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chairohkey

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@MikeW book recommendations!

 

+1 to The Book Thief, The Golem and the Djinn, and literally everything by Brian Sanderson (with the exception of the Reckoners series.  It's VERY YA and kind of annoying once you've read the wonderful amazingness of all the other Sanderson stuff.  It's not bad, but it's not...great)

 

As for my own recommendations hmmm... how to pick a list I don't even know.  Here's an attempt to consolidate some of my favourites:

  • Pretty much anything by Neil Gaiman, with the exception of the InterWorld series for similar reasons I don't really recommend Sanderson's Reckoners series.  My absolute favourite of Gaiman's is Neverwhere, very closely followed by American Gods.
  • Trevor Noah's autobiography Born a Crime is not fiction but it he is freaking HILARIOUS in his writing.  It's simultaneously educational (he grew up during and immediately following the apartheid in South Africa) and completely compelling and engrossing.  I actually only realized I learned so much in retrospect.  It's honestly my favourite book that I read in 2018 out of over 40 books I read this year, and I almost exclusively read fiction.
  • Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos (it's 4 books - Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, The Rise of Endymion). It's pretty heavy futuristic sci fi (like there's an established interconnected civilization all across the universe) boarding on fantasy, the first two books are VERY loosely based on/inspired by the Canterbury Tales. One of my favourite series of all time.
  • Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood.  It's actually a series of three books but the first one does stand on its own if you don't want to read all three.  It's a post-apocalyptic story with flashbacks to a the dystopian society that existed pre-apocalypse and describes the downfall of civilization and the aftermath from the POV of someone who was there with a front row seat to see exactly how it happened.  It's simultaneously pretty sweeping in its overview of the world and very personal with great character development in terms of the way it describes it all which I think makes it really unique and effective.
  • Stephen King's Dark Tower Series.  OMG AHHH.  I can't even write the name of the series without squeeing. This is tied with the Hyperion Cantos as my favourite series of all time. It legitimately fundamentally changed the way I approach books and reading. I don't even know how to describe it to do it justice beyond saying it's a genre defying western styled steam punk futuristic fantasy sci fi. It's 7 books long though so it is kind of a commitment.  I will say you don't need to be a fan of King at all to enjoy it, it's completely and totally different from his other books.  I actually only started reading more King after and because of reading the Dark Tower books - I had pretty much discounted him as a James Patterson type prior to that, but that really couldn't be farther from the truth.
  • Christopher Moore has some great stuff - personal favourites being Fool (a seriously hilarious parody on the King Lear story) and Fluke.  He's a comedic writer (wikipedia says its "absurdist fantasy fiction") so his books are definitely more light hearted than basically everything else on my list so far. But that's not to say they aren't great stories with really wonderful characters. One of his writings best features is how relatable his main characters tend to be, even as the world goes completely insane around them.
  • Dune by Frank Herbert.  Classic sci-fi, lives up to the hype.  I read the entire series but you can 100% definitely stop after Dune and I honestly kind of recommend you do XD
  • The Wayward Pines series by Blake Crouch.  Super fast paced suspenseful sci fi.  Dark Matter by the same author is similarly action packed fast paced suspense and really good "light" sci fi (ie science is more of a plot device and doesn't go to extremes to explain any of it or take itself too seriously with the accuracy). All of those are pretty quick reads, mostly because you probably won't be able to put them down (the suspense is unbearable) plus the writing isn't dense, they are extremely readable.
  • Lock In by John Scalzi.  A not-too-far-in-the-future murder mystery with a cool technological twist. Super solid plot, not too deep if you're not up for an intense kind of book.
  • The Queendom of Sol series by Wil McCarthy (The Collapsium, The Wellstone, Lost in Transmission, To Crush the Moon).  This is VERY "hard" sci fi, like there's a glossary of technical stuff in the back, and it was written by a physicist in his spare time basically.  But the plot is incredible and has some really intriguing concepts about the implications of quantum technology, the meaning of self, and the future of human-kind and I find myself thinking about it often even though I read them many many years ago. Being a physicist myself a lot of this really resonated with me, but my non-science friend I recently lent them to also really enjoyed them.
  • The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey.  Probably wouldn't make my top 10 list but is still a great book with a really interesting and fresh take on the zombie genre.  The ending has a great payoff imho.
  • Viscious by Victoria Schwab.  A pretty cool take on the superhero genre in a very non-DC/Marvel way.  And her writing is pretty phenomenal. 

