What have you read recently?

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cactus9
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May 27 2019 18:22
What have you read recently?

All and any books and other reading material.

Me: All the Bright Places - Jennifer Niven.

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spacious
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May 28 2019 09:34

I'm currently reading Ian Angus - Facing the Anthropocene. Fossil capitalism and the crisis of the earth system. Very good so far, but I'm still in the first part on the planetary system and debates on what changes justify the term 'anthropocene', what responses it has received etc., and not yet the parts detailing what eco-socialism would amount to.

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Jun 4 2019 16:01

I read We Do Not Fear Anarchy - We Invoke It: The First International and the Origins of the Anarchist Movement by Robert Graham. It's a good read, but not as good as The First Socialist Schism by Wolfgang Eckhardt. I read the latter work before the former and it really set a high bar. Graham's book is much shorter, and therefore more summary.

I also read Anarchism by Daniel Guerin. I had thought I read it before but it seemed new to me. I found it disappointing. It is not written as good as I thought it was. It's a bit too rough for my taste. For an introductory book, it's not as clear and smooth as you would hope it would be.

Right now, I'm reading Eco-Socialism: From deep ecology to social justice by David Pepper. I'm nearly a hundred pages complete. I'm interested in the subject but the book is a bit of a slog to read. The information it contains isn't revealing.

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jef costello
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Jun 4 2019 17:39

I tried to read a copy of Lotta Comunista's paper quite a few times over the last four or five months. I gave up, it was almost unreadable. Weirdly enough they were doing a door to door paper sale with this completely impenetrable thing. I'm not sure if they genuinely thought they would win people over with this or if it was just a funding drive. I can't imagine anyone not already in the organisation would read it. Except maybe another left-communist organisation that wanted to slag them off.

The league of Frightened men, Rex Stout - I think I might have read it before, I quite liked it, even though it is pretty snobby. The racism terms have been switched away from the main characters and are now used by secondaries.

Death of a fop - rather dull continuation of Emma where Jane marries Frank and he beats her, gets involved in crime and then murdered. She wanders around while everyone says she is jesus while not being more than passably nice. Takes a mastubatory joy in using the same 10 words of cant which are defined by the characters every time they use them even on the occasions when they point out that it was obvious from context what it meant, and the fact that the word had been used a dozen times already and explained each time.

Demolished Man - interesting, one of those books where I am not entirely sure what I made of it. Would read more by him. I preferred Tiger Tiger/The stars my destination.

The house of unexpected sisters - I get these NYT bestseller packs occasionally and get lots of erotica and stuff like this. It was readable although I do wonder if it is stunningly patronising to people from Botswana, but I don't know any so haven't been able to ask.

No man's land, David Baldaci - awfully dull thriller which doesn't really add up unless you really force yourself not to think. I read it a while ago but for some reason my phone keeps undeleting it and I keep accidentally starting it again.

Force of Nature, The Dry - Jane Harper. Good serviceable thrillers, quite fun to read with decent characters.

My favourite thing is monsterrs by Emil Faris - Excellent Graphic novel, it went a little off the boil towards the end and I am kind of worried that it is going to collapse into cliché, but nonetheless I will be bying the next volume in a few months when it comes out.

Joe Cinque's consolation - interesting look at a crime that is very strange. Worth a read, alhthough ultimately a bit unsatisfying, a shame that the person who killed him wouldn't be interviewed. She has spoken and written on the subject but has pretty much said I don't remember, I was ill.

Read more than this but need to make dinner smile

zugzwang
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Jun 10 2019 07:26

I'm currently reading the Ben Reynolds book, which is supposed to offer a Marxist take on capitalism and automation in the 21st century. I'm just now getting to part II so I don't really have much of an opinion on it. I came across this though which I thought the author maybe should have supported a bit with some references:

Reynolds wrote:
[...] Goods that can be instantly reproduced by a computer such as text and audio, cost basically nothing to create. Unlike land or machinery, making use of a particular code has no effect on anyone else who wants to use it. Other users are free to copy and use what they wish. The natural price of these codes, in the form of software or digital files, is nothing. This is why it makes inherent sense, particularly to young people, that one should not have to pay for things like books, music and movies on the Internet. The free software movement grew based upon this sentiment and survives to this day despite the aggressive policies of commercial giants like Microsoft

