What is everyone reading?

DerekMK

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No, no - forgive me!  I didn't make myself clear - nothing you said offended me in the least.  I was only pointing out the irony of my experiences in Russia (sorry, no experiece in Ukraine) of people that are fairly well versed in American literature (and even like it).  It's something I just can't understand - American literature is actually fairly popular (and I was really surprised to see a lot of younger people reading American and English literature - even the new Harry Potter! - in English on the metro) and then the same people turn around and say America is uncultured.  Anyway, I find it interesting how well even older Russians know American literature.  I guess it is just one of the great enigmas of Russia - right up there with why do Russians like dill so much and why don't they extinguish cigarettes before tossing them in trash cans... 
 

scamandrius

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Nyssa The Hobbit said:
I love reading classics.  Even as a kid, I loved reading what was assigned in lit classes.  :)
Bless you for that!  Trying to get my Latin and Greek students to read the plays of Sophocles, the histories of Herodotus or Tacitus, the epic poems of Homer and Vergil is, most times, very difficult.  I can't understand why they want to take a "dead" foreign lanugage and then NOT read what the Romans and Greeks produced.  However, I have had more luck getting them to read modern novels about Ancient Rome. Robert Graves' I, Claudius works very well for that purpose.
 

chris

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scamandrius said:
Robert Graves' I, Claudius works very well for that purpose.
Well, it helps that I, Claudius and Claudius The God are just great works in general too!
 

Heorhij

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Νεκτάριος said:
No, no - forgive me!  I didn't make myself clear - nothing you said offended me in the least.  I was only pointing out the irony of my experiences in Russia (sorry, no experiece in Ukraine) of people that are fairly well versed in American literature (and even like it).  It's something I just can't understand - American literature is actually fairly popular (and I was really surprised to see a lot of younger people reading American and English literature - even the new Harry Potter! - in English on the metro) and then the same people turn around and say America is uncultured.  Anyway, I find it interesting how well even older Russians know American literature.  I guess it is just one of the great enigmas of Russia - right up there with why do Russians like dill so much and why don't they extinguish cigarettes before tossing them in trash cans...   
I believe part of it was escapism. Another part was snobism, yielding to a certain fashion (for example, quite a lot of people from the "intelligentsia" was living year after year "keeping up with the Johneses," buying certain fashionable books for their home collection - and authors like Hemingway or Faulkner or Robert Penn Warren were always fashionable). But there was also this genuine love for learning and knowledge, and this deep-rooted respect for people who know things and who read.

Thank you so much for not taking the offence! Glory be to God. (Vot i slava Bogu. :)
 

EofK

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Heorhij said:
A few years ago, I was invited for a party in one of our university professors' house (he is now retired). I noticed that he had a rather large collection of books by Faulkner. But when I said something about these books, the host said, "Oh, I bought them some time ago, but I, of course, never read them and never will. They are just stupid. I tried a few pages and became convinced that Faulkner does not know the first thing about men. We are made in the image and liking of God, and in his writings, people are so ugly, so dumb."
I completely agree with this man.  :)  Seriously, though, my biggest complaint about Faulkner is that the man just didn't write well.  He has interesting stories to tell, but he does it in such a way that I lose interest.  For example, the first sentence in Absalom, Absalom is about three pages long.  For one sentence.  He also employs the "stream of conciousness" style of writing, which means he writes the first thing that comes off the top of his head, so you'll have a thirty page digression that's completely unrelated to the story.  If it does happen to be related, you'll be so confused by the end of it that there's no point in him telling it.  I gave up reading that book after the first twenty pages or so.  Made my head hurt trying to follow him.

Also, I very often hear from people who are considered intelectuals that this or that book should not be read, or that this or that movie should not be watched because they are "depressing."  :eek: I heard that said about, for example, Dickens's novels or Chekhov's short stories. On the other hand, people avidly read tons of the "self-help" literature, masterieces like Phil McGraw's... :mad:
That's so sad.  I love Dickens and Chekhov and, true, they do tend to be downtrodden at times but they have great things to say.  Dickens especially was very vocal on the horrors of industrialism.  Then you have "Dr." Phil McGraw who couldn't "self-help" his way out of a paper bag.  I think there is more to be learned (and worth more in the eternal) from the Dickens and Chekhovs of the world than from all the self-help garbage on the shelves these days. 
 

ytterbiumanalyst

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scamandrius said:
Bless you for that!  Trying to get my Latin and Greek students to read the plays of Sophocles, the histories of Herodotus or Tacitus, the epic poems of Homer and Vergil is, most times, very difficult.  I can't understand why they want to take a "dead" foreign lanugage and then NOT read what the Romans and Greeks produced.  However, I have had more luck getting them to read modern novels about Ancient Rome. Robert Graves' I, Claudius works very well for that purpose.
It would be wonderful to get to read Sophocles in his own words. Unfortunately, I don't have time to learn a "dead" language as I'm too busy teaching a "living" one (Spanish). My drama students, though, are reading Aeschylus' Eumenides next week, translated by Robert Fagles. It's a pretty decent translation from what I've heard; I can't read the original...yet.

