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    • CommentTimeSep 10th 2011
    Let's see, it's been a while.

    Just finished "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline. Great 80s nostalgia, a real pager-turner, but not without its flaws. Also "How Not to Write a Novel" by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman. The theory being that there many ways to write a good novel, and "good" writing is subjective, but "bad" is not. Very funny, and good fun. In the middle of "God, No!" by Penn Jillette, a rambly, entertaining book about being an atheist. Before that, I fed my own cynicism by reading two Matt Taibbi books - "Griftopia" and "The Great Derangement." They made me want to drink heavily, set a banker on fire and kick a congressperson squah in the nutz. Preferably from a running start.
    • CommentTimeSep 21st 2011
    Slowly working on A Director Prepares by Ann Bogart. It's essays on art and theatre by one of the most important American voices in expressionist theatre. Practically every sentence makes me want to stand and shout YESS! I wish I'd read it when it came out 10 years ago, then I could have skipped reinventing the wheel. I might even have passed on spending years telling myself a desk job was fine, lots of people didn't end up using their degrees I'd be ok.... *sigh*
    • CommentTimeSep 21st 2011
    I just finished off Patti Smith's Just Kids, which is about the relationship between Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe While there are bits of Smith's writing that can be a bit too flowery for my liking and my annoyance in the Warhol scenesters bubbled back up, I was really touched by this book and the Muse/Artist relationship the two had for each other that lasted until Mapplethorpe's death. I was very touched and even though I read this as an ebook, I may just buy a physical copy of it down the line. Either way, I think I'm going to go to the reference library and spend a few hours looking through Mapplethorpe images. But yes, the book was very inspiring.

    And now, continuing with what seems to be a "since I can't afford to go to NYC I'll read about it as a kind of vacation", I'm now on to RATS: Observations on the history and habitat of the city's most unwanted inhabitants by Robert Sullivan. Only at chapter one so far, but I'm liking where he's going so far...
  1.  (9362.564)
    Oh! I read those two earlier this year. Great reads, in my opinion.

    While I was always aware of Smith's friendship with Mapplethorpe, I never fully realized just how powerful and meaningful their relationship was for each other as lovers, artists, and human beings until I read Just Kids. Very moving.

    I found RATS fascinating and actually fun given the writer's musing on some of the characters, both human and rodent, that he encounters. I also enjoyed the various bits touching upon architecture and urbanism.

    Currently reading:
    Camps - A Guide to 21st Century Space by Charlie Hailey
    A survey and spatial/programmatic study of the many varying "camps" that have frequently emerged in certain situations around the world in recent years. It's psuedo-"field guide" crude binding both intrigued me and made me skeptical (as a designer, i'm highly suspicious of anything too precious, glossy, or over-designed) until i flipped through and read several sections and the writing convinced me.
    Picked it up at the Borders bookstore during its final days in Downtown Crossing.
    • CommentTimeSep 21st 2011 edited
    @Steven well, Just Kids was great for me because I only had a vague understanding of who Patti Smith and Mapplethorpe were (I knew of Smith and had seen very few of Mapplethorpe's photos) so instead of looking at them as the iconic people they became, I really got to go along for the ride in this story of two artists.

    And now, inspired, I'm going to the library to spend a few hours looking at Mapplethorpe's polaroids.
    • CommentAuthorArgos
    • CommentTimeSep 21st 2011
    Reading Hitchhiker's Guide since I never finished it the first time around. Going through all 6 of them.
  2.  (9362.567)
    Camps - A Guide to 21st Century Space by Charlie Hailey
    A survey and spatial/programmatic study of the many varying "camps" that have frequently emerged in certain situations around the world in recent years. It's psuedo-"field guide" crude binding both intrigued me and made me skeptical (as a designer, i'm highly suspicious of anything too precious, glossy, or over-designed) until i flipped through and read several sections and the writing convinced me.

    Fantastic book! Beautifully designed, with an impressive mix of case studies.
  3.  (9362.568)
    • CommentTimeSep 21st 2011
    Finished READY PLAYER ONE, which read like a cross between Cory Doctorow and Doug Coupland without the profundity or writing skills. Very entertaining, and it probably has no other pretensions to literary or cultural merit but, yet again, another disappointingly apolitical piece of work. Maybe it's just me...