I think this is confusing the 'free' in free software with 'free as in beer'. You can have software that's free of charge (like freeware) but that's not 'free' in the sense of it being open source, and so on. 'Free of charge' is not exactly what the free software movement or organizations like FSF advocate:

Linux Essentials wrote:
The FSF advocates what it calls free software, which is defines in terms of freedom to do things you want to do with the software, not the price of the software. A common phrase to make this distinction clear is "free as in speech, not free as in beer." [...] Since free software is not necessarily free of charge, selling it is not a problem from the FSF's point of view, but given the other freedoms, free software's price tends toward zero as it gets passed around.

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Jun 10 2019 19:42

Just returned Pride to the library. It was supposed to be a write up to tie in with the 2014 film, but the author realised that might not be very interesting so instead he expanded it into one long group interview with former members of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners and some residents of villages in the Swansea Valley.

Its far better and more interesting than a tie in book should be. It goes a lot further than the film into what living in a pit village is lack, the conditions and struggles of both the Miners and the UK homosexual community, before the strike, during the strike and after.

I also think that users of this forum would get a lot out of it, it details how two supposedly very different communities can unite in common cause. And a surprisingly large amount of the interviews concern the state of the British left, including anecdotes about Militant, CPGB, SWP, WRP etc. and how conservative and oppositional stance of the Labour party and the Union leadership.

And not just on gay rights either. Plenty of the interviewees have many things to say about how the leadership of the Labour movement effectively undermined most of the major strikes during the 80s, and how much of what was achieved and done to keep the strikes going had to be autonomously, with the Union playing a very peripheral role.

Dave B
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Jun 13 2019 05:17

I have just read Crime and punishment

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_and_Punishment

by

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fyodor_Dostoevsky

not sure I really enjoyed it but he was “political”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petrashevsky_Circle

There is that stuff in it as well as utilatarianism

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utilitarianism

A downside of utilitarianism is you behave like a shit if you have to if you think there are good rational reasons it will make things better for everybody overall.

Or the “end justifies the means” which was superficially bolshevism writ large.

There is Nietzsche stuff in there; or Dostoevsky in Nietzsche.

I am also in a ‘ minority of interpreters’ in thinking there is Stirner in Nietzsche.

Thus it maybe Stirner- Dostoevsky-Nietzsche.

….Nietzsche called Dostoevsky "the only psychologist from whom I have anything to learn."[224] While Nietzsche never mentions Max Stirner, the similarities in their ideas have prompted a minority of interpreters to suggest a relationship between the two…

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_Nietzsche

If you like ‘Russsian’ revolutionary novels Under Western Eyes by joseph conrad was much more enjoyable I think

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Under_Western_Eyes_(novel)

I think these kind of novels can give a deeper or different kind of ‘feel’ to what was going on in peoples heads then an there.

The Russians do come across as being a bit strange in their 19th century literature.

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Jun 13 2019 10:12

You Say You Want a Revolution: SDS, PL, and Adventures in Building a Worker-Student Alliance, intersting compilation of recollections of people who had been members or sympathizers of the Progressive Labor Party around 1968 before PL became fully cultish, sometimes funny (e.g. that one former member says, that drinking alcohol was in a way encouraged in his branch for student members to become more proletarianized), some interesting stuff about grassroots work at unis and factories

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Entdinglichung
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Jun 13 2019 10:14
jef costello wrote:
I tried to read a copy of Lotta Comunista's paper quite a few times over the last four or five months. I gave up, it was almost unreadable. Weirdly enough they were doing a door to door paper sale with this completely impenetrable thing. I'm not sure if they genuinely thought they would win people over with this or if it was just a funding drive. I can't imagine anyone not already in the organisation would read it. Except maybe another left-communist organisation that wanted to slag them off.

was it in translation? my experience that much of the left communist stuff from Italy is poorly translated

Dyjbas
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Jun 13 2019 12:33

Lotta Comunista are not really left communist.