Consequently, I'm re-reading The Eumenides this weekend.
 

Heorhij

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EofK said:
Imy biggest complaint about Faulkner is that the man just didn't write well.  He has interesting stories to tell, but he does it in such a way that I lose interest.  For example, the first sentence in Absalom, Absalom is about three pages long.  For one sentence.  He also employs the "stream of conciousness" style of writing, which means he writes the first thing that comes off the top of his head, so you'll have a thirty page digression that's completely unrelated to the story.  If it does happen to be related, you'll be so confused by the end of it that there's no point in him telling it.  I gave up reading that book after the first twenty pages or so.  Made my head hurt trying to follow him.
Well, I guess that's just your attachment to pre-modernist, essentially 19th century (Victorian and early post-Victorian) way of artistic expression. In a similar way, one can say that Sisley and Pisarro and Monet and especially Gaugin and Sezanne and van Gogh "did not paint well." :)

I was very surprised, astonished when I first read Faulkner (it was "The Sound and the Fury"), but then, later, I sort of "communed" with him, and at the end I was almost literally crying, shedding tears. Again, same thing as your impression after viewing Monet's canvases of the Rouen cathedral. First impression - weird; is it really painting, art, or is he kidding, playing a practical joke with me? But then you get used and finally it hits you like a truckload of bricks. :)
 

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Is anyone else an audiobook fiend like me?  I use audible.com and listen to books while I drive, relax before bedtime, garden, cook, exercise, and do housework.  Since I started this, I read about 20x in a given year the amount than I did in years past.

Im currently listening to:
The Disappearance of Childhood - Neil Postman
Snowcrash - Neil Stephenson
Do you! - Russell Simmons
The Coming China Wars - Peter Navarro
The Destruction of Jerusalem - Josephus
The Princess and Curdie - George Macdonald

Since Dr Phil McGraw was mentioned, I should say that "self-help" non-fiction genre is something I usually avoid and have usually not been able to proceed beyond chapter one...perhaps thats why i flounder about...but I have to admit I'm really am enjoying Russell Simmons - "Do you!".  He is the cofounder of Def Jam Records, the architect of Hip Hop, a practitioner of Yoga, a fan of Eckhart Tolle,  founder of Baby Phat clothing, husband of Kimora Lee Simmons among many many many other things).  If you have lived to see american hip hop culture birthed from R&B up until now, you may enjoy hearing self-help with framed in experiences with Run Dmc, Jay Z, Beastie Boys, and many more.

I should also mention that if you love children's books make sure to read all of George Macdonald, early fantasy writer who influenced Tolkien, CS Lewis and countless others.  My family finished Princess and the Goblin unabridged audio on our summer roadtrip and the one I mentioned above is a sequel.  Both excellent.  We got to take the 1.5 hour walk to the bottom of Carlsbad Caverns with Goblins, caves and strange creatures on our minds!  I recommend the two together!  Certainly a "trippy" road trip in those caves.  Helps me understand the aesthetic of the Golem cave story in the Hobbit too.

The Disappearance of Childhood is pretty fascinating as a parent, but Im not far enough into it to give much info.  This is my first Neil Postman book and I hope to read more.

 
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I think I should stay on this forum.  I just checked out another forum a few minutes ago; there were whole threads about the evils of Harry Potter and Dungeons & Dragons, that we shouldn't even read/play them as Orthodox Christians.  I had enough of that when I was in evangelical churches.  :'(
 

ytterbiumanalyst

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Nyssa The Hobbit said:
I think I should stay on this forum.  I just checked out another forum a few minutes ago; there were whole threads about the evils of Harry Potter and Dungeons & Dragons, that we shouldn't even read/play them as Orthodox Christians.  I had enough of that when I was in evangelical churches.   :'(
Heartily agreed. Glad to see you're going to stick around.
 

