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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Discussing Published Hooks & Books » What I'm Reading Now Thread (Page 21)

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Author Topic: What I'm Reading Now Thread
LDWriter2
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I read many of Piper's tales years ago. Not sure how many. I remembered I liked most of them. That was way before I started to write seriously and I don't recall his style now, so I can't compare it to what I have learned. I just recall that, as I said, I liked him.
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LDWriter2
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quote:
Originally posted by Robert Nowall:
Been awhile since I posted anything.

I did just read an interesting book. To Hell and Back, Audie Murphy. Murphy was the most decorated US soldier of World War II, and later an actor, who, among other things, starred in the movie version of this book, his memoir of his war experience. I picked it up because I'd recently picked up and read a biography of him.

But this was interesting in its own right. I was struck by two things: (1) his use of first person present tense almost exclusively, and (2) they way characters---real people, all---would be introduced, we-the-reader would get to know them, and they would be gone, killed. Brings home the nature of war and fighting---something I'm grateful that people like Murphy did and that I have so far in my life been fortunate to avoid.

Yeah, I agree that people like Murphy should be honored for their willingness to go through that.
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LDWriter2
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This brings to mind that I haven't listed many books I have been reading,

Right now I am reading "Trailer Park Fea" by Lilith Saintcrow. She has out one other series I am reading also. That one is dark and even though most of it is well done, bits of it can be confusing. This one is different even though the new world is still dark, I don't think it is on the same level as her other series. Her take on the Summer Queen while not completely unique still has twists and angles that are unique. It is a well thought out world with good characters and a surprise or two as you read.

A good read so far.

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by LDWriter2:
I read many of Piper's tales years ago. Not sure how many. I remembered I liked most of them. That was way before I started to write seriously and I don't recall his style now, so I can't compare it to what I have learned. I just recall that, as I said, I liked him.

I'd say most of what Piper wrote could be characterized as John Campbell-era "competency porn", where the hero sets out to do things and overcomes all obstacles by being just fundamentally right about things.

Stylistically he's very Campbellian in that the prose emphasis is on competent serviceability rather than artistry. For example one of Piper's favorite tricks is to choose an evocative name for a thing, give you a few details, and let your imagination fill in the details. For example on the planet Zarathustra there are herds of grazing "zebralopes", large flying animals called "harpies" that have leathery wings and sharp claws, and hard-shelled "land prawns" that crawl into your boots at night when you're camping and pinch your toes when you put them on in the morning. This is not very aesthetically compelling but it's narratively very efficient.

Most of what Piper wrote were short story and novelette-length stuff, but even in the few full length novels that he wrote his plotting was rudimentary at best. Most Piper plots take exactly this form: hero sets out to do something, and overcomes a series of roadblocks until that thing is accomplished. Forget about plot twists, in most cases the hero doesn't even face setbacks he can't immediately turn to his advantage. And antagonists while apparently formidable usually don't end up presenting much of a challenge. The exception are the Fuzzy novels, which are more complex. Unless I'm mistaken they're his only stories which follow multiple POV characters to much if any degree. FUZZIES AND OTHER PEOPLE, the final published of his Terro-Future History stories, actually has subplots and represents a clear advancement of his writing craft.

It may sound like I'm down on H. Beam Piper, but I actually love his stories. I think most true fans of sci-fi have at least a sneaking fondness for competency porn. But more than that, Piper's obsession with history gives his stories a richness they wouldn't otherwise have. The novelist L.P. Hartley famously wrote that "The past is another country: they do things differently there." Piper understood that the corollary is that the future must be a different country too, and he raids the past to create a future in which people do things differently too.

Piper comes right out and says that the home timeline civilization of the Paratime stories is a parasite upon other cultures. And although he doesn't say so, he must have been aware that the Space Vikings and the Chartered Corporations of the Terro-Future History universe are also to a lesser degree parasitic. It's not that Piper sees exploitation as good; he clearly depicts unmitigated parasitism as just plain stupid. It's more that he thinks that the process of building a civilization inevitably involves drawing a line between insiders and outsiders, and that the outsiders will always be fair game for at least some degree of exploitation, if not downright plunder. And the insiders either don't see that, or if they do take it as an unfortunate and unavoidable part of the way things are, which it is.

This deeply cynical view of civilization adds an interesting texture to Piper's stories. The neutering of that hard-nosed attitude is one of the objections I had to Scalzi's reboot of the Fuzzy books. Piper's Fuzzy books can be read on more than one level -- either superficially as a purely feel-good story or as layered with some rather disturbing shadows. In Piper's universe it's not the hero who's picaresque; it's the hero's entire civilization, which pilfers and robs on a massive scale.

It also rescues the stories from crude politics. I like authors to have a point of view, but the problem with flogging that point of view is that any points you score that way as an author tend to be cheap ones: it's too easy to win an argument when you can create outcomes to suit your preferences. And Piper goes there, although some of that may have been publisher-pandering. I wonder whether Campbell realized that he paid twice for virtually the same scene lampooning socialist politicians, once in the Paratime stories in once in the Future History stories? But as a history buff Piper can't help but make the socialists' opponents contemptible as well; serious and interesting people in Pipers' universe do more interesting things than debate whether some political philosopher's pet theories are right. In the long run it doesn't matter who wins the debate because no matter which way a civilization goes it inevitable dies and is replaced by a very different one.

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Robert Nowall
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Re: short comment about MattLeo's last paragraph: you guys do realize that these stories originally appeared months or years apart...a scene in one that's similar to a scene in the other might be forgotten or forgiven or just plain not noticed.

More thoughts on Piper when I get a little more time.

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extrinsic
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Picaresque: narrative portraying episodic adventures of a roguish protagonist, according to Webster's. John Gardner goes a step farther: episodes that expose the folly of social settings' foibles and absurdities. One mechanical feature (episodic) and a range of aesthetic features. The "roguish," "folly," "foible," and "absurdity" features distinguish the form as satire: exposes human vice and folly. Satire doesn't per se include irony, though irony is common place for satire.

H. Beam Piper's works certainly contain irony and undermine capitalist imperialism and is satire thereof. Scalzi's shortfall is a dilution of Piper's satire, substituted emphasis of the what is sapience question. Satire is really what Piper's intent is, though covert, is stable, raises the question of whether capitalist imperialism is vice, folly, and immoral. Noteworthy from dissent of Campbell's and a publishing culture niche of the era's capitalist-aligned stance.