 

OK I'm going to stop now before I spend all day here hahah I could legitimately go on forever.

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Can support vicious. Great book. She’s actually just released a follow up that I’ve been meaning to grab.

 

also, check out her shades of magic trilogy. The first was clearly the best, and apart from the obvious finale setup, number 2 was great too. But the third I probably could have lived without except for the great end and closing of the loop she gave the series.

 

hank green’s debut novel: an absolutely remarkable thing, is great.

 

also, although it’s a slow read, the Farseer chronicles by robin hobb, but you can stop there, you’ll also have to read the live ship traders and the tawny man series. They are all a single connected story, well worth the read. I haven’t read the other series she’s tacked on since I read tawny man series, but not for lack of desire, only a lack of time.

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1 hour ago, Raxie said:

with the exception of the Reckoners series.  It's VERY YA and kind of annoying once you've read the wonderful amazingness of all the other Sanderson stuff.  It's not bad, but it's not...great

 I forgot about that. Yea, @MikeW, you can probably skip that series, although if you do feel an uncontrollable urge for superhero YA, it will definitely scratch that itch.

 

Also, if you need some seriously convoluted fantasy, you can always read Malazan Book of the Fallen Series by Steven Erikson. But be prepared.

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 I forgot about that. Yea, [mention=58078]MikeW[/mention], you can probably skip that series, although if you do feel an uncontrollable urge for superhero YA, it will definitely scratch that itch.
 


If you *really* crave superhero YA, try Renegades by Marissa Meyer.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
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I'll add another series: The Chronicles of Morgaine by CJ Cherryh.

 

It's a hard read, but it is an amazing amalgam of fantasy and science fiction. The main character is from an advanced civilisation (she has some neat technology and guns) BUT the book is written from her offsider's point of view and he comes from a medieval style civilisation, so all her fancy toys are described mire as magical than technological.

 

Plus it has stargates, body switching and neat bad guys...

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luckily most of these were already on my TBR list or I have already read them! otherwise 2019 would be looking like the year i never left the couch.

 

@MikeW yes get on goodreads! here's me: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/27753292-courtnie-marie

 

I second neil gaiman, VE schwab, Night Circus, and Kingkiller.

 

i thought I'd give you the books i rated five-stars but apparently i gave a lot more than I thought! i'm typically pretty stingy with those. but it wouldn't be a CM book recommendation without telling you about the Iron Druid Chronicles. Urban fantasy meets mythology and all the deities. Modern and super nerdy quips while you unintentionally learn about each pantheon of gods. His new high fantasy novel was fantastic as well A Plague of Giants

 

Good YA stuff I loved: Eragon , Knife of never Letting Go, The Raven Boys, and Golden Compass

 

Post-apocalyptic zombie/vampire novels with great science and religion mixed in: The Passage

 

non-sci fi or fantasy authors: Liane Moriarty, Rachel Carson, Karin Slaughter, and Fredrik Backman

 

books books books. i love books.

 

 

 

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On 12/20/2018 at 8:25 AM, Raxie said:
  • Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood.  It's actually a series of three books but the first one does stand on its own if you don't want to read all three.  It's a post-apocalyptic story with flashbacks to a the dystopian society that existed pre-apocalypse and describes the downfall of civilization and the aftermath from the POV of someone who was there with a front row seat to see exactly how it happened.  It's simultaneously pretty sweeping in its overview of the world and very personal with great character development in terms of the way it describes it all which I think makes it really unique and effective.

The trilogy as a whole is great. ^+1 from me.

 

On 12/20/2018 at 8:25 AM, Raxie said:
  • Stephen King's Dark Tower Series.  OMG AHHH.  I can't even write the name of the series without squeeing. This is tied with the Hyperion Cantos as my favourite series of all time. It legitimately fundamentally changed the way I approach books and reading. I don't even know how to describe it to do it justice beyond saying it's a genre defying western styled steam punk futuristic fantasy sci fi. It's 7 books long though so it is kind of a commitment.  I will say you don't need to be a fan of King at all to enjoy it, it's completely and totally different from his other books.  I actually only started reading more King after and because of reading the Dark Tower books - I had pretty much discounted him as a James Patterson type prior to that, but that really couldn't be farther from the truth.

^+100 from me. If nothing else, at least read The Gunslinger. It's the first book and it is phenomenal and you can definitely stop there if you want (BUT YOU PROBABLY WON'T WANT). Some of the middle books drag but I think about them all of the time all of the same. The ending (to me) also makes the whole series worth it. 

