't just to spill the beans on some formulaic method of writing stories. He is concerned with the genesis of myth itself and its effects on the human psyche through each stage of civilization's development. He follows a winding path through the stations of The Hero's Journey as a way of avoiding a long-winded treatise in historical order (I think). He ties many of the points to corresponding bits of psychology, which is where he gets into trouble with a few haphazard Freudisms.

The most succinct and useful part of the book (for me anyway) comes in the epilogue, after the end of all the tours through various creation myths. It was almost synchronicity for me because it hit the nail of my recent philosophical meandering right on the head as it described the loss of cosmic and mythological wonder through the maturation of organized religion and the rise of science and hard materialism to the top tier of modern thinking. The ultimate conclusion of the book is that the good purposes served by mythology and religion in the past -- to bind a people together in order to thrive in an often hostile world, first against nature, and then against competing tribes -- is no longer useful because we have now built a global community. Those old beliefs and superstitions now serve to divide us and keep us from recognizing the humanity in the Other. So what is needed, according to Campbell, is a new mythology and the plight of a new "Hero" that functions with respect to modern society, technology, and the self-centric way we now think of ourselves.
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Re: Unofficial What are you Reading Thread?
« Reply #2849 on: March 23, 2017, 04:39:15 am »
:mittens:

that's a really good review