In Piper's universe, such hegemonies cannot long stand because of those moral shortfalls, though also that the span of human civilization history demonstrates that immoral hegemony is natural, inevitable, and, though episodic, persistent; that is, when one hegemony collapses, another substitutes elsewhere (picaresque). Yet Piper's struggle to locate meaning in the capitalist-socialist contention falls asunder from under-realization of the "child body" problem inherent to capitalist and socialist imperatives. He scratches at the edges of the idea, though, in the Fuzzies.

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MattLeo
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Well, I wouldn't go so far as to call what Piper does "satire", but I think your comment is perceptive. Piper has the ferocious skepticism of a great satirist, but the hard edge of his writing actually comes more from genuine speculation on the future of the human race.

The reason the Federation government is doomed isn't because of its moral shortcomings; indeed Piper would tell you that in their ascendent phase civilizations turn their moral shortcomings to their advantage. He simply thinks that human beings don't have the capacity to keep anything running "like new" for very long. One day, like the very best of machines, the very best of societies starts breaking down. Eventually it's breaking down so often that people decide trying something else would be simpler.

So it's clear why Piper detests the kind of socialism that aims to build some kind of worker's paradise. But while he prefers capitalism, I don't think he'd have much patience with any notions of a capitalist utopia. Sooner or later the rot always sets in.

THE COSMIC COMPUTER (aka JUNKYARD PLANET) a father and son team organize a salvage company, ostensibly to find and recover a legendarily powerful computer left behind when the Federation armed forces vacated their headquarters at the end of a civil war. But they're actually scamming their investors. The scheme calls for building a few interstellar ships, which will do a little trading on the side to help finance interim operations, and that trade will become the tail that wags the salvage dog. They intend for their investors to get rich and for the planetary economy to be revived, but neither the father nor son believe the legendary computer really exists.

COSMIC COMPUTER is both a profoundly pro-capitalist book, and a depiction of a dysfunctional capitalist economy. On the planet Poictesme the businessmen aren't doing their job. They aren't taking risks and solving problems, they're just chasing after quick and easy money by digging up abandoned caches of war materiel to hawk to passing spaceships. What motivates the hero isn't getting rich. He wants the trash in the town square picked up, the public infrastructure put into working order, the idle men in the squatters camps organized, put to work, and the best of them trained and promoted to leadership positions.

This kind of communitarian capitalist was a familiar figure in the America of Piper's youth; in fact the prosperous provincial American businessman is a stock character for satirists like P. G. Wodehouse. He's a man stubbornly parochial in his views, but shrewd and often hard-dealing in his affairs. But above all he's a crashing bore eager to bend your ear about the magnificence of his town's library or the wonders of the municipal water treatment plant:

quote:
A very decent chappie, but rather inclined to collar the conversation and turn it in the direction of his home-town's new water-supply system.
(JEEVES AND THE HARD-BOILED EGG, P.G. Wodehouse 1917)

Now COSMIC COMPUTER, read stand-alone, compares to some of Andre Norton's juvenile sci-fi. It ends on the requisite happy note, and it really seems like Poictesme is poised for an economic Renaissance. But read in the overall arc of the THFH series, it's clear that the Renaissance, if it happens, will be short-lived. In a century or so the Federation will collapse and everything the hero of COSMIC COMPUTER has built will be swept away.

I like a writer who can be read on more than one level, who's not easy to pin down.

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extrinsic
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Satire does not require humor, only that human vice and folly be exposed. Arguably, due to fiction and drama generally require expression of the moral human condition, most any narrative is satire, some more covert than others.

As to irony, three principal features distinguish the rhetoric from other figures and schemes: incongruence of literal and figurative meaning, an irony invites a rhetorical meeting of minds between writer and readers on a sublime plain, and some or other entity is victimized -- person, persons, things, or forces. Intended, covert, stable, finite, and local irony takes readers so far into ironic meaning and stops, none of Kierkegaard's infinite negativities and underminings of meanings, what Wayne Booth labels unstable irony. Samuel Beckett's works exemplify Kierkegaard's philosophy.

Futuristic fiction could express irony and satire social commentary about present day and even past time society, as H. Beam Piper's works do, though somewhat somber and sober fiction short of overt humor.

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LDWriter2
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Interesting discussion here:

But tonight I came here to say I am reading a book of Sherlock Holmes stories. Not just any stories mind you. This one was edited by John Joseph Adams. The first story is by Stephan King. Other spec writers make up the rest of the writers.

I bought it a while back and forgot I had it decided it would be a good read now.

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Robert Nowall
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Rereading Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny. And hereby lies a tale...

I first bought and read this, around, oh, October 1978, according to a card in the card file system I used to keep. (It was first published in 1967 and, I gather, was a fixup novel from short stories and novelettes.) I wrote "GOOD!" on my card for this, but that doesn't tell me much about what I thought of it. Over the years, most of the details faded from my mind.

I read it again 'cause its name kept coming up (apparently it features in the movie Argo, which I haven't seen.) So I ordered a new copy and, over the last week or so, read it through.

Basically the story is this: some Earth people colonize a new planet, and then some of the original crew and colonists use advanced technology to dominate their descendants---and assume the identities of the Hindu pantheon. One man, taking the identity of Siddhartha, opposes them.

Reading it this time around, I realized that I JUST DIDN'T GET IT the first time!

I might've been confused by the Hinduness of it all...but I don't know much more about that now than I did then. I might've not understood what was being said---Zelazny has this habit here of long stretches of dialog without identifying characters, and you have to really be attuned to understand who's who.

But I can also say I just wasn't mature enough to understand. This has been happening every so often. It's been some forty-five years since science fiction became the Main Attraction in my reading habits, and since then I've read a lot more (and not just science fiction), spent a lot of time trying to write, and, in general, living life. I've had other books that were confusing to me back then, but made perfect sense reading them this time around.

There were details that stuck with me, mostly in the first couple of chapters...but it was like reading something I'd never read before. I "got it" this time.

Also I can recommend this to all here, as an example of how to do something just right.

