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Captiv8



Joined: 25 Aug 2006
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MCGF wrote:
Captiv8 wrote:
I finished reading Moby Dick the other day. I'm not convinced that it's one of the greatest American novels of all time, or even Melville's best work. I think it starts that way; the initial chapters written from Ishmael's perspective are fantastic. Even leading into the first part of the voyage on the Pequod, you get the sense that Melville has written something truly great. But then the novel gets really bogged down in cetology and nautical observations that read like the self-absorbed musings of a sailor more than a narrative directive. Speaking of which, the narrative voice becomes blurred to the point that characters practically disappear. What happens to Ishmael? He starts as the narrator and is gone by the end of the novel. But then I thought maybe Melville was just way ahead of his time and he was attempting to deliberately transcend literary traditions. I don't know. I think it's a good book, but not great.


What Melville book would you say is better than Moby Dick? I'm just curious; I love Moby Dick and I haven't read anything else by him.


Israel Potter and The Confidence Man. Those are the only other books of his I've read, and I think they are both really good. The former is probably on equal footing, and the latter is probably just a touch above.[/i]
Post Sat Oct 27, 2012 3:26 pm
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MCGF



Joined: 22 Feb 2010
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Captiv8 wrote:
Israel Potter and The Confidence Man. Those are the only other books of his I've read, and I think they are both really good. The former is probably on equal footing, and the latter is probably just a touch above.[/i]


Alright, thanks. I've heard good things about Billy Budd too. I'm gonna go on a Melvillean spree once my life calms down a bit.

I agree with your criticism of Moby Dick to an extent-- the book definitely gets sloggy in the middle. Cetology is a bore. But for me, there are so many passages that are so transcendently beautiful and profound that I couldn't dislike Moby Dick if I tried.
Post Sat Oct 27, 2012 7:51 pm
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Mr 9999
Judge and Jury


Joined: 04 Feb 2006
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I've decided to start delving into classics.

Just finished The Count of Monte Cristo. I can imagine how mind blowing a story like this must have been when it was first published. However, since so many books and movies have yanked select things from this story, it didn't feel as fresh to me as I wanted it to. It's a long story and toward the end I realized, "Jesus, I haven't laughed a single time." Not that it's a comedy or anything, but I always find myself laughing if the writing is good enough. during the last few pages I actually did laugh out loud. But I think it's a testament to the story itself that I was willing to read the whole thing with no reward of humor.

I don't know if anyone here has read this book, but it became clear to me that the main character is kind of a control-freak fuckface. Hahaha. Inspiring too.
Post Sat Oct 27, 2012 7:57 pm
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Captiv8



Joined: 25 Aug 2006
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Location: Third Coast
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MCGF wrote:
Captiv8 wrote:
Israel Potter and The Confidence Man. Those are the only other books of his I've read, and I think they are both really good. The former is probably on equal footing, and the latter is probably just a touch above.[/i]


Alright, thanks. I've heard good things about Billy Budd too. I'm gonna go on a Melvillean spree once my life calms down a bit.

I agree with your criticism of Moby Dick to an extent-- the book definitely gets sloggy in the middle. Cetology is a bore. But for me, there are so many passages that are so transcendently beautiful and profound that I couldn't dislike Moby Dick if I tried.


I will concede that point, but also note that the really great passages can be obscured by the technical passages. That said, this gem really stood out to me, so much that I copied it down:

"But lulled into such an opium-like listlessness of vacant, unconscious reverie is this absentminded youth by the blending cadence of waves with thoughts, that at last he loses his identity; takes the mystic ocean at his feet for the visible image of that deep, blue, bottomless soul, pervading mankind and nature; and every strange, half-seen, gliding, beautiful thing that eludes him; every dimly-discovered, uprising fin of some undiscernible form, seems to him the embodiment of those elusive thoughts that only people the soul by continually flitting through it."

Brilliance.
Post Sat Oct 27, 2012 9:34 pm
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Captiv8



Joined: 25 Aug 2006
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http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/nov/22/mark-z-danielewski-serial-novel-the-familiar

I kind of blows my mind that Danielewski was able to work out this kind of deal, which seems pretty unheard of for an author. I mean, twenty-seven books? I'm sure most writers can't even conceive of writing that many novels, let alone in serial. Good luck to him, I guess. I really enjoyed House of Leaves, dug Only Revolutions, and I've been trying for a while to find a reasonably priced copy of The Fifty-Year Sword.

