Category: books


posted by ben on 10.11.01 at 14:05, null, books, books, 1 comment Permalink

...shows up so many places:

The Once and Future King
Times Arrow
The Time Traveler's Wife
The Curious Case of Bejamin Button

...probably others I'm not thinking of right now. It's not exactly the hero with a thousand faces.

Comment from: Devin [Visitor]
We learned about Arthur-Merlin protocols in my complexity theory class today.
Permalink 11/04/10 @ 10:24

Almost Trout

posted by ben on 10.11.01 at 10:52, null, books, books, Leave a comment Permalink

In the beginning was the Word. Then came the fucking word processor. Then came the thought processor. Then came the death of literature. And so it goes.

Dan Simmons, Hyperion, pg 175

posted by ben on 09.03.20 at 18:30, null, null, books, Leave a comment Permalink

I've read the book. I love it. If there is some hint of how to find you in it, I've missed it. As GK Ashe probably isn't available, let's go get dinner some other ridiculous place!


posted by ben on 09.03.19 at 14:30, null, null, books, Leave a comment Permalink

The Road Home by Rose Tremain is to Strawberry Fields by Marina Lewycka
House of Meetings by Martin Amis is to Russian Debutante's Handbook by Gary Shteyngart

Not to be confused with Robert Irwin, the American.

posted by ben on 07.05.28 at 02:10, null, books, books, Leave a comment Permalink
O green parrot,
who discourses eternally of mysteries,
May thy beak never want water.
-Robert Irwin, The Arabian Nightmare, pg. 89


posted by ben on 07.05.15 at 15:45, null, books, books, Leave a comment Permalink

I leered politely.

posted by ben on 07.03.23 at 16:01, null, books, books, Leave a comment Permalink

Since our meeting again in Berlin, Waldemar and I had developed an intimate but casual relationship which was typical of that period of my life. I knew at least half a dozen young men in much the same way. We would not see each other for weeks or months at a time. Then the telephone would ring. “Christoph, can you lend me ten marks?” “Christoph, can I stay at your place tonight? My landlady is acting funny.” (“Acting funny” meant that the landlady got tired of asking for the rent.) It wasn’t that Waldemar and the others were just spongers. They simply though that friends should help each other; that the arrangement happened to be more or less one-sided was, from their point of view, merely an economic accident. Waldemar was a charming guest—one of the kind who feels it is his duty to entertain the host, not vice verse.

-Christopher Isherwood, Ambrose, pg 62.

they have camels

posted by ben on 07.01.28 at 15:39, null, null, books, books, 1 comment Permalink

When a man exalts one woman, and one woman only, "above all others," you can be pretty sure you are dealing with a misogynist. It frees him up for thinking the rest are shit.

-Martin Amis, House of Meetings, pg. 34
Comment from: collin [Member] ·
Bactrian, I'm assuming?
Permalink 01/30/07 @ 10:27

It's more profound than the quotable parts.

posted by ben on 06.12.20 at 03:00, null, books, books, Leave a comment Permalink

I want to visit Spetsai.


It is (the age of 25), I think, the most difficult and irritating age of all. Both to be and to behold. One has the intelligence, one is in all ways treated as a grown man. But certain persons reduce one to adolescence, because only experience can understand and assimilate them.

-John Fowles, The Magus, pg. 179

I was too green to know that all cynicism masks a failure to cope - an impotence, in short; and that to despise all effort is the greatest effort of all.

-John Fowles, The Magus, pg. 17

I had got away from what I hated, but I hadn't found where I loved, and so I pretended that there was nowhere to love.

-John Fowles, The Magus, pg. 17

posted by ben on 06.12.05 at 00:46, null, books, books, Leave a comment Permalink

I have always, beyond belief, hoped to meet, at night and in a woods, a beautiful naked woman or rather, since such a wish once expressed means nothing, I regret, beyond belief, not having met her.

Andre Breton, Nadja, pg. 39

posted by ben on 06.11.30 at 14:28, null, books, books, 2 comments Permalink

Elliot Bay has remaindered Vonnegut's latest book, Man Without a Country. I know it's in no way their fault that even Vonnegut's book can't find readers, but it still bothers me.