(I suppose it's all a sign of growing up and maturity hitting me hard. 'Bout time.)

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History
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Yes. By coincidence, I have also thought about rereading Lord of Light--even though the scene I remember most (I think) is from the beginning where the natives are all lined up with buckets of excrement to try out the first toilet. The scene made me realize, at the age of ten, how much I took for granted modern conveniences.

I read it again in my college years (decades ago), and I still have this old paberback. Mr. Zelazny, of blessed memory, is one of my favorite authors, and an inspiration. His award winning novels and stories are must reads for lovers of classic sf/f. His other works such as his Amber series, and the wonderful Jack of Shadows are also great reads.

FYI, an anthology of stories in honor of Mr. Zelazny, revisiting many of his characters and worlds is forthcoming. I suspect this inspired me to consider rereading his work.

Similarly, I need to reread selections of Robert Silverberg (the first sf author I ever read), perhaps starting with his award-winning Nightwings.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

P.S. I am currently reading WOTF Finalist colleague Julie Frost's 1st published novel Pack Dynamics, a PI veteran with PTSD who happens to be a werewolf. There's corporate warfare, murder, nanotechnology, and a villain who will do anything to save his dying vampire wife. And there's bunnies. [Wink] Good urban fantasy fun.

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Robert Nowall
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I "took" to Silverberg a little later in life...I think my understanding of him is clear. Or I hope it is---I still might catch something that eluded me the first time 'round.

It was that way with Heinlein, even the ones I started with when I was, oh, nine, I guess---there were things even in the juveniles that I just didn't get till later in life. (At one point the word "shamming" was used---and I took it to have something to do with visiting the bathroom!)

What set me off on "Lord of Light" was Heavy Metal publishing some Jack Kirby art for a projected movie version that never came off---but which were used in the real-life events that inspired the movie "Argo"---though they weren't in the movie itself...

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Disgruntled Peony
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While I will grant you they're graphic novels rather than straight-up prose, I've been reading the Locke & Key series and I highly recommend it to anyone who has a fondness for that kind of thing. The story intrigues me--it's essentially a modern day horror/fantasy piece, centered around a trio of siblings and their family. The art perfectly reflects the tones of the story, which is always important with a graphic novel. There needs to be synergy, after all.

If anyone is interested enough to look further, Locke & Key is written by Joe Hill and illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez. The series is complete. I haven't gotten to finish it yet, but I've thoroughly enjoyed the first three volumes.

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LDWriter2
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quote:
Originally posted by Disgruntled Peony:
While I will grant you they're graphic novels rather than straight-up prose, I've been reading the Locke & Key series and I highly recommend it to anyone who has a fondness for that kind of thing. The story intrigues me--it's essentially a modern day horror/fantasy piece, centered around a trio of siblings and their family. The art perfectly reflects the tones of the story, which is always important with a graphic novel. There needs to be synergy, after all.

If anyone is interested enough to look further, Locke & Key is written by Joe Hill and illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez. The series is complete. I haven't gotten to finish it yet, but I've thoroughly enjoyed the first three volumes.

I just saw something about that one recently. Are you on G+?
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LDWriter2
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I will have to look into Lord of Light. I know the writer but I don't recall that book.

And "Pack Dynamics" Oh wait I have seen that one, didn't realize who wrote it.

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Robert Nowall
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Well, Lord of Light did win the Hugo in 1967, back when they meant something.
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Disgruntled Peony
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quote:
Originally posted by LDWriter2:
quote:
Originally posted by Disgruntled Peony:
While I will grant you they're graphic novels rather than straight-up prose, I've been reading the Locke & Key series and I highly recommend it to anyone who has a fondness for that kind of thing. The story intrigues me--it's essentially a modern day horror/fantasy piece, centered around a trio of siblings and their family. The art perfectly reflects the tones of the story, which is always important with a graphic novel. There needs to be synergy, after all.

If anyone is interested enough to look further, Locke & Key is written by Joe Hill and illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez. The series is complete. I haven't gotten to finish it yet, but I've thoroughly enjoyed the first three volumes.

I just saw something about that one recently. Are you on G+?
I think so, but I haven't touched it in nigh on two years.

By the way, managed to finish out the series today. The end gets a little melodramatic at one point, but considering the nature of the subject matter and the medium that's not too bad. I'd still recommend the series; it's an interesting story, start to finish, and I thoroughly enjoy the character progressions.

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Robert Nowall
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I've been rereading The Valley of Fear, A. Conan Doyle---yeah, one of the novels with Sherlock Holmes in it.

This time around, I was struck by the large section in the middle, the adventures of a character in the mines of Pennsylvania and a secret society that dominates life there.

What struck me, forcefully, is that, brush away some details, and that section had absolutely nothing to do with Sherlock Holmes or the mystery. It's as if Doyle wanted to do that particular novel, and just grafted Sherlock Holmes onto the beginning (and a little at the end.)

It's a pretty good section---I suppose the novel wouldn't be read at all these days if it weren't for the Sherlock Holmes parts---but, to me, now, it seems painfully obvious Doyle just wrote what he wanted and made it commercial by adding Holmes to the mix.

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LDWriter2
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I don't recall "The Valley of Fear". I will look for it and see if I read it at all.


I have spaced out on this thread even though I have read some interesting and intriguing books.

Two are by different writers in different genre but I think each could very well be the writer's best work yet. The detail, the actions scenes, getting deep inside the heroes, twists are all better even from what came before.

The first one is "Skingame" by Jim Butcher. I was almost memorized by it in places.

The second was "Toil and Tribulation" by David Weber. Now Weber writers much longer books than Jim and has more books under his belt than Jim too. But this one is-hard to express but again the action, the twists, the descriptions, getting deep into the mind of the main character(S) Yes more than one. I think Jim has a couple of larger and wild twists but David throws some in.

The problem with anyone reading them is that they are both the latest in a series and you really have to start from the beginning in each.

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Robert Nowall
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I've just read My Father, the Pornographer, by Chris Offutt. It's pretty much a "Daddy Dearest" / "My Father the Monster" kind of book, probably not the kind of thing I would have read except for one thing.

The father in question was Andrew J. Offutt, once upon a time a well-known SF / fantasy writer and editor. Some of us older types will remember his name; some of you may even have run into him at a convention.