Ebor

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Heorhij said:
Nyssa, Asteriktos, EofK, Ebor,

I see your point. Yes, maybe I should not have asked my question without reading "HP" first. I was just wondering: there are so many wonderful books that are considered classic, and the American literature, incidentally, is definitely one of the richest in the world; but it's virtually unknown un-appreciated, untouched in the US (that has been my impression for years), while millions of readers are chained to Tolkien and Rollings.
I don't think that it's really unappreciated.  You hear about Tolkien and Rowling because of the new books, "The Children of Hurin" and "Deathly Hallows".  There aren't stories in the paper along the lines of "Kids reading E. Nesbit books"  or "Highschool book club digs into Hemingway"  ;)  Also, as a side note, I would say that "Deathly Hallows" is not a "kids book" as some would use the term (not you personally George).  It is not bland or only dealing with small things.

Meanwhile, the classics are often part of the school curricula.  Last year, our oldest in 8th grade read such things as "Midsummer Night's Dream" and another Shakespeare play, a YA (young adult) novel drawn from the Japanese "Tale of the Heike" (12th century) and, yes, "The Hobbit" (but he'd read it years before as well as we read it to him and his sister) among other books.  This year the 9th grade reading will be drawn from a list that includes "To Kill a Mockingbird", "A Farewell to Arms", "A Tale of Two Cities", "Les Miserables", "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman", "Farewell to Manzanar", "Of Mice and Men", "My Antonia", "Antigone", "Flowers for Algernon", "Cry the Beloved Country" and more. 

Meanwhile at home (where "we collect books the way magnets draw iron filings"  :D ) our children know of "Beowulf", "Canterbury Tales" E.Nesbit stories, Edgar Eager books ("Half Magic" is great fun), "Cheaper by the Dozen", Classic children's books like "Paddle to the Sea" and "Centerburg Tales", Science Fiction and Fantasy, History (for a summer reading report the oldest is reading "Sisterhood of Spies" about women in the OSS in WWII).  So I think that American literature *is* being read, but it isn't talked about in public as much.

A few years ago, I was invited for a party in one of our university professors' house (he is now retired). I noticed that he had a rather large collection of books by Faulkner. But when I said something about these books, the host said, "Oh, I bought them some time ago, but I, of course, never read them and never will. They are just stupid. I tried a few pages and became convinced that Faulkner does not know the first thing about men. We are made in the image and liking of God, and in his writings, people are so ugly, so dumb."
Ouch!  Well, as the old Irish saying goes "If we all liked the same thing, there wouldn't be enough to go around."

My father, who grew up on a dirt-farm in Virginia, greatly esteems Faulkner and I believe he has copies of all of his works (he also likes Thomas Hardy and many other authors). I think that Faulkner wrote of aspects of life in the American South that perhaps not all readers can fully absorb or understand. And that's OK. 

Also, I very often hear from people who are considered intelectuals that this or that book should not be read, or that this or that movie should not be watched because they are "depressing."  :eek: I heard that said about, for example, Dickens's novels or Chekhov's short stories. On the other hand, people avidly read tons of the "self-help" literature, masterieces like Phil McGraw's... :mad:
Phil McGraw is "Dr. Phil"?  I've heard the name, but I think I only saw him once when he was on Sesame Street that our youngest was watching with a muppet named "Dr. Feel" in a sketch about angry, happy and other feelings. 

Anyway, what those people say (they're really "intellectual"?!?) sounds really strange to me.  It sounds quite superficial in how they look at a book or movie.  It sounds more like they want to be insulated from real life or something.  Or that there is some kind of sense that their personal tastes should apply to all.

Younger generations seem to be so "virgin" about what every Soviet kid back in the 1950's-1980's knew by heart as classics. For example, Tom Sawyer, Becky Thatcher, Huck Finn - these names ring no bells here. Nobody seems to know, who were T. Mine Reid (sp.?), Fenimor Cooper...
A couple of things here.  In some times and places, there have been moves to get rid of books for various reasons.  "Huckleberry Finn" is one that stands out;  it has been challenged many times because for one thing, some people do not want their children or others to read a book with the "n-word".  They cannot see past the word to the message and story of how Huck *helps* Jim the slave to escape to freedom.  Twain used the word because it was the common speech of the time.  I do not write it here because it would be inappropriate, but in "Tom Sawyer" and "Huckleberry Finn" it is.