    Currently being REAMDE by Neal Stephenson, which is not an altogether enjoyable experience. Does he really intimidate his editors so badly? Wtf...? Even though it does read like the flip-side to READY PLAYER ONE, in some respects, it isn't very readable or exciting...
    • CommentAuthorStefanJ
    • CommentTimeSep 21st 2011
    I'm reading a sort-of space opera, Pandora's Star (Peter Hamilton), that I'm sticking with out of inertia. It is not badly written, but the set-up is so contrived that I'm having a hard time getting around it. (It's 2300 AD, and people are still driving Porches and Fords.) If the Sense of Wonder thing doesn't kick in soon I'm going to ditch it.

    I've got The City and The City lined up after it.

    During dog walks I'm listening to a astonishingly drably narrated audiobook of Good Omens. I believe this was a "books for the blind" type of recording, rather than a more consumer oriented production. Still enjoying it, though.
    • CommentTimeSep 22nd 2011
    Big couple of weeks. Re-reread Neuromancer, read Ready Player One, The Magicians, a couple of newish Stephen King shorts (Mile 81 and UR), and I'm blasting through Scalzi's The God Engines.
    • CommentTimeOct 1st 2011
    Woohoo- Books! I've always enjoyed this thread for ideas of what to read and who thinks what of whom. And now I've finally gotten myself all interwebbed with an account and stuff, I get to chuck in my tuppence worth.
    Entirely fiction lately,
    Last month I've re-read the first three of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series( 'The Eyre Affair', 'Lost in a Good Book' and 'The Well of Lost Plots'). I'vejust downloaded the most recent couple to my kindle and wanted to refresh my memory of his delightfully intelligent and playful world. Really great stuff I'm looking forward to the next two; 'First Among Sequels' and 'One of our Thursdays is Missing'.
    In the meantime I was distracted by the arrival on my kindle of REAMDE by Neal Stephenson. This was the first book I had pre-ordered for my kindle and I have to say that the sense of excitement I got when I switched it on to find it waiting for me in the morning was akin to that I used to get waking up on christmas morning knowing there was a stocking full of cool stuff at the end of my bed.
    It was a great feeling but I did find myself missing the whole tactile/visual thing of having the actual book in my hand and the subsequent satisfaction of seeing it sat on my shelf. I expect I will eventually buy a hard copy at some point but books are hellish expensive here in Amsterdam (as much as 40% mark-up on cover price!) and so that can wait.
    While I am well aware that he is not to everyone's taste, I have always been a huge Neal Stephenson fan ever since I devoured Snow Crash in one twelve hour session, after being lent it by an acquaintance in australia who wanted it back the next day.
    While he has a tendency towards the verbose, I always find it worthwhile because of the themes that he chooses to explore.
    I have really enjoyed his latest , covering the economics of MMORPGs, chinese hackers, russian gangsters and al qaida in a slightly ridiculous chase around the globe.
    While perhaps not as grand in scope as his Baroque Cycle, I have found it thoroughly enjoyable and will no doubt re-read it with pleasure as I do all of his books.
    Another writer whose books I am given to re read quite regularly is Terry Prattchett, and i'm very excited about the release of his latest, "Snuff" next week.When I was a kid at catholic school his books (being a convenient size to hide in a blazer pocket) were a perfect escape from the tedium of endless compulsory masses and I've travelled with the discworld ever since. An annual dose of delight which I generally plow through on the day I buy it.
    I'm really dreading the inevitable day when he will no longer be able to share his wonderful imagination with us and I wonder(with some dread) if preparations are already being made to pass the discworld franchise on to another writer. Alzheimers is no doubt one of the things that scares me rigid when i think about getting older.
    Also in the queue to be read soon are both of our esteemed landlord's latest offerings "Contract" and " A Serpent Uncoiled", as well as the first two of a series by C J Sansom "Dissolution" and "Dark Fire"; set during the early Tudor period, they were highly recommended to me by a friend so I have high hopes for them.
    Earlier this year I read a couple of books by Walter Mosley, ' Devil in a Blue Dress' and 'Little Scarlet'. I really enjoyed them and would like to read more by him but he seems poorly represented in the kindle store, so does anyone have any recommendations of other titles by him that it would be worth picking up when I'm in the bookstore?
    Also any non fiction ideas? I like a bit of politics in the form of Greg Palast, John Pilger, Mark Thomas and others whose names elude me right now. I must admit that I find Chomsky a bit hard going purely, I think, because he punches well above my intellectual weight.
    I also enjoy a good travel book, William Dalrymple springs to mind- 'Age of Kali' and 'City of Djinns' in particular I really enjoyed.
    Any suggestions would be most welcome. cheers.
    • CommentTimeOct 1st 2011
    Currently being REAMDE by Neal Stephenson, which is not an altogether enjoyable experience. Does he really intimidate his editors so badly? Wtf...? Even though it does read like the flip-side to READY PLAYER ONE, in some respects, it isn't very readable or exciting...