The thing is, 'cause the book is a "Daddy Dearest" thing, it gives fairly short shrift to Andrew J. Offutt's writing career---even, really, the pornography writing end of it.

Take the bibliography. It lists all (or at least a substantial amount) of Andrew Offutt's work, but doesn't list things like who and where they were published, and what names they were published under. I read some of Andrew Offutt's SF work---at least two of them influenced my writing and / or my worldview---but it would have been nice to know something of his status. (I'd even read four of his porn books---somewhat influential in their way; I might've read more but they didn't cross my path.)

There's more than that. Some SF stories get high praise, others aren't mentioned other than in the bibliography. A well-known writer / collaborator is represented by a blog post... and another well-known writer contacted Chris Offutt well before the book was written to deny the existence of a feud between him and Andrew Offutt. There's mention of the teenage Chris Offutt's distaste / disgust / disdain for the SF / fantasy fans he runs into at conventions.

From the acknowledgments, it would seem he was in touch with some of the SF / fantasy community...but they're not really represented here.

I can accept that to Chris Offutt, his father was, indeed, some kind of monster. There's plenty of insight into that relationship. But, for anybody looking for insight into Andrew J. Offutt the SF writer...it's somewhat wanting.

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Disgruntled Peony
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I just finished 'Thud!' by Terry Pratchett on the recommendation of my younger siblings. The recommendation was certainly sound. I now want to read all of the books about the Ankh-Morpork City Watch. (Honestly, I just need to read more Terry Pratchett in general.)

On a semi-related note, there's another book I keep meaning to bring up in this thread but tend to forget before I actually get the opportunity: 'Orconomics', by J. Zachary Pike. It's independently published. My husband discovered it somehow, bought it on a whim, and proceeded to buy more copies for several of our friends. It's a fantasy/comedy, and I personally find it to be a thoroughly entertaining read. My husband and I keep checking Pike's website for indications of progress toward the sequel.

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Robert Nowall
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I ran across a reprint the other day: Max Perkins: Editor of Genius, A. Scott Berg. I was surprised to find it reprinted...though it's a first class biography by a writer who's gone on to publish equally good biographies of Charles Lindbergh and Samuel Goldwyn and Woodrow Wilson. I read it in a battered paperback years ago, and picked it up and renewed my acquaintance.

I was surprised some by it being reprinted...but not half as surprised as I was by the cover, a movie still, and the words "NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE" printed over it.

I hadn't heard...and was more than a little surprised. I did some research. The movie is called "Genius," and, evidently, deals with the relationship, editorial and otherwise, between Max Perkins, important editor at Scribners, and the writer Thomas Wolfe ("Look Homeward, Angel," "You Can't Go Home Again.") The movie came out sometime in June; the cast seems made up of "A-Listers."

Somehow the ins and outs of editing Wolfe's massive manuscript piles into publishable novels doesn't seem like the stuff of great moviemaking, especially ...but I am curious.

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Kathy_K
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I'm pursuing an MFA in creative writing with a concentration in YA/MG writing, so I'm reading mostly in that category these days. It's interesting to read children's book and compare their style and structure to novels for adults.

I've developed the arguably terrible habit of reading multiple books simultaneously while also listening to audiobooks on my 25 minute drive to and from work.

Currently reading "A Gathering of Shadows," the second book in a series by V. E. Schwab. I definitely recommend this series. Unique world with a fascinating magic system. Fabulous details and character development. Strong female characters that don't fall apart the second a handsome young man enters their lives. Can you tell that's a pet peeve of mine?

Also working my way through the "How to Train Your Dragon" series for the third time. The books are geared toward pre-teens. I love Cressida Cowell's writing style. Recommend this book series.

Also reading "The Dragon of Trelain" by Michelle Knudsen. Not a bad book, but nothing special either. Not impressed.

Listening to Ursula K. Le Guin's "A Wizard of Earthsea" It's a classic for a reason. Recommend.

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extrinsic
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I earned a BFA and MA in creative writing, considering an online no-residency MFA program. An uncommon and too little spoken proverb from the many workshop and attendant forms courses offers a clue to a robust plot design: give a focal character a suitable high-magnitude want to pursue and problematize its satisfaction, and to each contestant as well.

Want and problem contest satisfaction defines complication's motivations. Complication's contest motivations and conflict's stakes contests and tone's emotional-moral attitude contests are core fundaments for prose drama and their profluent forward overall movements. If only creative writing programs more emphasized those essential narrative discipline criteria and congruent to creative aesthetic arts criteria emphasis . . .

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LDWriter2
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I missed the date for this three times now.

But Kathy good going


But I read more than one book at a time. I don't listen though even though thought about doing that at the gym again-I did it years ago with a tape player. Now I would need a Mp3 player.

Anyway, I have been doing three books at a time. Of course my reading time is usually only around twenty minutes a day, so even three at a time lasts me a while. Sometimes I cheat a little on the time.

And I am glad someone posted here. I keep thinking about it but never get to it.

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extrinsic
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Reading and studying close "Being a Glossary of Terms Useful in Critiquing Science Fiction" by David Smith, hosted by SFWA.

The terms therein apply as well across all of prose. Quite a few insights into what does not work and what does work for a large reader audience and as well critiquers, and compiled from culture stars, like accomplished writers, editors, publishers, instructors, and theorists -- many labels and their explanations and examples. Unlike The Turkey City Lexicon, the essay details a greater proportion of desirable methods and devices to its itemization of what doesn't work.

Several shortfalls of the whole; one, no development of the tone and attitude concept, mentioned in several items, not explicated to any detailed degree.

Two, the usual composition culture gross conflation of complication with conflict, or, distinguish motivation and stakes from each other.

Three, a gross misunderstanding of the rhetorical term and arts of "trope," only a derision of what are more accurately known as topos, albeit tired, trite, and misused topos. Trope; figurative language, of an allusive rhetorical poetic equipment, used to tangibly express the intangible. "Topos: a traditional or conventional literary or rhetorical theme or topic" (Webster's), like time travel, magic, the supernatural, and the paranormal.

Silva Rhetoricae, "Trope: An artful deviation from the ordinary or principal signification of a word."