Edit: It seems that The Fifty-Year Sword was just reprinted as a full release (as opposed to the very limited initial release, which was like 1000 total, printed in the Netherlands) on October 16 of this year. Fantastic! This is going on the ole Christmas list, as it is now much more affordable.
Post Wed Oct 31, 2012 7:30 pm
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DeadAwake



Joined: 17 Feb 2007
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Ive started reading P.D.Ouspensky - The Fourth Way, though i'm not new to the concepts and ideas it expounds. The foundation of which is that people as we are now can do nothing. We are asleep, we are not self conscious, we do not have an identity because we are mechanical and everything proceeds unconsciously. Our life is an accumulation of outside forces/external influences and we are shaped despite our lack of a real will and that we have many "I's" as a result, which i take it means identity.
Post Sun Nov 11, 2012 10:23 pm
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Captiv8



Joined: 25 Aug 2006
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Location: Third Coast
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DeadAwake wrote:
Ive started reading P.D.Ouspensky - The Fourth Way, though i'm not new to the concepts and ideas it expounds. The foundation of which is that people as we are now can do nothing. We are asleep, we are not self conscious, we do not have an identity because we are mechanical and everything proceeds unconsciously. Our life is an accumulation of outside forces/external influences and we are shaped despite our lack of a real will and that we have many "I's" as a result, which i take it means identity.


This is only half the story, is it not? The real thrust of the book, i.e. the fourth way, is to advocate and help provide tools for an awakening. As I read it, this was just a way of making Buddhism palatable to a Western audience. I mean, mind, body, and emotion? C'mon. Then there was the whole Rosicrucian thing. It all just seemed like being esoteric and unconventional for the sake of those things themselves. If I'm going out that way I'd rather get into some Holographic Universe stuff.
Post Mon Nov 12, 2012 5:47 am
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DeadAwake



Joined: 17 Feb 2007
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Captiv8 wrote:
This is only half the story, is it not? The real thrust of the book, i.e. the fourth way, is to advocate and help provide tools for an awakening. As I read it, this was just a way of making Buddhism palatable to a Western audience. I mean, mind, body, and emotion? C'mon. Then there was the whole Rosicrucian thing. It all just seemed like being esoteric and unconventional for the sake of those things themselves. If I'm going out that way I'd rather get into some Holographic Universe stuff.


Yes i agree, it is meant to be a system which advocates and provides tools for developing self-awareness.
Its said that humans have practiced the paths of the fakir, yogi and monk which are paths dedicated to the mastery
of the body, emotions and mind respectively. Its called the Fourth way
because it is a different way which is based on the harmonious development of all three aspects simultaneously or
in an equal manner. Several different people of various religions/traditions influenced it, at least practitioners of Sufism
and esoteric Christainity as well. Ouspensky was an adherent of the fourth way which Gurdjieff introduced.

I didnt hear about the Rosicrucian thing until i looked it up on Wiki. Interesting.
Apparently, Pythagoras taught that people arent born with a soul, but that they have to develop it. Because they are goverened
by the external world. I havent read about Pythagoras, but Manly P Hall i was told talked about Pythagoras's school. The
number Pi also appears in the fourth way.

Yeah, i have conflicts with myself on why i read this and if it'll mess me up. I wouldnt be able to reccommend it
based on those doubts. For me, its good to consider alongside conspiracies and alternate, unorthodox theories. Thats
how i justify it to myself, anway.

SOme of the ideas are really intriguing though:
For one, that people are completely mechanical. Also the strange idea that organic life on earth is an instrument
for the Earth to "communicate" with the Moon. That organic life (humans) on Earth feed the Moon, based on the principle that when we
die our bodies "feed" the earth. Except with the moon its mental or emotional impressions, suffering, or whats specifically said, i'm not exactly sure.
That may be based on the idea that every planet in the solar system exerts
a definite but subtle influence on the Earth, as well as the sun, other solar systems, galaxies etc. Which corresponds, you
could say with Astrology except i dont think its specified in what manner.

Three brains are also talked about but not in the same way as the Triune brain complex theory. The triune brain complex
is that the brain is divided into a reptilian, paleomammalian and neomammalian a.k.a neo-cortex. The three brains or centres Gurdjieff
talks about are the head-brain, i.e the brain, the totality of nerves or solar plexus and the spinal cord, i think. I cant remember
the exact details.

There are others, but you get the idea.
Post Tue Nov 13, 2012 2:46 am
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Captiv8



Joined: 25 Aug 2006
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So this is a real book:



I just watched an interview with Jesse Ventura and Piers Morgan. It really just turned into an argument. Ventura sounds like a conspiracy nut, but it was enjoyable anyway.