 

On 12/20/2018 at 8:25 AM, Raxie said:
  • Christopher Moore has some great stuff - personal favourites being Fool (a seriously hilarious parody on the King Lear story) and Fluke.  He's a comedic writer (wikipedia says its "absurdist fantasy fiction") so his books are definitely more light hearted than basically everything else on my list so far. But that's not to say they aren't great stories with really wonderful characters. One of his writings best features is how relatable his main characters tend to be, even as the world goes completely insane around them.

Christopher Moore is very absurdist and great. They're very easy to read and very strange and rich. :)

 

On 12/20/2018 at 8:25 AM, Raxie said:
  • Viscious by Victoria Schwab.  A pretty cool take on the superhero genre in a very non-DC/Marvel way.  And her writing is pretty phenomenal. 

VE Schwab is awesome. And like someone else above said, she also has the Shades of Magic series. 

 

Kurt Vonnegut is my favorite writer and if you haven't read Cat's Cradle, you're doing yourself a disservice. Slaughterhouse Five was required reading for most people, but also good to include in the list if you haven't already read it. 

 

Also, I highly recommend the Red Rising trilogy by Pierce Brown for... probably most people in this thread, actually. It's... let's see. It starts out as a mix of like Battle Royale meets Ender's Game meets Rome the TV series meets a soap opera? It's space dystopia class warfare. It's got great world-building, characters to root for, mistakes to make, layers and layers of complexity. LOVE, BETRAYAL, GRIEF, JOY. It's got it all! There's a 4th book out, but I haven't read it so I can't comment to its quality. The first 3 wrap up pretty soundly. 

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1 hour ago, raptron said:

Christopher Moore is very absurdist and great. They're very easy to read and very strange and rich. :)

How did I forget Moore?! A Dirty Job was my first intro into the contemporary fantasy and its still one of my favorites.

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First, let me concur regarding.  . .

 

Neverwhere

The Night Circus

The Name of the Wind

The Golem and the Jinni

 

Then I would like to add. . .

 

A Gentleman in Moscow (favorite read of 2018)

The Historian (assuming you've read Dracula)

Frankenstein (if you haven't already read it)

Cry, the Beloved Country

The Cellist of Sarajevo 

 

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On 12/20/2018 at 7:25 AM, Raxie said:

@MikeW

  • Trevor Noah's autobiography Born a Crime is not fiction but it he is freaking HILARIOUS in his writing.  It's simultaneously educational (he grew up during and immediately following the apartheid in South Africa) and completely compelling and engrossing.  I actually only realized I learned so much in retrospect.  It's honestly my favourite book that I read in 2018 out of over 40 books I read this year, and I almost exclusively read fiction.

I actually stealthily added this one to my audible because you mentioned it and I was a BIG fan as well. Dude is hilarious (obviously, he does make a living being funny) but like you said, I also learned a ton about South Africa and apartheid without feeling like education was being forced on me at all.

 

On 12/20/2018 at 7:25 AM, Raxie said:
  • The Queendom of Sol series by Wil McCarthy (The Collapsium, The Wellstone, Lost in Transmission, To Crush the Moon).  This is VERY "hard" sci fi, like there's a glossary of technical stuff in the back, and it was written by a physicist in his spare time basically.  But the plot is incredible and has some really intriguing concepts about the implications of quantum technology, the meaning of self, and the future of human-kind and I find myself thinking about it often even though I read them many many years ago. Being a physicist myself a lot of this really resonated with me, but my non-science friend I recently lent them to also really enjoyed them.

Oooh, I had no idea you were a physicist! STEM nerds, unite! (I majored in mechanical engineering before taking a hard left into business analysis and now slowly trying to steer my career back into something quite quant-heavy).

 

On 12/21/2018 at 11:04 AM, CourtnieMarie said:

I'm on it! It's not letting me add friends right now (I think it auto-added a ton when I signed in with my Facebook?) but I'll for suer be adding you and @Gemma (plus any other nerds who are on there and let me know) when goodreads lets me add people.