Comment from: graham [Member] ·
Was it any good?
Permalink 11/30/06 @ 16:28
Comment from: ben [Member] ·
It's nonfiction, basically a humanist rant. So, yes.
Permalink 11/30/06 @ 16:52

strangely predicable

posted by ben on 06.11.30 at 14:26, null, books, books, 3 comments Permalink

Me: "Do you know where the Isabel Allende reading is?"
Him: "The Town Hall, 8th and Seneca. It used to be a Christian Science church."

Comment from: graham [Member] ·
I love the description of the building on the Town Hall Website:
"It was built at the peak of the Christian Science movement when the church could afford generous spaces and fine finishes."
Permalink 11/30/06 @ 16:34
Comment from: ben [Member] ·
Now Christian Scientists live in cardboard boxes and eat rats.
Permalink 11/30/06 @ 16:50
Comment from: collin [Member] ·
Oh Ben, when you're in Chicago you should see if that CS church on 57th and Blackstone was ever turned into condos. And I think Henry Paulson only bathes in rat blood.
Permalink 12/01/06 @ 22:55

She has nice arms too.

posted by ben on 06.11.29 at 23:57, null, books, books, Leave a comment Permalink

Isn’t it good to be alive?
No thank you, I don’t want to buy anything.
I’m not trying to sell you anything! It’s Leo. Listen. I was sitting here drinking a coffee in Starbucks and suddenly it hit me.
Who hit you?
Ach, listen! It hit me how good it is to be alive. Alive! And I wanted to tell you. Do you understand what I’m saying? I’m saying life is a thing of beauty, Bruno. A thing of beauty and joy forever.

There was a pause.
Sure, whatever you say Leo. Life is a beauty.
And a joy forever,
I said.
All right, Bruno said. And a joy.
I waited.
I was about to hang up when Bruno said, Leo?
Did you mean human life?

-Nicole Krauss, The History of Love, pg. 76-77

Possibly the wrong Gilbert

posted by ben on 06.11.04 at 23:52, null, books, books, Leave a comment Permalink

Maybe She is Here

She might be here secretly.
On her hands and knees
with her head down a bit
tilted to peer around the doorjamb
in the morning, watching me
before I wake up.
Only her face showing
and her shoulders. In a slip,
her skin honey against the simple
white of two thin straps
and the worked edge of the bodice.
With her right hand a little visible.

-Jack Gilbert, Refusing Heaven, pg. 92

Rilke didn't like hipsters.

posted by ben on 06.10.20 at 20:33, null, books, books, Leave a comment Permalink

It is true that many young people who love falsely, i.e., simply surrendering themselves and giving up their solitude (the average person will of course always go on doing that--), feel oppressed by their failure and want to make the situation they have landed in livable and fruitful in their own, personal way--. For their nature tells them that the questions of love, even more than everything else that is important, cannot be resolved publicly and according to this or that agreement; that they are question, intimate questions from one human being to another, which in any case require a new, special, wholly personal answer--. But, how can they, who have already flung themselves together, and can no longer tell whose outlines are whose, who thus no longer possess anything of their own, how can they find a way out of themselves, out of the depths of their already buried solitude?

-Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, pg. 72-73

...ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must," then build your life in accordance with this necessity...

-Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, pg. 6

...if you feel yourself becoming too familiar with it [irony], if you are afraid of this growing familiarity, then turn to great and serious objects, in front of which it becomes small and helpless.

-Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, pg. 15

Read as little as possible of literary criticism--such things are either partisan opinions, which have become petrified and meaningless, hardened and empty of life, or else they are just clever word-games, in which one view wins today, and tomorrow the opposite view.

-Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, pg. 23

posted by ben on 06.09.22 at 17:16, null, books, books, 1 comment Permalink

What language does Murakami read Dickens in?

Comment from: Other Graham [Visitor] ·
Definitely English.
Permalink 09/23/06 @ 14:56

The kidney-shaped stone has its own reasons for doing what it does.

posted by ben on 06.09.21 at 15:47, null, books, books, 6 comments Permalink

1971 was the Year of Spaghetti.

In 1971 I cooked spaghetti to live and lived to cook spaghetti. Steam rising from the aluminum pot was my pride and joy, tomato sauce bubbling in the saucepan my one great hope in life.