"Kinds of Tropes
Reference to One Thing as Another
Wordplay and puns
Substitutions
Overstatement/Understatement
Semantic Inversions" ("Figures of Speech" Silva Rhetoricae)

Tropes includes simile, metaphor, symbolism, personification, synecdoche, metonomy, ellipsis, and many more.

In all, the "Being a Glossary of Terms Useful in Critiquing Science Fiction" is worth a look-see; many of the Hatrack what doesn't work for a responder fragment shortfalls commented on are itemized therein and not a few guidances on workarounds or altogether standout on their own. Alas, what I'm looking for is not included; that is, what methods produce a lively and vivid drama story, a few cues maybe.

Also reading and studying "Science Fiction and Mrs. Brown" by Ursula K. Le Guin (The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction).

[ January 10, 2017, 05:56 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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extrinsic
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Closer scrutiny revealed another shortfall of Being a Glossary of Terms Useful in Critiquing Science Fiction: "Motif. A recurring visual objective correlative of the theme. In Catch-22, for instance, the theme is that war is insane, so the recurring motif is one character calling another character crazy, under a wide variety of circumstances, so that we continually revisit the same element, each time with a different view. (CSFW: David Smith)"

How is a character calling another crazy visual? Not. It is an aural stimulus. Recurrence is a motif feature, does relate to an overall thematic representation, and can be any circumstance or stimuli: visual, aural, tactile, olfactory, gustatory, event, setting, or character detail stimulus, delay, and response. Any circumstance at all, that tangible and intangible add up to a whole theme through emblemism or symbolism and recurrence each instance from a different view and pay off.

Also, for Smith's explanation of "Objective correlative: the tangible manifestation of an intangible, created and used by the author to help the reader grasp the intangible concept. Most literature is about emotions or ideals — things that you cannot see or touch. So the objective correlative becomes a focus, a tangible surrogate. In The Picture of Dorian Gray, the painting becomes the objective correlative of Dorian Gray’s soul — it shows the invisible rot. In The Scarlet Letter, Hester’s child is the objective correlative of her sinful passions.

"An important characteristic of objective correlatives is that they are usually vested with attributes which tilt the reader toward the emotion the author wants him to feel in relation to the intangible being staged. (T. S. Eliot)"

The Dorian Gray painting example is, however, a visual objective correlative. Hester's child is an example of a character objective correlative, part visual at least, and more.

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extrinsic
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A few insights into what I'm after for vivid and lively prose came from study of "Being a Glossary of Terms Useful in Critiquing Science Fiction." The "objective correlative" above, for example. Further research into that led to a fuller grasp of the concept. As is often the case, the term and concept originate with a philosopher-artist, Washington Allston, 1840, "Introductory Discourse," a lecture series on fine art. T.S. Eliot popularized the term and concept in a critical reading discourse about Shakespeare's Hamlet, "Hamlet and His Problems," 1919.

The Eliot essay is available at Google Books; The Allston essay is at Project Gutenberg. Yeah, I read them.

Deep background research, midnight candles burnt, fuller grasp of a concept I had only by its withers -- essentially, a correlative objective is that which artfully expresses an intangible through a tangible access. Robert Burns, "My love is like a red, red rose." The rhetorical figure is a simile; the objective correlative tangible is a rose stands for the intangible complexities of love's emotions: color, aroma, bouquet, blossom, leaf, stem -- thorn.

However, fantastical fiction and metaphor are often taken as literal and, ergo, might confuse readers, like a bus train of two or more segments is not a snake that slithers along city roadways, like a snake maybe. The verb "slither," though, entails the metaphor and doesn't compromise the correlative objective nor confuse readers. Got that bit of verbal metaphors' arts from reading several of George Orwell's essays, while I was at it, due to several references to Orwell in Smith's essay. Found The Complete Works of George Orwell online. Exquisite.

Other insightful terms from the Smith essay: Eyeball kick, which the two workshops' terms essays disagree about its arts as opposed to its vices; Backfill, Lock in, Out-of-whack event; Peripheral character ego, an interpretive connotation misnomer, though, personal motivation more like, some personality degree, and applies to focal characters, too; Smart subconscious, Staging -- staging is especially insightful. Other terms, generally methods often seen misused, trite, overworn, tired, underrealized, as well entail through antithesis what are best practice to avoid and imply or state workarounds or outright does work and stand apart from weary methods.

One item in particular from Smith's essay that is especially apropos for Hatrack's thirteen lines fragments considerations and frustrations due to the common doesn't work of rushed and forced start introductions: "Microwaving the soufflé. A tendency to rush past important setup material in the author’s haste to get to the payoff. Generally leaves the reader feeling frustrated on two counts: (1) the setup, being rushed, is uninteresting, and (2) the payoff, being insufficiently set up, is not earned. (CSFW: David Smith)" The first part for thirteen lines starts consideration; the second part for realizing what a start best could do, to set up an action start in order to reach a payoff outcome end, what Smith labels a "Destination," not per se a tangible place or object thing -- a want-problem satisfaction contest set up at the outset. Huzzah!

Worth note, the two explications for outlines (action and scene) in the Smith essay offer potent guidance for prose outline methods, for writers who like or need to outline and are at sea for how and what to include and what to filter out. Plus, from such outline methods an effective synopsis can be composed as part of a novel query submission package. Not to mention, organize a raw narrative into its essential pieces, parts, and whole, or, design a narrative plan from which to start a draft.

[ January 14, 2017, 11:07 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Disgruntled Peony
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I've been reading the late Terry Pratchett's novels about the City Watch in Ankh-Morpork lately (I read 'Thud!' out of order back in February because I didn't know it was a series, and recently skipped back to the beginning. I've read 'Guards, Guards!', 'Men at Arms', and I'm presently about halfway through 'Feet of Clay'.)

I think the things that impress me the most about Terry Pratchett's writing are that he was a) rather good at balancing comedy and tragedy, as any good comedian is, and b) he was quite skilled at giving a vivid mental image with a few carefully chosen words. I have noticed a common thread of information-withholding in this particular book series, likely because it's centered around the solving of crimes. He does tend to give you *some* of the information, tease at more, and leave the remainder to make sense after the big reveal(s).