 

On 12/21/2018 at 11:04 AM, CourtnieMarie said:

i thought I'd give you the books i rated five-stars but apparently i gave a lot more than I thought! i'm typically pretty stingy with those. but it wouldn't be a CM book recommendation without telling you about the Iron Druid Chronicles. Urban fantasy meets mythology and all the deities. Modern and super nerdy quips while you unintentionally learn about each pantheon of gods. His new high fantasy novel was fantastic as well A Plague of Giants

 

Oooh, I remember you talking about Iron Druid before - they were on my to-read list (which was poorly organized and got lost) then, and they're still definitely on my list now (which hopefully I will not lose before arriving at the library this time).

 

On 12/21/2018 at 1:33 PM, raptron said:

Kurt Vonnegut is my favorite writer and if you haven't read Cat's Cradle, you're doing yourself a disservice. Slaughterhouse Five was required reading for most people, but also good to include in the list if you haven't already read it. 

Fun Fact: I've somehow not read MOST of what was required reading for other folks - I think my high school had a really odd setup for its English curriculum that lead to us reading a lot of ones other people wouldn't (I've read a surprisingly high number of authors of color for required reading) but also missing out on some of the classics. Example books I've yet to read: all of Vonnegut, Pride and Prejudice, anything by a Russian author (planning to start with The Brothers Karamazov, a Christmas present from my parents).

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23 hours ago, Mike Wazowski said:

Fun Fact: I've somehow not read MOST of what was required reading for other folks - I think my high school had a really odd setup for its English curriculum that lead to us reading a lot of ones other people wouldn't (I've read a surprisingly high number of authors of color for required reading) but also missing out on some of the classics. Example books I've yet to read: all of Vonnegut, Pride and Prejudice, anything by a Russian author (planning to start with The Brothers Karamazov, a Christmas present from my parents).


I was in the same situation - my English dept was pretty eclectic and I missed a lot of what I've heard others were required to read. My APE teacher was more inclined to assign the modern books that he liked rather than established 'classics,' so I had to read A Confederacy of Dunces and The World According to Garp. I am pretty sure I was too young for and 100% did not understand either of these, therefore thought they were capital-S-stoopid and I now remember nothing about either. I was supposed to read Silas Marner once, but I wrote the paper from the Cliffs Notes and got an A. (I did read Silas Marner as an adult and liked it.) 
 

On 12/21/2018 at 12:04 PM, CourtnieMarie said:

 

i thought I'd give you the books i rated five-stars but apparently i gave a lot more than I thought! i'm typically pretty stingy with those. but it wouldn't be a CM book recommendation without telling you about the Iron Druid Chronicles. Urban fantasy meets mythology and all the deities. Modern and super nerdy quips while you unintentionally learn about each pantheon of gods. His new high fantasy novel was fantastic as well A Plague of Giants

 

 I don't know how I didn't know about the Iron Druid Chronicles, but thanks, that sounds amazing! Totally on my list now :) 

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1 hour ago, Gemma said:

My APE teacher was more inclined to assign the modern books that he liked rather than established 'classics

Interesting. I am a classicist by nature, but I strongly suspect I am in the minority. I have no problem reading more modern books (I love Their Eyes Were Watching God; Cry, the Beloved Country; or The Name of the Rose, for example), but maintain that to read the reactions and responses to Western civilization without reading any of the things that created that civilization--good, bad, and otherwise--is a pedagogical error  (on the part of teachers/admin). Like I said, though, I think I am an oddity nowadays.  

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3 hours ago, Gemma said:

I was in the same situation - my English dept was pretty eclectic and I missed a lot of what I've heard others were required to read. My APE teacher was more inclined to assign the modern books that he liked rather than established 'classics,' so I had to read A Confederacy of Dunces and The World According to Garp. I am pretty sure I was too young for and 100% did not understand either of these, therefore thought they were capital-S-stoopid and I now remember nothing about either. I was supposed to read Silas Marner once, but I wrote the paper from the Cliffs Notes and got an A. (I did read Silas Marner as an adult and liked it.) 

Ah this is exciting - you're kind of my reading idol so it's great to know that I can not get exposed to a lot of classic literature in school and still come out ok (also, ready a midsummer night's dream WAY too many times thanks to disjointed curricula - at least once in middle and twice in high school, in the same district).

 

2 hours ago, Katerina said:

Interesting. I am a classicist by nature, but I strongly suspect I am in the minority. I have no problem reading more modern books (I love Their Eyes Were Watching God; Cry, the Beloved Country; or The Name of the Rose, for example), but maintain that to read the reactions and responses to Western civilization without reading any of the things that created that civilization--good, bad, and otherwise--is a pedagogical error  (on the part of teachers/admin). Like I said, though, I think I am an oddity nowadays.  