Post Sat Dec 01, 2012 7:29 am
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Captiv8



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I blazed through Corman McCarthy's second and third novels, Outer Dark and Child of God, in the past week. Needless to say, they were really easy and quick reads.

Now Outer Dark was really good, dwelling on this kind of Southern Gothic fascination that seems to characterize a lot of McCarthy's early work. The dialogue is sparse and in dialect, the characters are singularly driven but not one-dimensional, and there is something really compelling about how the plot is very simple. The gist is that Culla and Rinthy are brother and sister, and they have engaged in incest and made a baby. Culla (the brother) leaves the baby to die, a tinker finds it, and Rinthy endeavors to find the child, referred to constantly as "my chap." Culla then embarks to find her. Their stories never converge again beyond the initial few pages, but they run parallel in a really interesting contrast. What's more, McCarthy is a master of writing really elegant and impressively descriptive passages that juxtapose with the directness of Appalachian speech. A really great novel with a little bit of mystery to boot.

Child of God was not as good. It's much more transgressive than the second novel, as it deals with a weird loner who engages in theft, necrophilia, pedophilia, and a devolution into cro-magnon woodsman. The story is told quickly and without any unnecessary detail, as is McCarthy's style. It's a very direct approach, but this is proof that it doesn't always work. There really was no reason to care about this story, other than a kind of morbid fascination with what depravity the character Lester Ballard was going to perpetrate next. Everything that happens has such a random feel to it that I'm tempted to believe it was intentional, but I'm not sure. Either way, I don't think it was effective. I didn't empathize with Ballard in any way, nor did I think it was particularly clever of McCarthy to only hint at past traumas he may have suffered. In fact, I think the opposite would have been much more interesting and helped flesh out the novel (which was a short ~190 pages) into something more substantial. If this had been the first Cormac McCarthy novel I read, I probably wouldn't have read another. And apparently James Franco is directing an adaptation of the novel, which sadly I think might actually be a rare case of the movie being better. We'll see.
Post Tue Dec 04, 2012 2:56 pm
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Captiv8



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What is the What is blowing my mind right now. I realize it's classified as a novel, but I can't help but feel that Eggers captures Deng's voice, but child and adult, really well. This is a really great, and indeed heartbreaking, insight into the Sudanese civil war, the Lost Boys, and what life afterward was like. It's quite a long book, as far as these things go, but I haven't found that a problem at all. I'm really moving through it swiftly, and enjoying it, which is a weird thing to say given the subject matter. I've had this one of the shelf for a while, and I'm glad I finally made my way to it. Zeitoun, you're next.
Post Thu Jan 31, 2013 9:09 am
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medicineman
HALFLING


Joined: 21 Apr 2007
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Captiv8 wrote:
I blazed through Corman McCarthy's second and third novels, Outer Dark and Child of God, in the past week. Needless to say, they were really easy and quick reads.

Now Outer Dark was really good, dwelling on this kind of Southern Gothic fascination that seems to characterize a lot of McCarthy's early work. The dialogue is sparse and in dialect, the characters are singularly driven but not one-dimensional, and there is something really compelling about how the plot is very simple. The gist is that Culla and Rinthy are brother and sister, and they have engaged in incest and made a baby. Culla (the brother) leaves the baby to die, a tinker finds it, and Rinthy endeavors to find the child, referred to constantly as "my chap." Culla then embarks to find her. Their stories never converge again beyond the initial few pages, but they run parallel in a really interesting contrast. What's more, McCarthy is a master of writing really elegant and impressively descriptive passages that juxtapose with the directness of Appalachian speech. A really great novel with a little bit of mystery to boot.

Child of God was not as good. It's much more transgressive than the second novel, as it deals with a weird loner who engages in theft, necrophilia, pedophilia, and a devolution into cro-magnon woodsman. The story is told quickly and without any unnecessary detail, as is McCarthy's style. It's a very direct approach, but this is proof that it doesn't always work. There really was no reason to care about this story, other than a kind of morbid fascination with what depravity the character Lester Ballard was going to perpetrate next. Everything that happens has such a random feel to it that I'm tempted to believe it was intentional, but I'm not sure. Either way, I don't think it was effective. I didn't empathize with Ballard in any way, nor did I think it was particularly clever of McCarthy to only hint at past traumas he may have suffered. In fact, I think the opposite would have been much more interesting and helped flesh out the novel (which was a short ~190 pages) into something more substantial. If this had been the first Cormac McCarthy novel I read, I probably wouldn't have read another. And apparently James Franco is directing an adaptation of the novel, which sadly I think might actually be a rare case of the movie being better. We'll see.


