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Peder's Pond

Discussion in 'Member Book Reviews/Journals/Blogs' started by Peder, Mar 29, 2014.

  1. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Many thanks SRG!
    Old title, new thoughts. Friendly comments always welcome. Now to figure out the momentous first post. :D
     
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  2. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Why Do I Read?

    To me, reading is like exploring a large unknown continent. Curiosity is what drives me, and the pleasures of discovering new places and vistas are the rewards. Just like travel. And, just like travel, one can't read all of the literature that has been written, any more than one can visit all of the attractions that are to be seen in the world. But one can still hope to visit the major attractions, while also exploring the byways for new finds.

    So far, I have found my imaginary continent to be completely surrounded by an ocean I can't swim across and to have an extremely varied terrain inland. Up north there is a wonderfully scenic restaurant and bar, Ahab's Place, glass walls all around, on a cape jutting out into the ocean. You can hear the ol' cap'n telling about the Big One that got away while you enjoy ice-cold oysters on the half shell. Inland, a long chain of mountain peaks comemmorates the names of previous illustrious explorers: Nabokov , Virginia Woolf, James Joyce among therm. Above the clouds, at ethereal levels on individual Everests, one can find the poets. Elizabeth Barret Browning still lives, reciting Sonnets from the Portugese for those who make the climb. And, on the adjacent mountain, you might find Ezra Pound remembering the patient love of The River Merchant's Wife.

    To the south, there is a very dense jungle with foliage that can hardly be parted and making forward progress takes great patience. But if you persevere and make your own trail you will finally come out into a clearing with immense pyramids, and find Marcel Proust and William Faulkner standing there with their hands held out in greeting, and smiling at you for taking the time and making the effort.

    The port towns on West and East coast are rowdy places with thievery and worse as daily occurences. Ross MacDonald patrols the west coast and Dick Wolf (of Law and Order fame) is just now having trouble tracking down a clever terrorist among the millions of people in the continent's Gotham.

    Inland, on the Plains and across the deserts, life is calmer. One finds people of staunch integrity, such as William Stoner, called plain Stoner by his biographer John Williams. On the fringes of the hurly burly there is a group of friars who offer refreshment, both physical and spiritual to travelers who are willing to spend the time for a meal with them. John Donne can still be heard from time to time, reading from his Meditations Upon Emergent Occasions. St. Paul will occasionally stop by to remind us that now we only see through a glass darkly, and Albert Schweitzer will offer his thoughts based on his Quest of the Historical Jesus.

    But in the outer world, life goes on. High above the mayhem in Gotham, James Salter (Light Years) tells us of life on the fast track of chrome and glass in the upper realms of the highest condos that proliferate in the City, where money is the main virtue. And Andrei Makine, from Paris, reflects on life in a much larger cataclysm, in his Memoirs of My Russian Summers. They are relative newcomers to my virtual continent but, nevertheless, have each earned mountain peaks of their own in the Best-of-the-Best mountain range.

    In addition, my continent is completely modern, existing in both the space and time of Mr. Einstein. Its history extends back to the beginning of writing where a monument stands to The Gilgamesh Epic, and it will extend into the future for 10 billion or so years more. But, someplace along the way, time slipped a decade somehow. F. Scott Fitzgerald has an exquisite description in his short story The Lost Decade, which absolutely has to be visited. No hocus-pocus, no mirrors, no science fiction, no time travel. Just plain wonderful writing.

    So, I read. The books are there, and the discoveries are exhilarating.
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2014
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  3. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Books Read - 2014

    January
    1/7 Washington Square by Henry James. Stubborn, dumb people. destroying their lives.
    1/17 Madam Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. Emma finds and loses love, with a very sad end.
    1/19 Stoner by John Williams. Life, Love and Death of Professor Bill Stoner. Excellent.
    1/30 Bangkok Haunts by John Burdett. Murder, corruption, love, prostitution in Thailand.

    February
    2/5 Poison Study by Mary Snyder. A chore to read.
    2/7 To Kill a Mockingbird. Excellent 100pg summary version with analysis by Trisha Lively.
    2/11 Faust pt1 by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Still, the excruciating end.
    2/19 The Answer to the Riddle is Me by David Stuart MacLean. Amnesiac recovering
    2/22 The Martian by Andy Weir.

    March
    3/31 If On a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino. Mediocre the second time around.

    April
    4/5 On The Beach by Nevil Shute. Love as the last of humanity winds down. Excellent.
    4/15 All Fools Day by Edmund Cooper. Apocalypse and afterward in England.
    4/19 The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford. Love, scrambled among two couples and others

    May
    5/5 Regeneration by Pat Barker. Hospitalized WWI war protester versus psychiatrist.
    5/8 Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner. Two close families through thick and thin.
    5/11 By Grand Central Station I sat Down and Cried by Elizabeth Smart. Love's agonys.
    5/13 100 Selected Poems by e.e. cummings.
    5/18 100 Best Loved Poems, Ed. by Philip Smith
    5/20 In The Land Of Dreamy Dreams by Ellen Gilchrist. Stories, some good, many flat.
    5/26 Mind Sifter, in Star Trek The New Voyages, ed by Marshak and Culbreath
    5/29 Runner by Thomas Perry. Jane Whitehead people protection program. v3

    June
    6/1 Vanishing Act by Thomas Perry. Jane Whitehead people protection program. v1
    6/4 The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares. Dreary techno-sci-fi.
    6/9 Daniel Deronda by George Eliot. Superb!
    6/15 The Map Thief by Michael Blanding.
    6/27 Counterfeit Lies by Oliver North and Bob Hamer. Patriotic undercover ops in LAX.