I can't believe my good luck! You're EXACTLY the type of person I've been looking for - what would you consider some of the must-read literary classics? I have a strong classicist lean (blame it on going to Notre Dame and maybe even more specifically taking a class on classical Architecture history) so I'd love to hear your thoughts on what books everyone should read to be well-versed in the things that created Western civ (good, bad, and otherwise, like you said). 

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On 12/30/2018 at 5:11 PM, Mike Wazowski said:

I can't believe my good luck! You're EXACTLY the type of person I've been looking for - what would you consider some of the must-read literary classics? I have a strong classicist lean (blame it on going to Notre Dame and maybe even more specifically taking a class on classical Architecture history) so I'd love to hear your thoughts on what books everyone should read to be well-versed in the things that created Western civ (good, bad, and otherwise, like you said). 

(Blushing) Awww. Well, my statement was theoretical rather than fully formed curriculum, but I can at least start talking about what I teach, what I have taught, what I have read, and why I think those works are important/worth reading. Let me say as well that probably my favorite time is the Romantics/Gothics. This carries over into music and art for me as well, so if that part of literary history seems heavy-handed, I admit my bias up front :) Also, I must admit to an antipathy for American literature and history in general. That's not to say there aren't American novels on my list, but yeah, that part will probably get short shrift. WARNING: This will be a text wall, so I will probably break it up a bit.

 

Books I have taught and love teaching/thing worth reading in no particular order:

The Scarlet Letter (Nathaniel Hawthorne) - The setting for me is a turn-off. I grew up under the yoke of a very strict religious mother who sent me to a religious school that I would go so far as to call maniacal (I am religious, btw. This is not a condemnation of all private or religious schooling. I loved the Catholic high school that I graduated from.), so to open the book in a self-righteous Puritanical (literally) society was a rough start for me. Also, in true Romantic fashion, Hawthorne can get carried away with descriptions which some of my kids have struggled with. BUT the novel is a study of the effects of guilt and vengeance on the human soul, and in my opinion, it is very perceptive. It is worth a read and a reread! 

Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoevsky) - Since we started with guilt, we will just keep on that theme for a moment. This book is very psychological. Rodion (star character) has imbibed what amounts to Nietzschean philosophy regarding the Ubermensch in his college studies, and he has decided that he is, in fact, one of these privileged beings, so he murders a pawnbroker who is, truth be told, not a pleasant character. Much to Rodion's surprise, however, he DOES struggle with guilt. Much of the book is Rodion trying to hide his crime, paranoid that others can see his guilt, and the police officer (forget his name at the moment) who knows Rodion is guilty but can't find the evidence, trying to expose it. The cast of characters is, like every Russian novel I have read, prodigious, so taking notes in the front flap of the book is recommended. Moscow's hot, crowded streets at the opening of the novel will feel stifling, and the fact that the novel is so very "internal" may feel a bit claustrophobic as well at times, but again, so very worth it!

To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee): Ok, you may very well have already read this--it is an American classic that, unlike The Scarlet Letter or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is an easy read. The novel takes place in Alabama during the Great Depression. As you might guess, racism is a major driving force in the novel. The book is frankly heartbreaking, but that is part of the point, I think. Scout's (narrator) father is one of my favorite characters in all of literature. Gregory Peck's portrayal of him didn't hurt this impression ;)

Macbeth (Shakespeare) - The whole crime thing is working for me--lol. This is my favorite Shakespearean tragedy, and what's not to love? Witches and murder and guilt, oh my! What I love about this play is the way the "weird sisters" mislead Macbeth while telling the truth, strictly speaking. I find that a lesson worth paying close attention to. This one is a study in the potential ugliness of ambition though guilt plays a minor role via Lady Macbeth. And omg, watch Judy Dench's portrayal of Lady Macbeth's prayer to the powers of darkness (preferably after reading the scene). I bow before Dench's awesomeness :)

Frankenstein (Mary Shelley) - This novel addresses inappropriate ambition as well, but in a drastically different way. Rather than lusting for political power, the title character chases power over nature. Like Macbeth, however, Frankenstein's descent into evil begins with a lack of empathy for those around him. The sensitivity of the inchoate creature juxtaposed with the empathetic flatlining of his educated creator says a lot about what education ought to mean. 