Dave B wrote:
The Russians do come across as being a bit strange in their 19th century literature.

What do you mean?

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Jun 13 2019 15:42

Quite a few things, including:

Albert Weale - The Will Of The People
This book examines the idea of "the will of the people" and finds it to be little more than a modern myth. Not only is it impossible to non-arbitrarily determine who the "people" are and are not, it is also impossible to come up with a singular veiwpoint that all will converge upon. It is interesting that in the whole of the Brexit debate not a single politician, as far as I know, has had the insight or courage to criticise the concept.

Daniel Trilling - Lights In The Distance
An account of the European borders crisis bought to life through a series of first person accounts of refugees and migrants. When people are forced to flee because they cannot meet their needs at home uncomfortable questions have to be asked about why that is the case.

Kwame Antony Appiah - The Lies That Bind
In an era of increasing division and conflict this book seeks to examine the identities through which struggles are fought. Rejecting the idea that identities come with their own internal essence - that there are special immutable characteristics or capacities that make identity groups what they are - Kwame Anthony Appiah examines the history and contradictions of concepts such as race, class, gender, nationality and culture. An informative and enjoyably written book that is well worth a read. (It is based on his Reith lectures entitled 'Mistaken Identities')

George Orwell - Orwell In Spain
This book is essentially an expanded edition of Orwell's "Homage to Catalonia" but with the addition of correspondence, book reviews and other articles written by Orwell (and some by his wife Eileen Blair, and George Kopp). It was during the Spanish civil war that Orwell solidified the ideas that would become key ingredients in his later novels "1984" and "Animal Farm". The extra articles, written between 1936 and 1949, make for interesting reading not least for the parallels that they have with the world of today.

(These were some micro-book reviews I posted on my Instagram..)

Dave B
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Jun 13 2019 18:16

response to post 10

When I said the Russians in 19th century literature seemed a bit strange it wasn’t mean to be derogatory in any way.

I would say they come across being very passionate maybe?

I haven’t read more than half a dozen of them.

I find them a bit of a drag as I find it difficult to remember the names of the characters and they often have multiple names which doesn’t help me.

I find the whole subject of cross cultural and trans historically what people were probably like from fictional literature interesting.

It is an approach that has its problems obviously in the sense authors maybe idealising the characters according to their expected cultural norms or whatever?

Fleur
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Jun 13 2019 19:16

Whenever I read Russian lit, I keep a crib sheet for all the names. Not just for all that patronynms etc but every character seems to have at least half a dozen nicknames. If you read War and Peace, you might need to get a database going.
Personally, I love Dostoevsky and it's the passion of the characters I love.

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Jun 13 2019 21:15
Entdinglichung wrote:
was it in translation? my experience that much of the left communist stuff from Italy is poorly translated

There were a lot of translated quotations from their main guy, in all of the articles, not sure if it the rest was translated. It wasn't badly translated, just impenetrable.

Dostoyevsky is amazing. Try The Devils, which is his novel about 'revolutionaries' and is probably one of the best novels I have ever read.

Quote:
The Russians do come across as being a bit strange in their 19th century literature.

There are a lot of things in 19th century novels that seem overly melodramatic to a modern reader. The social rituals and conventions can be a little confusing at times, but that is the same with anything.

The name thing can be tricky, depending on the book. War and Peace is notorious for it, but Dostoyevksy is usually easy enough to follow. The last book I read that was that difficult was Manituana, the characters had at least two names and multiple nicknames as each family, ethnic, linguistic grouping seemed to have a nickname and a name.

Read Dion DiMucci's autobiography this morning, it was quite interesting but not sure if it was all true and he spent a lot of time banging on about Jesus.

Logic of Empire by Robert Heinlein, basically shows how poor, indentured workers are turned into slaves. Quite good really.

Song for a Dark Queen by Rosemary Sutcliff, her version of the story of Boudicca, like most of her stuff worth a read. No christian civilising stuff which is good.