Hm, I liked Child of God quite a bit, but I have to admit I'm a fanboy. I agree that Ballard isn't a particularly sympathetic character but I found him kind of fascinating. Really it was the bizarre humor of the book that stuck with me the most, the scene where he is shopping for clothes for the first body is great, and when he takes the ax-head back to the blacksmith, the dump keeper and him daughters; as dark as it is, it's a pretty funny book. Violence and the motivations for violence are almost always central themes with him and I think this book is sort of an exploration of that as usual, but you may be right that it's just a less compelling scenario than some of his others. Outer Dark I thought fantastic. The book just has this tone about it that is hard to describe. Twistedly mythic, he evokes a rural south that almost seems another world...the colorful eccentrics encountered by Rinthy and Culla on their respective quests, each with something, a warning, an admonition, a strange gift, a meal or water, remind me almost more of Arthurian fable than any thing else. I find threads of that even more strongly in his later "cowboy" work, almost to the extent of it being, in part, a modernization of the trope. There also seem to be larger-than-man forces at work in the world, a slant sense of justice that plays out in the different fates that await Culla and Rinthy, as well as the inhuman blacker than black cruelty of the dark character and his band that are always on their heels. (I don't remember any names, but he seems almost to be a sketch of Judge Holden from Blood Meridian with less intelligence and refinement) The obligatory Biblical themes that lace his work are almost preponderant here. And as usual he leaves you with some characters and speeches that you turn over and over in your mind searching for purpose and meaning without reaching any satisfactory conclusions. It really is like a perverse fable, with characters both totally believable and utterly beyond the realms of common experience. I think part of what he has always set out to make in his work is sort of American myth, and in his early years he found that in Appalachia because of it's people. Whether he does them justice or how true to life his people from this region are I'm not qualified to judge, but I do think that he was right that a lot of interesting stories could be found in this area that was so geographically close to so many yet so out of their experience that it could seem a conjured world even to contemporary Americans. On a related note, have you read Faulkner's "Sanctuary"? I recommend it to those on a McCarthy kick, obviously his work in large part proceeds from Faulkner but I think that of what I've read it's the most obviously tied.
Post Wed Feb 06, 2013 2:12 am
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medicineman
HALFLING


Joined: 21 Apr 2007
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GrantherBirdly wrote:
huh, maybe I need to revisit them. I remember them as not just bad when compared to the first installments of the series, but like as some of the worst books I've ever read in my life.


Yeah, me too. But it's been a while.

On the non-fiction tip, I found this really good and provocative:

http://www.greenillusions.org/

(It's a book, by Ozzie Zehner, that's it's webpage I'm tired and lazy right now)

It's made me question a lot of assumptions that maybe I should already have been questioning about alternative energy and our mental approach as a culture toward the looming energy crisis. I've always thought that the obviousness of the "growth problem" is something that is not addressed enough, or presented as central enough, in a lot of literature on the subject, maybe because "The Population Bomb" has been so thoroughly discredited, or something. Besides the obviously finite space and resources of the Earth, he pokes a lot of holes in the idea that we can solve our energy problems by any means of producing MORE energy, regardless of what the means of production are. I have been waiting to talk about this here because I kind of assumed there will be someone here who can tell me why this book isn't as great as I think it is, but it has the ring of the simple and clear truth. He's quite sardonic and uses a cynical humor effectively, but he doesn't approach the direness of the situation with a grim and hopeless outlook...he just has a lot of bullshit to clear though before he can even make his point. I think this book is pretty important and cleaves to the essence of the problems it addresses in a way a lot of people somehow miss. He also chose to publish it not-for-profit as a collaboration with some mostly Midwestern A & M type universities, which I think is pretty cool.
Post Wed Feb 06, 2013 2:18 am
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Captiv8



Joined: 25 Aug 2006
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@ medicineman: your response, while informative and on point, sounds like an essay for English class.

I must have failed to see the humor in Child of God. I saw the transition of the main character into full-blown depravity as very sad and disturbing, as well as rather inexplicable. It just seems to happen without much rhyme or reason. Anyway, I haven't read the story you mentioned by Faulkner, but I've never been a fan of his. I read As I Lay Dying and The Sound and the Fury, and I couldn't really get into either of them. I sort of just forced them since Faulkner is so well-respected. Frankly, I don't get the hype. I might think differently if I reread the books now, but I'm not in any rush. Now I'm working through McCarthy's Border Trilogy.
Post Wed Feb 06, 2013 4:17 pm
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Szechwan



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Just picked this up yesterday, going to give it a go tonight.

Post Wed Feb 06, 2013 5:56 pm
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