A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens) - The setting for this novel is the French Revolution. (My thesis focused obliquely on this event, and that helps immensely in reading the book. While the book is a novel, it is rife with historical references that would be easy to miss. Missing the references will not damage your enjoyment of the story, but I will say, take a lot of Dickens' descriptions very seriously because most of the hair-raising parts are absolutely factual.) Here's a supplement to make my point: http://oldsite.english.ucsb.edu/faculty/ayliu/research/around-1800/FR/times-9-10-1792.html This novel also examines vengeance; indeed, one of the things I like to discuss with the kids is the point at which the character who is so desperately seeking revenge for a horrible crime against family becomes unsympathetic. 

Julius Caesar (Shakespeare) - A meditation on friendship, honor, and ambition with Stoic philosophy thrown in just for fun. One thing I like to talk to the kids about is why the play is titled "Julius Caesar" when Caesar is dead before the end of Act III. This is a very "macho" play in the sense that the world is violent and the women make cameo appearances but are weak influences rather than significant parts of the story. In terms of influence and strength of character, I would love to discuss Portia vs. Lady Macbeth. (This will never happen for me because of when the plays are taught in my school.)

Taming of the Shrew (Shakespeare) - Ok, let's have some fun with female characters! This one focuses on gender expectations. I remember my college professor talking about the irony of the closing scene. Had she not pointed out that to read Kate's speech "straight" (rather than with a sly wink over the shoulder) would do violence to her character, I don't know that I would have thought about it at the time. 

The Brothers Karamazov (Dostoevsky) - I only got to teach this once, and in retrospect, it was rough even for AP seniors. The book is hideously complex, doubly so for its being steeped in Russian religious culture. But omg, what a ride! It's part mystery, part love story, and part theology/philosophy. Dmitry is probably my favorite character in all of literature because of this: "I'm a Karamazov... when I fall into the abyss, I go straight into it, head down and heels up, and I'm even pleased that I'm falling in such a humiliating position, and for me, I find it beautiful. And so in that very shame, I suddenly begin a hymn. Let me be cursed, let me be base and vile, but let me also kiss the hem of that garment in which my God is clothed; let me be following the devil at the same time, but still I am also your son, Lord, and I love you, and I feel a joy without which the world cannot stand and be." I think that is the best summation of the human experience I have ever encountered.

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PART 2

 

Books I have read and dearly love:

Cry, the Beloved Country (Alan Patton) - This one is set in South Africa's apartheid. I first read this book at 16 (school assignment), and I hated it. I hated it because I had a terrible time following the dialogue. But as an adult, I had no problems. I love this book because of the beauty of the main character: he models virtue in the classic sense ("manly strength" -- and I say that in the best sense of the phrase) in the face of injustice and terrible pain.

Les Miserables (Victor Hugo) - Another French Revolution book :) I love this book because it examines the powerful influence one person via one good deed can have on a life. (I speak of the bishop at the beginning of the novel.) I do recommend the abridged version; imo, the French are more given to carrying on than the Russians ;)

Doctor Zhivago (Boris Pasternak) - Yeah, I have a thing for Russian literature/culture. :) I am fascinated with the notion of the Russian soul that was posited by the Slavophiles (Romantics, Russian style: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Slavophile). In many ways, the title character of this novel represents some of those ideas for me. While the Revolution in all of its horrors swirls around him, he strives to remain true to himself (His name refers to the Russian word for "life."). I first encountered this story via BBC's miniseries (starring Hans Matheson, Sam O'Neill, and Kiera Knightley), and the miniseries definitely romanticizes the title character. In the novel he is much more human -- much more subject to the horrors that surround him. Yet while I love the miniseries iteration of the character, I suspect the novel is truer to reality in the sense of how much the human spirit can take before it starts to show cracks. 

Darkness at Noon (Arthur Koestler) - As long as I am going to bash on communism. . .This book was written by a disenchanted Hungarian communist. It is a fictional account of a Party official under Stalin's regime. The novel opens with the main character's arrest. The rest of the book has him reviewing his life, looking for where the Party "went wrong." Inescapably, this review is a series of betrayals, of friends and lovers sacrificed to the march of "progress." I had to read this one for a graduate Euro history class. I have occasionally assigned it as an independent read.