I’d gone to a cooking specialty store and bought a kitchen timer and a hug aluminum cooking pot, big enough to bathe a German Shepard in, then went round all the supermarkets that cater to foreigners, gathering an assortment of odd-sounding spices. I picked up a pasta cookbook at the bookstore, and bought tomatoes by the dozen. I purchased every brand of spaghetti I could lay my hands on, simmered every kind of sauce known to man. Fine particles of garlic, onion, and olive oil swirled in the air, forming a harmonious cloud that penetrated every corner of my tiny apartment, permeating the floor and ceiling and walls, my clothes, my books, my records, my tennis racket, my bundles of old letters. It was a fragrance one might have smelled on ancient Roman aqueducts.

This is a story from the Year of Spaghetti, 1971 A.D.

-Haruki Murakami, "The Year of Spaghetti," Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman,, pg. 169
Comment from: collin [Member] ·
Why the spagetti trope? Wasn't that in Windup Bird too?
Permalink 09/26/06 @ 10:59
Comment from: ben [Member] ·
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman is a collection of his short stories, a lot of which were later incorporated into his novels. There was another one that obviously formed the basis for Sputnik Sweetheart.

I actually enjoyed this short story collection which, given my passionate hatred of short stories, should give you an idea of how much I want a new Murakami novel.
Permalink 09/26/06 @ 12:31
Comment from: collin [Member] ·
So you've read "Kafka on the Shore"?
Permalink 09/26/06 @ 13:32
Comment from: ben [Member] ·
I finished it on the plane to England, ages ago, back when things were different.
Permalink 09/26/06 @ 13:48
Comment from: graham [Member] ·
Who is the person attached to that ear?
Permalink 10/01/06 @ 11:55
Comment from: ben [Member] ·
the result of a google image search for woman ear
Permalink 10/01/06 @ 12:38

posted by ben on 06.09.16 at 16:02, null, books, books, Leave a comment Permalink

Life should be portrayed not the way it is, and not the way it's supposed to be, but the way it appears in dreams.

Konstantin Gavrilovich Treplyov, Anton Chekhov, The Seagull, pg 750

books that ought to be banned

posted by ben on 06.07.26 at 19:19, null, books, books, Leave a comment Permalink

I've been thinking for a while about a books that should be banned course. Right now the right bans books like Huckleberry Finn and The Color Purple. Clearly they have no idea what sort of literature actually exists or they wouldn't bother attacking such classics.

I propose a one semester course that would give conservatively educated college students an idea of just how liberal philosophy can be. The idea is to shake them, shock them into realizing that what they regard as the left or right is in fact only a tiny part of the social and political spectrum.

We regard Bush as a conservative... our government is routinely compared to the Nazi government by well meaning morons, when even the most egregious elements of the right are in favor of social security.

Programs such as social security, medicare and welfare would have been unthinkably socialist a century ago, yet now most of the left and right accept these as useful programs that benefit society as a whole.

Democrats and Republicans have a lot in common, they must to function in our form of democracy. And, that's fine, but we ought to recognize it. We need to recognize that there are forms of government vast and varied, most of which have never been attempted on any scale.

I think the best way to acknowledge that is to read free thinkers who attacked the moral grounds of our society and most previous societies. By understanding their criticism, we can get a better idea where our philosophy, where our subconscious beliefs fit in the realm of political thought as a whole.

Sexus, Henry Miller
Journey to the End of Night, Louis Ferdinand Celine
The Immoralist, Antoine de Gide
Justine, Lawrence Durrell
Death in Venice, Thomas Mann
Justine, Marquis de Sade
Venus in Furs, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch
Thus Spake Zarathustra, Frederick Nietchzsche
The Stranger, Albert Camus

Studs Terkel

posted by ben on 06.07.26 at 17:17, null, books, politics, books, Leave a comment Permalink

Terkel doesn't really lend well to quoting. I have Division Street: America and "The Good War," and both are more about zeitgeist than a particular philosophy. The stunning part about Terkel is that the philosophy falls directly out of what he describes. Read a few stories about industrial workers in Chicago and you can't help but become a socialist...

I recognize that his work is brilliant, but I can't decide if it's still relevant. The industrial economy he built his career describing doesn't exist anymore... Do the human interest stories still apply?

I've been asking this question about much of my reading lately. Look Homeward Angel is a particularly potent example. I'm certain that 50 years ago it was quite poignant. It hasn't dated that well though... much of the plot centers around a form of institutionalized racism that doesn't exist anymore.

I had a much better time reading Sophie's Choice, where WWII figures largely. Somehow WWII has stayed more in our minds than segregation. I suppose there's the simple explanation that we like to think about WWII because we did largely good things and prefer to forget about segregation for the opposite reason.