    Gaaa! I'm reading REAMDE right now and loving it!

    I love the way he builds characters a parts of networks of family and associations, I love the way he teases with notions of backstory and then digresses into the full explanation at moments of crisis, to kind of cliffhang by means of infodump - I love the infodumps!

    This book seems much more in line with the two thrillers he wrote pseudonymously: Cobweb and Interface, than it does with his more directly science fictional work.

    There is something so congenial to me about the way he writes that it feels like going back to a place I loved. The words themselves just disappear and I'm just in there in the ideas. REAMDE so for is putting me right back there.
    • CommentAuthor256
    • CommentTimeOct 1st 2011 edited

    Dracula Cha Cha Cha by Kim Newman. Sorta enjoyable despite "crammed with literary references" being 100% not my thing. It was probably a bad idea to start with the 3rd book in a series, but that doesn't avoid the fact that the pacing was really wacked out.

    Nam-A-Rama by Phillip Jennings - definitely an attempt at "Catch-22 for the Vietnam War". Some of it was genuinely amusing, some of it was just ridiculousness lurching about and failing to ignite into humour, and some of it was remarkably intense, autobiographical-feeling, description of being a part of an insane war. Worth a look, but not a classic.
    • CommentTimeOct 2nd 2011 edited
    @ Oddbill- I agree wholeheartedly with your take on REAMDE. As I often do with his books, I am re reading it immediately to catch the bits where my brain switched off the first time round!
    I also really have a soft spot for Interface, having bought it twice and passed it onto friends whilst gibbering about how much fun it is. I must get round to re reading Cobweb, I remember finding its strange pacing particularly good in setting the atmosphere of the midwest(?) town where most of the action takes place.
    • CommentAuthorltwill
    • CommentTimeOct 8th 2011
    hells half-acre-- will Christopher Baer. Strange dreamy noirish story about a very disturbed man. Third book of Phineas Poe trilogy.
    • CommentAuthorarchizero
    • CommentTimeOct 8th 2011
    finished Iain Sinclair's brilliant ramble, Slow Chocolate Autopsy. each phrase had the strenght of entire books. now jumping between Neal Stephenson's Reamde wich is interesting but slightly overwritten, Tom Vanderbilt's Survival City a rather surreal essay about architecture and atom bombs, and P.W. Singer's Wired for War, wich makes for a curious and thought-provoking contrast: fiction about malware that pwns cybercriminals, and fact about semi-autonomous robots that might be pwnd with serious consequences.
    • CommentTimeOct 9th 2011
    I raced through Surface Detail. With some irony, I found it quite shallow. Yes, there were many (at times many many) threads and strands and plot points and odd species and layers of reality. I enjoyed the brainbuzz from keeping up with the convolutions. But compared to other Culture books, it just didn't seem to be about all that much. Silicon heaven and hell; yes, there are interesting ideas to explore there, but turning it into an interstellar dogfight seemed a bit of a cop-out. Consider the delicate way in which the Culture is juxtaposed against the capitalist/brutalist society in Player of Games. Just having a clever-clever warship turn up and blat the sub-tech civilisations seemed flat.

    HOWEVER, the twist at the end made me lol-out-loud. Zakalwe, that old fucker.

    I've now begun reading (gulp) Gormenghast.
    • CommentTimeOct 9th 2011
    @ oddbill

    I just get tired now, whenever I have to read his stuff. I can see and appreciate the method but am exhausted by the outcome. I actually started to read REAMDE after I had re-read PATTERN RECOGNITION and the comparison didn't favour it at all. Will give it another try in a few months maybe.

    Right now re-reading DO ANDROIDS DREAM... I had forgotten what a lovely piece of fiction it is.
  4.  (9362.580)
    My sister got me the complete (so far) Song of Ice and Fire series for my birthday. I REALLY want to dive straight in to A Game of Thrones, but I'm forcing myself to finish Cities of the Red Night first.

    'Forcing' makes it sound like it's a slog, but it's actually the easiest-to-read Burroughs book that I've yet come across. When the plot moves forward it's genuinely good and entertaining, but it gets bogged down sometimes with extraneous details about drug use and sex (which is obviously par for the course with WSB, but for some reason it annoys me here where it doesn't in Naked Lunch and the Cut-Up Trilogy).