The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde) - And we are back to my beloved Gothic literature :) I had to read this at 16, too, but this one I loved from first sight. (Btw, if memory serves, Mike, you are from Chicago. Get thee to the Art Institute. Chicago artist Ivan Albright painted an iteration of the title character for a 1940s--I think--movie of the novel.) Anyway, the premise is that the title character is a young man who is absolutely beautiful to behold. For this reason, an artist has asked him to model for a painting. When the painting is complete, however, Dorian (under the influence of Lord Henry, a devil character who represents the decadence of the aristocracy) begins reflecting on the fact that he will age and lose those gorgeous looks while the painting will forever document his lost beauty. He makes a wish that he will retain his looks while the painting ages for him. While there is no flash and fire, it is implied that this wish is a deal with the devil. As you might guess, he gets his wish. The consequences are horrifying. 

Doctor Faustus (Christopher Marlowe) - Let's talk deals with the devil for real! This play focuses on a prodigy--a young man who has mastered all the licit knowledge of the world. Unable to bear not knowing everything about everything, Faustus decides to dabble in the occult. The devil, of course, is all accommodation, and offers a demon-servant to grant Faustus whatever he wants (He gets to see Helen of Troy, for one.) for I believe a space of 22 years, the close of which will see Faustus in hell. Hilarity often ensues. (Btw, he just looks at Helen, a choice I never understood. I mean, if you're going to gamble with your eternal soul, a glance across the room seems a rather paltry exchange--just sayin'!) Of course, the closing scene has him wondering about repentance. . . .

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2 hours ago, Katerina said:

Taming of the Shrew (Shakespeare) - Ok, let's have some fun with female characters! This one focuses on gender expectations. I remember my college professor talking about the irony of the closing scene. Had she not pointed out that to read Kate's speech "straight" (rather than with a sly wink over the shoulder) would do violence to her character, I don't know that I would have thought about it at the time. 

 

A number of years ago I watched a theater production where they actually did that. They performed that entire scene as if both Kate and Petruccio were completely sincere, and she meant every word of that speech.

 

And all of a sudden, my husband and I found that rather than watching a lighthearted comedy, we had actually been watching a disturbing story about a lively and opinionated woman who changes who she is, in order to escape the harsh way her husband treats her (treatment that was always border-line abusive, but now in hindsight was over the line). Kate "sees the error of her ways", alters her personality, and becomes the meek and obedient creature a good wife should be, from fear of what her husband might do if she doesn't. And that left a very bad taste in my mouth and completely ruined that entire theater experience for both of us...

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we had actually been watching a disturbing story about a lively and opinionated woman who changes who she is, in order to escape the harsh way her husband treats her (treatment that was always border-line abusive, but now in hindsight was over the line). Kate "sees the error of her ways", alters her personality, and becomes the meek and obedient creature a good wife should be, from fear of what her husband might do if she doesn't

 

I can totally see why that would be a major turn off! But either Kate is the spitfire we see from the beginning (in which case I would like to believe she'd murder Petruchio in their bed if he really was the a**hole he behaves as), or Petruchio is up for a challenge. Based on the risqué banter earlier in the play, I am going to go with the latter. Banter has no place in a dominance game; dares and challenges are for worthy adversaries ;) (Hope I am not horrifying anyone too much to say so.)

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15 minutes ago, Katerina said:

I can totally see why that would be a major turn off! But either Kate is the spitfire we see from the beginning (in which case I would like to believe she'd murder Petruchio in their bed if he really was the a**hole he behaves as), or Petruchio is up for a challenge. Based on the risqué banter earlier in the play, I am going to go with the latter. Banter has no place in a dominance game; dares and challenges are for worthy adversaries ;) (Hope I am not horrifying anyone too much to say so.)

 

One of the reasons it was such an unpleasant experience is because I watched a different production of the same play nearly 20 years ago now, staged and produced in a different country and culture (which I firmly believe matters). My very first experience watching The Taming of the Shrew portrayed Kate as passionate and intensely frustrated that she is always compared to her perfect sister and found wanting. Interactions with Petruccio went from wary and hostile, to friendly banter, to flirting, until the very last scene where the two of them worked together to openly mock the other married couples in the room. When the curtain fell, she was in the middle of demanding all the money he won in the bet, and he was trying to convince her to split it. That was hilarious.

 

Kate and Petruccio are my favorite Shakespeare couple, when they are portrayed that way, and the the local theater company kind of ruined that for me. :angry:

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the the local theater company kind of ruined that for me. :angry:

 

To hell with them then :) Side note: Speaking of worthy adversaries, if you've never seen (movie) The Thomas Crowne Affair, I recommend that :)

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