    July
    7/12 The Selected Poems of Stephen Spender.


    That makes twenty-eight in twenty-eight weeks. Hopefully I can stay ahead from here on out. :rolleyes:

    Still currently reading: Pillar of Iron by Taylor Caldwell. Making progress.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2014
  4. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Best Reads - 2014

    Stoner by John Williams. Life, Love and Death of Professor William Stoner. Excellent
    The Intercept by Dick Wolf. Finding a single terrorist in the millions of NYC. Excellent.
    The Martian by Andy Weir. Lone astronaut, accidentally left behind, surviving on Mars.
    On the Beach by Nevil Shute. Love, as the last of humanity winds down. Excellent.
    By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart. Poetic prose.
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2014
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  5. Reads to Sleep

    Reads to Sleep Moderator Staff Member

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    Peder, I'm very interested in books that explore memory and identity. What did you think of MacLean's The Answer to the Riddle Is Me?
     
  6. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Reads to Sleep,
    It sounds to me like you are probably in a better position to comment on the book than I am, since this is the first book I have read on a subject which is quite far from my ordinary interests.
    But speaking from memory -- no pun intended :) -- I was surprised at the ultimate nature of MacLean's recovery. He did recover. And, true, (as sort of) expected, there were chunks of his factual experience which were never recovered and were seemingly lost to him forever. More surprising
    (to me) was the loss of parts of his psyche/personality/persona/affect (I don't know the right word) which left him a different person , but still able to reestablish a new life and a family discontinuous with his past.
    I can't imagine what his emotions must have been in his situation, but the narrative seems more bland than I would have expected with respect to emotion, and perhaps a little sketchy also with respect to factual details. But it is an interesting read overall, and one to compare with whatever knowledge you already have on the subject.
    Amazon has an accurate summary of his story which is worth reading and which puts its emphasis somewhat differently.
    In the event you do read the book, I would, of course, be interested in hearing your reactions
    Cheers
    And thanks for asking
    :)
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2014
  7. Reads to Sleep

    Reads to Sleep Moderator Staff Member

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    Thanks for the interesting comments, Peder. All of us have subjects that make us sit up and pay attention when they're mentioned, and memory and identity are a couple of mine. What about you?

    I was looking at the lists of writers on the "nobody else reads" thread, and we have tastes in common. Which of Marías's books have you read? I enjoyed his The Infatuations a few months ago.
     
  8. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Ah hah! Yes, indeed. I binged on all three volumes of Your Face Tomorrow in 2010 (?), and Infatuations more recently. Maybe some others, but I'd have to resurrect some reading lists to know for sure. (There has been a computer changeover here and files are all over the place. :( )
    But yes, I definitely find him to be addictive. Maybe he should get a place in my continent. :) Glad you have come across him. :)
     
  9. pontalba

    pontalba Well-Known Member

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    Currently Reading:
    dithering...
    I've read and loved a few of Marias's books. The Infatuations being one of them. In 2011, Tomorrow In the Battle Think On Me, and last year, All Souls. It wasn't till later I realized that the Spanish lecturer in All Souls was the one that was murdered in The Infatuations.

    Peder, I really want to get to the Your Face Tomorrow trilogy! Maybe this year. :)
     
  10. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Oh ho! The plot thickens. All Souls might have been the one I dropped out of, partway. Have to do some digital archaeology around here. :D.
     
  11. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    I came across this poem recently.
    I can think of few that compare for both dazzling wordsmanship and meaningful content.

    "EASTER HYMN

    If in that Syrian garden, ages slain,
    You sleep, and know not you are dead in vain,
    Nor even in dreams behold how dark and bright
    Ascends in smoke and fire by day and night
    The hate you died to quench and could but fan,
    Sleep well and see no morning, son of man.

    But if, the grave rent and the stone rolled by,
    At the right hand of majesty on high
    You sit, and sitting so remember yet
    Your tears, your agony and bloody sweat,
    Your cross and passion and the life you gave,
    Bow hither out of heaven and see and save."

    by A.E. Housman
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2014
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  12. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    And here is another I noticed recently that speaks to both head and heart:

    i carry your heart with me(i carry it in

    i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
    my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
    i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
    by only me is your doing,my darling)

    i fear
    no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
    no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
    and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
    and whatever a sun will always sing is you


    here is the deepest secret nobody knows
    (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
    and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
    higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
    and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart


    i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)"

     
    Last edited: May 26, 2014
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  13. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    And, for a total change, the opening lines of the unforgettable poem and its amazing long lines by Allen Ginsberg:

    Howl

    For Carl Solomon

    I

    I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
    dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
    angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
    who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,
    who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated,
    who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of war,
    who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing obscene odes on the windows of the skull,
    . . .