Nat Hentoff, the columnist, wrote a short YA novel on this "The Day They Came to Arrest the Book".  In it a group of parents and students try to prevent "Huckleberry Finn" from being taught because it is racist, or sexist or violent or immoral.  It's a short read; I recommend it.

There's also the kind of thing that Diane Ravitch has written of in "The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn".  For some people, if they don't like an idea or a word, then it should not be allowed.  In other cases, people who don't understand what a writer is trying to get across or see the point of the story, try to ban it.  Some of the instances in the book are of a story about a blind mountain climber not being allowed because the review group said it is bias to say that something like blindness is a disability.  One that really annoyed me when I read the book was that stories about people who lived near mountains or the sea couldn't be allowed because children who didn't live in such areas would not be able to understand or identify with them.  I'm sorry, growing up in Montana, I read things like "Treasure Island" because it was about something different: the sea and ships.    I recommend this book too.

I apologize for the length.

Ebor
 

Ebor

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Nyssa The Hobbit said:
I think I should stay on this forum.  I just checked out another forum a few minutes ago; there were whole threads about the evils of Harry Potter and Dungeons & Dragons, that we shouldn't even read/play them as Orthodox Christians.  I had enough of that when I was in evangelical churches.   :'(
It's good that you could join us here, Nyssa.  :) 

Ebor
 

Ebor

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ytterbiumanalyst said:
It would be wonderful to get to read Sophocles in his own words. Unfortunately, I don't have time to learn a "dead" language as I'm too busy teaching a "living" one (Spanish). My drama students, though, are reading Aeschylus' Eumenides next week, translated by Robert Fagles. It's a pretty decent translation from what I've heard; I can't read the original...yet.

Consequently, I'm re-reading The Eumenides this weekend.
I feel the same way.  It would be nice to read some works in their original languages as well as in translation.  One such case for me would be to be able to read Japanese poetry in the original including the characters which have meaning.  This is where I wish there was such a thing as "wet-ware", an idea from SF that is knowledge that can be loaded into a human like a new software program in a computer.  :)  I recall one story about a man who makes his living by learning languages which make, as it were, programing or patterns in his brain. This can be then 'transplanted' to another person who then knows the language.  But this process takes the skill away from the protagonist and he has to learn it again for the next person.  Iirc, he's learnt Spanish several times.  In the story he's holding off the people who have come to take the 'patterns' to give to the customer who has to take an exam at gun point.  The reason he's doing that is that he wants to FINISH reading "Don Quixote" in the original language. 

Ebor
 

ytterbiumanalyst

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Sounds like a really interesting story. I hope the library doesn't do that to me; I find myself often saying, "Oh, it's only twenty cents--I've got to finish this."  :D
 

Ebor

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Nyssa The Hobbit said:
I think I should stay on this forum.  I just checked out another forum a few minutes ago; there were whole threads about the evils of Harry Potter and Dungeons & Dragons, that we shouldn't even read/play them as Orthodox Christians.  I had enough of that when I was in evangelical churches.   :'(
I just saw those threads yesterday.  Good grief! and also !Sigh!  There were some unfortunate examples of people not understanding what others (including J. K. Rowling) said or meant as well as some of "I haven't read them, but I *know* that what's there is evil/wrong." 

We discuss books and movies here mostly without such things, (and just to warn you, there are a number of Tolkien fans as well.  :)  As you may have noticed with my 'custom title' to the left. )

Ebor
 

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Indeed, there are way too many who judge a book without reading it.  I was told for years to avoid Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov because it's a book about a pedophile.  Granted, it is a little sickening to read since it's written from the pedophile's point of view but it's some of the most beautiful prose I've ever read.  Incredible craftmanship in those pages, despite the subject. 

I'm reading Dune again now (as evidenced by the new avatar).  I'm also reading/working through Stitch and B***h: The Knitter's Handbook and Knitters Rule! since I'm trying to get back into crafting things.  It's nearing the Christmas and birthday season (just about everyone I know has a birthday in fall or winter) so I figure I can make lots of cheap but fun gifts.
 

PeterTheAleut

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Nyssa The Hobbit said:
I think I should stay on this forum.  I just checked out another forum a few minutes ago; there were whole threads about the evils of Harry Potter and Dungeons & Dragons, that we shouldn't even read/play them as Orthodox Christians.  I had enough of that when I was in evangelical churches.  :'(
Totally off topic, Nyssa, but I love your choice of avatar.  I remember watching Sarah Sutton when she played the role of Nyssa in the Doctor Who series during the Tom Baker/Peter Davison era.  I grew up watching Doctor Who
 
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