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extrinsic
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Being mystery puzzles, does Pratchett's real writer, implied writer, narrator, or viewpoint agonist withhold information? If the narrator or agonist or both, is the withheld information known to the narrator or agonist at the time of the withholding? if the information were onstage, would it add tension? Or is it withheld to create false suspense? If real or implied writer withholding due to agonists do not know at the moment of onstage realization, nor care and have no dramatic agency, may it be artful?

From "Being a Glossary of Terms Useful in Critiquing Science Fiction":

"Inappropriate mystery. An author will often use mystery as a means of propelling a reader forward: characters speak of things that are opaque to the reader, a character goes offstage to do something important, or a development is referred to indirectly (“I was just heading out the door when the phone rang, with terrible news”). Mystery is inappropriate when the expected dramatic followup is lacking: the offstage action proves to be a diversion, or the suspense proves false. (CSFW: Steve Popkes)"

A who-done-it withholding method, too, is parceling out incomplete information pieces that avoid the "whole truth" known when it is known in order to deflect the appearance of artless withholds. Also, the microwaved souffle that rushes past motif, etc., development is an artless withholding method, often due to underrealization.

None of the above withholding methods, to me, are artful suspense methods and, instead, call undue attention to their information shortfalls. They are frustrating and disengaging, also from "Being a Glossary of Terms Useful in Critiquing Science Fiction":

"Disengage (to). A reader who is not paying close attention to the text is disengaged. Offstage action or a poorly-realized fictional dream disengage the reader: he skips or skims sentences, paragraphs, pages or whole chapters [or artless withhelds]. The ultimate disengagement is the reader who puts down the book without bothering to finish it."

Pratchett's first novel, The Carpet People, revised edition 1992, so disengaged me by its "Jar of Tang" basis I have only sampled a few Prachett openings since to no persuasive effect. At the least, anyway, what withholding takes place in Carpet is the real writer's decision to withhold the Jar of Tang basis, and not a discovery made or withheld by the narrator or characters.

Net, to a primitive society, technology appears metaphysical -- mythic magic-miraculous, somewhat a Horatioan satire and sarcasm of Arthur Clarke's third law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Are the gods advanced technocrats who lead otherwise indifferent, routine, everyday existences? Apropos of this post-industrial post-Nietzsche "God is dead" era's technological materialism at the expense of spiritual values. Not so artfully written, though, as might have been, but for a full realization of, and unwithheld, the irony's deeper threads . . .

Not to utterly condemn Prachett, only that I'd had enough joke narratives years before my first Prachett encounter.

[ January 14, 2017, 10:34 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Disgruntled Peony
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The way he withholds information is more like careful camera angles on a TV show than anything. He sometimes sets up scenes that let the reader see pieces of the puzzle that the protagonists don't yet see. In cases like that he'll do things like leave the identity of a killer secret while describing the murder itself. (It's not unlike a camera angle that shows a murder taking place and the victim's surprise, but doesn't show who the killer is.) It's a fairly common motif of mystery television shows. It just feels a little odd to me sometimes in prose format.
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extrinsic
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My misgiving with The Carpet People is Prachett lavishes much attention on subtext that doesn't pay off. The overt action pays off well enough. That subtext payoff lack, to me, lays in an unsettled limbo between serious, even if humorous, fiction and otherwise melodramatic "slick" or "trash" fiction, per Rust Hills and John Gardner, respectively. If only the subtext paid off . . .

For example, if a simple adjustment would have resulted in Snibril attempts to contact the gods and is ignored, or exhorts his tribe to and is refused, that would not change the narrative's import (method, humor, moral, message, or dramatic action) and would pay the subtext off. The former would have added about a thousand words; the latter, about five hundred, and possibly obviated about as many infill words.

I think the Practhett subtext payoff lack, though, is an unrealized "Smart subconscious." From the Smith essay "Being a Glossary of Terms Useful in Critiquing Science Fiction": "Term used when a critic (or the author) reviews text in light of a new approach or theory and discovers, much to his or her surprise, that within the previous text are a whole series of small items or details which help express this approach or theory; the smart subconscious was planting them in hopes that they would eventually be discovered. Smart subconscious is a possible explanation for subtext. (CSFW: Paul Tumey)"

Attendant to which: "Unperceived source. An inspiration for an author’s creation which the author does not recognize until it is pointed out to him. Many authors resist acknowledging their unperceived sources. (Geoff Ryman) See smart subconscious."

Also: "Subtext. A secondary level of action or content in a scene. Not stated overtly — that is, not perceived by the characters — and sometimes not even consciously perceived by the author." Per moi, subtext is by definition covert and about what a narrative is really and truly about. Subtext's value is it distinguishes serious from mediocre prose; and its more deft mischief management is a base core of "literary" prose's distinction from "commercial" prose.

My sampling of other Pratchett works left me thinking that attention lavished on and unpaid-off subtext more or less is his artistic sensibility and perhaps reader appeal. Writer of more than a hundred published novels and a sales record of somewhere north of eighty million books -- well, subtext and unpaid-off subtext appeals as it appeals.

Mystery who-done-its generally create false suspense through leaving who done it in suspension's delay segment until the end. Revelation and detention of the who-done-it is the conventional mystery puzzle outcome. Obtuse camera angles that obscure who done it is one film method to achieve a suspense effect, sometimes true, sometimes false.

Mystery readers match wits with mystery personas in hopes of outpacing a who-done-it revelation, dramatic irony, the base reader effect mysteries attempt to develop. Crime thrillers, on the other hand, attempt to unravel why a miscreant abreacts and, in so doing, mitigate the maladjusted behavior. Likewise, a wits match between readers and personas intent on outpacing the why revelation.

Such is how crime genre persuades, so to speak, moral adjustments in readers. They feel smarter than a narrative and at least reflect upon the moral tableau presented, somewhat feel as well morally maturer than a narrative's tableau. The cognitive dissonance between how a reader morally believes before and after exhorts a minor moral adjustment to reconcile the dissonance.

[ January 15, 2017, 01:39 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Disgruntled Peony
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I recently acquired 'The Djinn Falls in Love & Other Stories', a collection of tales about djinn/jinn/genies. I haven't finished it yet, but everything I have read has been well-crafted and intriguing. Neil Gaiman's got a story in it, even.
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LDWriter2
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Sounds good Peony

I keep forgetting to come here to say what I am reading.