     
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  14. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Next, two immensely popular sonnets which also set a standard for the form.
    First Sonnet 43:

    How do I love thee? Let me count the ways

    How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
    I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
    My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
    For the ends of being and ideal grace.
    I love thee to the level of every day’s
    Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
    I love thee freely, as men strive for right;
    I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
    I love thee with the passion put to use
    In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
    I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
    With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
    Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
    I shall but love thee better after death.


    by Elizabeth Barrett Browniing
    Sonnets from the Portugese
     
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  15. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Next, from Shakespeare, the equally well-known Sonnet 18:

    Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

    Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
    Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
    Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
    And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
    Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
    And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
    And every fair from fair sometime declines,
    By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;
    But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
    Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
    Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,
    When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st.
    So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
    So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.


    William Shakespeare​
     
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  16. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Counterfeit Lies by Oliver North and Bob Hamer
    Here is definitely a book "ripped from today's headlines," as is often said . Set in Los Angeles, agents from the local field office of the FBI are working to stem the flow of smuggled goods from Mexico into the United States. Our hero, Jack, is an undercover agent who has worked himself into position as driver of the smuggler's truckloads and, soon enough, is also approached to perform a contract killing. Based on his good performance, he quickly works himself up the chain of command in the smuggling operation and finds he is single-handedly facing a nuclear-weapon conspiracy of Iranian and North Korean agents, plus a cell of Muslim terrorists operating separately under cover of a mosque in Los Angeles. "All the usual suspects," one is tempted to say. The suspense of Jack's possibly being uncovered and/or killed at any moment exists on every page and it builds very well throughout the book. Authenticity is created by the involvement of numerous US Governement agencies, FBI, CIA, NSA, Homeland Security, and the use of internal organizational jargon and acronyms galore. Lt Col North (ret. USMC) and Bob Hamer (FBI) know their organizations well through long years of service and provide a very detailed and convincing fictionalized "inside story".


    The story is told with noticeable patriotic fervor, as the good guys are "protecting America" while the bad guys are "the forces of evil," and, for a further touch, Jack also has to fight against the interference of the administrative bureaucratice types back in Washington. Finally it ought to be said that, unusual for detective stories, the name of God is used in reverence by Jack at least several times throughout the book as part of his living and credible religious faith.



    A real page turner that is well worth reading if the overall combination of themes appeals to you.
     
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  17. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Memorable selections from my recent decade of membership in book forums.

    A Decade of Outstanding Reading

    Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
    Pnin - Vladimir Nabokov
    Look at the Harlequins - Vladimir Nabokov
    Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf
    The Waves - Virginia Woolf
    The Sea - John Banville
    Stoner - John Williams
    Absalom, Absalom! - William Faulkner
    Daniel Deronda - George Eliot
    The Lover - Marguerite Duras
    The Golden Notebook - Doris Lessing
    Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
    Franny and Zooey - J.D. Salinger
    The Stream of Life - Clarice Lispector
    Light Years - James Salter
    The Hunters - James Salter
    Gilead - Marilynne Robinson
    Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - James Joyce
    Dreams of my Russian Summers - Andrei Makine
    Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy
    Casanova in Bolzano by Sandor Marai
    American Pastoral by Philip Roth
    The Universal Baseball Association - Robert Coover
    Your Face Tomorrow (3 v) - Javier Marias


    Spy, Detective, Terrorism

    The Untouchable - John Banville
    Harlot's Ghost - Norman Mailer
    The Smiley Series - John LeCarré
    I Am Pilgrim - Terry Hayes


    Sci Fi
    Malevil - Robert Merle
    On the Beach - Nevil Shute
    Contact - Carl Sagan
    Canticle for Leibowitz - Walter M. Miller, Jr.
    Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes
    The Martian - Andy Weir


    Islam
    Orientalism - Edward Said
    From Beirut to Jerusalem - Thomas L. Friedman
    Mohammed, a Prophet for Our Time - Karen Armstrong
    The Truth About Mohammed - Robert Spencer
    American Islam - Paul M. Barrett
    Onward Muslim Soldiers - Robert Spencer

    Lit Crit
    Post-Modernist Fiction - Brian McHale

    Short Story
    The Lost Decade - F. Scott Fitzgerald

    Drama
    Waiting for Godot - Samuel Beckett
    Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf - Edward Albee


    Poetry
    The Classic 100 Poems - William Harmon, ed.

    Biography
    Salinger - David Shields

    Inspirational
    Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions - John Donne
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2015
  18. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    8/13/2020
    Just a news note:
    I can't believe 5 years have gone by since my last post here!
    I can believe, however, that my attention lately has been diverted to other things!
    Recently, my main attention has been focused on writing my memoirs, hopefully for the benefit of my children.
    The current draft amounts to about 350 pages, plus numerous gaps and unfinished sections to be completed.
    But I am getting there, and the end is in sight.
    For someone who is not an author, it has turned into a much larger task than I ever imagined.

    And, in between, I continue to read.

    Still here, alive and kicking.
    Be careful,
    Stay well!
    Peder
     

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