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Jun 13 2019 21:16

Around a month ago I read a book that I borrowed which was a description of a walk along the entire length of England that the author took. I can’t remember what it was called or who it was by which isn’t much use here(!) but it was written in 1968 and the culture it describes is shockingly different from how things are now.
I’ve read a few walking books now and they have been as charming as they are fascinating and soothing. They are everything that Richard Long’s wanky, fifty grand walking maps aren’t.

I’m just finishing The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. A peculiar yet compelling little book. I’m thoroughly enjoying it and really love the main character who is a strange mix of conservative and bohemian and is a big fan of Mussolini! Told you it was peculiar!

Next on the bedside table is George Woodcock’s biography of Godwin. Anyone read it and is it worth the effort?
Same question regarding The Garden of Peculiarities by Jesus Sepuveda? Anybody read this? It looks kind of tough going yet I’m rather intrigued.

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Jun 13 2019 21:27

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was a strange book. I liked it but I was not quite sure what I made of it. I read it on my commute so I forgot which girl was which at times.

bastarx
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Jun 14 2019 03:39
jef costello wrote:
Joe Cinque's consolation - interesting look at a crime that is very strange. Worth a read, alhthough ultimately a bit unsatisfying, a shame that the person who killed him wouldn't be interviewed. She has spoken and written on the subject but has pretty much said I don't remember, I was ill.

An acquaintance of mine was at that dinner where poor Joe was murdered.

bastarx
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Jun 14 2019 03:42

Re-reading A Song of Ice and Fire for about the 4th time to try and erase that awful show from my memory.

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Jun 14 2019 08:31

in regard of 19th century Russian literature, can really recommend A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov

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Jun 14 2019 13:03

I don't read nearly as much as I used to, with the exception of magazines and local newspapers. I have subscriptions to Harper's, Jacobin, Razorcake, MaximumRockNRoll (RIP), In These Times, Mad Magazine and JazzTimes.

As far as book go, within the last year I've read the following:

The Chapo Guide to Revolution: A Manifesto Against Logic, Facts, and Reason

Overall thought it was good. Dripping with sarcasm, internet references, ridicule and scorn for the current state of things in the world. Sort of reads like a more skillful and knowledgeable version of well written political zines I encountered as a teenager. Has some great illustrations as well.

It contains an onslaught of references to internet culture, media people, history and political figures that I assume would be hard to follow for some. I would say this is aimed at very online mid 20s-early 30s white millenial males who are smarter than average and work meaningless jobs.

Detroit 67: The Year That Changed Soul

First of a trology on soul music. Author does a great job of telling a story that takes Motown internal politics, the white countercultural rebel scene and the explosion in the streets of Detroit into an intertwined narrative.

Memphis 68: The Tragedy of Southern Soul

The second book of Stuart Cosgrove's trilogy on soul music. It was interesting reading this right before, during and after taking a trip to Memphis. Focusing on Stax Records, the Sanitation Workers strike and the assassination of MLK, Cosgrove really packs in a ton of information, people, events and places into this book. I thought he did a better job with this one than the Detroit book, which sometimes felt like tying together very separate things.

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Jun 16 2019 16:15

Don't want to be too controversial, but I never understand how anyone who's not a Christian can like Dostoyevsky. It's not that I don't/can't like Christian writers - Muriel Spark is great, as is Flannery O'Connor, but to me reading Dostoyevsky feels like I'm being beaten over the head with his theology with all the subtlety of a very long Jack Chick tract. Each to their own though.

darren - if you'd like more Orwellian reading material, the recently-published Between the Bullet and the Lie sounds like it might be worthwhile. Or not, I've not read it myself yet.

Noah - not a walking book but a cycling one, but you might be interested in Island Story by JD Taylor. Depending on how tolerant you are about these things, you might not get on with the author's kind of well-meaning social-democrat tendencies too well, but if you like reading about people and places it's worth a look.

Juan - shit, is MRR gone? Sad times, even if I probably only got a copy once every few years.
Is there any chance of someone who doesn't like the podcast enjoying the Chapo book? Even though I probably fit their target audience quite well, I find them a bit too gratingly "bro-ish" to listen to.
Read the Detroit book but not the Memphis one. Liked what I read but sort of wished he was a better writer - Detroit '67 is a great story, but I wasn't sure the writing lived up to it.