But at the moment an anthology titled "Time Travel Tales #2"

The latest October Day book

Just finished Vacant, a Mindspace tale; about telepaths in the near future. This one is working for the police and fighting a gangster he didn't mean to get involved with.

And started the second Invisible Library book

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Robert Nowall
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Recently reread "A Tale of Two Cities," Charles Dickens. I'd forgotten a lot of the details---I'd completely forgotten that Madame Defarge came from this book---but I remembered the beginning and end pretty well.
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extrinsic
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Rereading Plato's The Republic, with extensive commentary by translator Benjamin Jowett, for contrastive comparison to Sartre, Hegel, Nietzsche, Locke, et al, in regard to the current state of the Republic. No substantive social-political distinction between then and now, this investigation reveals, and locates sources of hypocrisy then as now. The overt misapprehension then as now is of class and caste stratification and exclusion by accident of birth.

Though metaphysical rationales abound across the philosophy realm, only Sartre and Nietzsche attempted non-metaphysical philosophies, metaphysical rationales are more self-justification per se than substantive wisdom and the sublime harmony of beauty, truth, and goodness; and that is my epiphany; that is, that the human condition justifies vice part by external blame assignment, part by overvalued self-worth, part by convenient denial habit of an ideal state of social being, each to the self's unique self as the self's care given (private), and the self's care given the state as the body of the common good (public). "Republic," from Latin, res publica: thing public.

A tedious read, only made interesting in context to the copia of philosophy texts and each's shortfalls and strengths. For creative composition purposes, though, a treasure hoard of material suited to the essential intangible action of narrative. Per Aristotle's poetics, the unwarranted misfortunes levied for moral self-error and folly of people like us. Actions and outcomes then are moral maturation tableaus, either maturation advances or declines, or both. Transformative action. Drama sans non-superficial, substantive transformation wears thin upon my sensibilities; the alternatives also hold strong though subtle, widespread appeals.

I am at an end of study for my calling -- now only to apply this all to prose's manifold challenges.

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Scot
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Hero, by R.A. Salvatore. Mostly because it plays into the collaborative narrative game (read, D&D) I'm enjoying with my kids, but also because I want to see how he handles combat. I need to pay more attention to that as I'm reading. Also it's fun. [Smile]
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LDWriter2
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Reading Uprooted by Naomi Novik I am enjoying it but I don't think it is up to the same writing level as her dragon books. Still things are happening that are new and so far unexpected. Well, I do expect two things to happen some time but other than that this going beyond what was on the back. Which is good.
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Kathy_K
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I've ripped through several books over the past three weeks:

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer
Pure by Julianna Baggott
Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

I just started the sequel to The 5th Wave, which is The Infinite Sea.

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tesknota
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I'm currently reading Robert Asprin's Myth series. These books are hilarious. I wouldn't say they're superbly well written as far as literary merit goes, but I've sure been devouring them quickly. There's a lot of punny things and other wordplay. If anyone else has read these books, please give a shout-out! The one I'm on now is "Little Myth Marker".
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Kathy_K
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I'm about 3/4's of the way through Arthur C. Clarke's "Childhood's End." A very interesting novel to read and I'm enjoying it. I've heard it described as his best piece of writing, and while it's good, I'm not sure the writing style would have allowed it to be published in a modern market. It's loaded with weak verbs, passive voice, and gigantic info dumps. Has anyone else read this book? I'd love your take on Clarke's writing style.
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Robert Nowall
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It's hard for me to relate to Clarke---he's one of my core exposures to reading science fiction. (Heinlein first, 'cause I happened to see him on the library shelf next to Marguerite Henry, Asimov 'cause one of my textbooks had "Robbie" from "I, Robot" within it, and Clarke 'cause of "2001: A Space Odyssey.")

But I'd say Clarke, of the three, had a somewhat more romantic and lyrical style, somewhat more ornate than Asimov or Heinlein, distinctive, somewhat in the the tradition of, oh, say, Dunsany or Lovecraft.

But science fiction is supposed to be a literature of ideas, and Clarke and "Childhood's End" is chock full of them. [SPOILER WARNING!] We see alien first contact, aliens as devils, extinction, transcendence...what was there not to appreciate? (There's the notion of cliche-dom---think how much the TV series "V" rips off the imagery here---but this is one of the works where the cliches started.)

If something like it wouldn't or couldn't be published today, the field would be weaker than it was.

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extrinsic
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When I first read Childhood's End I was underwhelmed. Subsequent reads left me yet less impressed and more so each read. The language and craft are wanting, though some other feature was sorely lacking. Only lately have I come to understand what and why. The novel is a philosophical narrative that asserts a moral law from several fronts. The top one is of humanity is childish, therefore, needs an external entity to impose maturation. That to me is naive. Imposed maturation is no more mature than childishness itself is.

The purpose of free will, and trial and error, is to validate self-error vice and folly as antisocial and fraught with hazard such that an individual matures into a socially well-adjusted participant in and prudent contributor to the common good. This is why I now appreciate that moral truth discovery narratives appeal more than moral law assertions, at the least, for me.

Childhood's End, instead, perpetuates Predeterminism's convention of accident of birth establishes stratified station, preordained moral superiority over subordinates, superiors who can do no wrong regardless of degree of depravity, and outcome. I cannot accept that convention anymore and haven't most of my life.

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walexander
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W. B. Yeats - The Tower

Vivid - thought-provoking - yet dark in many places.

quote:
Does the imagination dwell the most
Upon a woman won or woman lost? - Yeats, The Tower, 1

W.
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Robert Nowall
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Addendum to the Childhood's End comments: some later editions substitute a new first chapter by Clarke for the original chapter---which dated badly by the passage of time. All else is reportedly as it was.
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walexander
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The girl with the dragon tattoo - by stieg larsson.

Finally broke down to read this breaking my rule about reading fiction books that are translated because sometimes true expression is lost as it changes languages. The fourth book by a different author just came out in this series and I want to read it. So I figure I better do the due diligence and start at the beginning. Figure it's worth the invested time.

W.

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H Reinhold
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quote:
Originally posted by walexander:
The girl with the dragon tattoo - by stieg larsson.

Finally broke down to read this breaking my rule about reading fiction books that are translated because sometimes true expression is lost as it changes languages. The fourth book by a different author just came out in this series and I want to read it. So I figure I better do the due diligence and start at the beginning. Figure it's worth the invested time.

W.

I never finished that book. Admittedly, it was probably because I attempted to read it in German, back when my German was still pretty poor. I figured if I was going to read it in translation, German would be just as good as English, and I think someone had told me the German translation was decent. However, for my skill at that time it was far too ambitious and I only made it about a quarter of the way through before dropping it in favour of something shorter.

I'm currently just finishing 'Graft' by Matt Hill. The grimy dystopian future setting with body modification and human trafficking is one thing, and surely offers enough to explore on its own; I don't particularly understand the need to throw dimension-hopping into the mix too. But perhaps it will all come together at the end.

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extrinsic
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Translations often fail to realize more so idiomatic language than other shortfalls of interpretation; and those often, too, are a consequence of imagination lacks as much on the part of a writer as a translator.

Larsson's Millennium cycle, though, doesn't disappoint. Both Larsson and U.S. translator Steven T. Murray, pseudonym Reg Keeland, appreciate idiom, metaphor, figurative language generally, and their power to poetically equip prose with emotional strength and clarity. Murray does authentically translate what little Swedish idiom the cycle entails, which happens to overlap with English idiom for the most part.

The three official Larsson novels were published posthumously from completed manuscripts. The fourth to date, was "ghost written" on behest of the Larsson estate by David Lagercrantz. Two more ghost novels are slated. The notes and rough drafts for later installments Larsson had started, though, are in his life partner's possession and barred by the Larsson estate from publication.

One, to me, shortfall of the translation, though, is at times excess and unnecessary language formality and a common academia habit of convenience in diction, syntax, and punctuation areas. The formal language comes out when Murray, and probably Larrson, is less than passionate about the content parts and contexts -- the emotive texture falls shy of the mark it could have set. The academia grammar shortfalls come out for complex sentences in which connective tissues' functions are misinferred, and other common English language grammar idiosyncrasies of the babble idiolect type, like syntax expletives, irrelevant contradiction and coordination conjunctions, and misused prepositions and particles. Sparse -ing and -ly mistakes, if any, though.

A piece of Swedish idiom trivia: barntå, denotative definition, child's toe; connotative, a baby shower.

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extrinsic
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Glendon Swarthout, known for Where the Boys Are, The Shootist, and The Homesman, winner of several literary awards, most the Golden Spur for western genre, lifetime achivement thereof, twice Pulitzer nominated, German theater World War II veteran, English and honors professor, and a PhD in English, Victorian literature concentration. Oh my, what an eclectic writer.

His prose language mannerisms are eclectic, too. Grammar issues abound in his prose, odd syntax, of numerous dependent verbal clauses placed in unconventional positions; missing, stray, extraneous, misused punctuation; excess passive and static voice, excess polysyndeton and asyndeton, excessive trite idioms and tired clichés, awkward diction, too, syntax of a grammatical fourth person and at times zero person. Potent, contentious dialogue and dramatic action, though.

Except for Where the Boys Are's first person narrator, for the westerns, the narrative point of view is third person selective omniscient, and all are brutal blunt. The motion picture adaptations sanitize the brutality a degree. Plus, the films conflate secondary events, settings, and characters so that they run within the standard feature-length time allotted, about 110 minutes, from novels that run to an average eighty thousand words.

I've had many a midnight candle burnt time reconciling Swarthout's language skills education and his peculiar prose mannerisms, plus, of course, publication culture's readiness to decline on poor grammar skills easiest decision alone. Swarthout is consistent, at least. What's with the excess excessiveness, though? And why does it pass culture muster? Emphasis? Part. Accessibility? Part, though even a tenth grader would recognize the numerous grammar glitches. Commentary? Part.

Rhetorical function? Now it gets somewhere -- attempts to emulate actual, real-world expression of a given past milieu for verisimilitude's sake. Satire, though, at an odd juxtaposition of a contemporary expression modality inference of a past contemporary expression modality -- an admixture of cultured sophistication and unsophisticated hypo-literacy. The inference falls short, though, of actual commentary, more of an invention mien based on contemporary expression. The language and grammar forces forcefulness of expression, appears inauthenthic to me. That's the commentary? That the language of the milieu was forced authenticity?

Swarthout succeeds at a nostalgic interpretation of a past which he missed, the Old West, and wishes he had lived, much like embellished dime-store western novels exaggerated western adventures, and which his narratives disparage, and substituted for the real experience, whatever it was. Swarthout also writes a cult of manhood aesthetic similar to Ernest Hemingway's.

All in and net, despite weak, though intended, unconventional grammar, the action is robust, if brutal, and authentic. The real commentary, the irony intended, is life is rarely roses with thorns, far more thorns than petals, and smells of death and moral corruption at every turn, how cheap life is valued by the living and whosoever appraises the lives of others for their own selfish exploitation means and ends. The blame assigned is to the agonists' self-errors as much as the moral human condition. In short, lively and vivid dramatic movement trumps grammar shortfalls.

What about the glitchy grammar calls undue attention to itself? Would the action be as robust or more robust if the grammar were less awkward and less obviously, more invisibly construed? I recast while I read. The standard Formal Written English grammar is voiceless, so not that voice. The milieu era idioms and metaphors are less accessible today than when they were common. A voice compromise, a third space, so to speak, is to use livelier language of an unconventional though accessible dialect authentic to a milieu though present day and futureward accessible.

Or rethink the whole from a more present-sense milieu than a past one. Historical fiction need not be of a past time, can be the present recounted through similar circumstances from the past. Set aside the nostalgia for the past, the worries about showing how ugly present-sense life really is that might terrify and anger readers -- the Old West is alive and well in hot spots across the present world and as well in futuristic prose.

Thus the irony end point of Swarthout's satire: the Old West is as alive and well today as it was then and will be for the foreseeable future.

[ June 07, 2017, 12:19 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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walexander
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Poison Study by Maria V. Snyde

Started this book in pursuit of 1st person writing. So far a good read. Strong start but my one thorn was for three pages at the start you don't know if it is a boy or a girl protagonist.

W.

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