Currently reading Widows by Ariel Dorfman, which has a really interesting back story - while living in exile from Pinochet's Chile, he knew anything he wrote had no chance of getting published in Chile (and probably wouldn't go down too well in Argentina, Brazil, etc), so instead he wrote a book and tried to get it published as a recently-discovered 1940s novel about the nazi occupation of Europe, in the hopes that this "newly translated European novel written decades ago" might stand a better chance of making it past Latin American censors. It didn't work, but the effort to make the setting vague makes it kind of interesting, I guess maybe comparable to The Plague?

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Jun 16 2019 22:39
R Totale wrote:
Don't want to be too controversial, but I never understand how anyone who's not a Christian can like Dostoyevsky. It's not that I don't/can't like Christian writers - Muriel Spark is great, as is Flannery O'Connor, but to me reading Dostoyevsky feels like I'm being beaten over the head with his theology with all the subtlety of a very long Jack Chick tract. Each to their own though.

I don't feel that way. I think Dostoyevsky was too scared of there being no god and tried to throw himself into religion without succeeding.

bastarx wrote:
An acquaintance of mine was at that dinner where poor Joe was murdered.

Such a bizarre situation, I don't even know what someone who was there would think. Although one of the guys present came up with this sentence that sounds like a 40 year-old failing to write dialogue.

Jonathan Bowers-Taylor wrote:
‘the whole thing has been quite distasteful for me. I, as a young person, have a natural inclination not to dob in my friends.’

I have had that 67 Detroit book on my reader for years, never quite got round to it.

bastarx
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Jun 17 2019 03:44
jef costello wrote:
bastarx wrote:
An acquaintance of mine was at that dinner where poor Joe was murdered.

Such a bizarre situation, I don't even know what someone who was there would think. Although one of the guys present came up with this sentence that sounds like a 40 year-old failing to write dialogue.

I didn't know him at the time and I've never asked him about it only heard he was there from another friend. He apparently denies knowing that Joe was going to be murdered.

scallywagskum
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Jun 17 2019 05:18

Anyone have some good read recs for dissolving the ego?

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Noah Fence
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Jun 17 2019 21:12
scallywagskum wrote:
Anyone have some good read recs for dissolving the ego?

There’s a comrade on here that appears to be an expert on the ego though I doubt he can help. Worth a try though...

https://youtu.be/XcPHG-ro3VA

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Jun 18 2019 19:20
bastarx wrote:
I didn't know him at the time and I've never asked him about it only heard he was there from another friend. He apparently denies knowing that Joe was going to be murdered.

I am not sure how you would bring it up iun conversation without seeming ghoulish, I don't ask people I know about more innocuous things than that.

Burglar in the Closet - Laurence Block. Burglar gets implicated in a murder (again) and then solves it. Similar to the first one in the series, but entertaining enough. Not too taxing, some interesting sections about being a burglar, he describes it in ways that make it seem very voyeuristic, which I wasn't expecting.

wojtek
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Jun 19 2019 15:00

Would anyone be interested in reading and discussing a book together?

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Noah Fence
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Jun 20 2019 05:55
wojtek wrote:
Would anyone be interested in reading and discussing a book together?

Have you got anything in mind?

wojtek
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Jun 21 2019 13:18

Johann Hari's book 'Lost Connections'?

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Jun 21 2019 18:03
wojtek wrote:
Johann Hari's book 'Lost Connections'?

Yes. I’m in. I’ll get it ordered.

Edit: It arrives tomorrow but I’ve got another book to finish first. I’ll let you know when I can start.

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Jun 21 2019 20:57

Sorry, but I'm not sure it will be any good.

https://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2018/jan/08/is-everyt...

I would be in for another book later on. I have acouple of Ariel Dorfman's that I have been, meaning to read, as well as Steinbeck, Upton Sinclair etc.

Would it be worth starting, reviving a political reading thread? There was reading group on here a while back (I feel like you were in it wojtek, but my memory could be failing me)

Not necessarily political theory, but books with a storng political message or utility.