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[2012] What are you reading?

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout' started by ScriboErgoSum, Jan 2, 2012.

  1. rhadamanthus

    rhadamanthus Contributing Member

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    Finally finished Dreams of My Father by Obama (took me a while with a vacation break).

    Solid book, well written and interesting enough to make it a quick read even though it's 400+ pgs.

    I found it funny to note that in the prologue to my edition Obama, in hindsight, is critical of some of his overly-dramatic phrasing or waxing philosophic within the book. While I can totally understand the angst, because some of the paragraphs and thoughts do come across as "trying too hard to be deep", you get the impression reading the book that he's actually fairly accurate in this sort of insight. Certainly one of the better books I've read on race-relations and what black people (and white people) struggle with daily. Also an excellent read for anyone estranged from their father (which, thankfully, I cannot directly relate to).
     
  2. ScriboErgoSum

    ScriboErgoSum Contributing Member

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    Things have been crazy, but I wanted to write about a very cool author event I attended a few weeks ago. Carlos Ruiz Zafon kicked off his tour for The Prisoner of Heaven in Seattle, and he requested a local moderator to help guide the discussion. Third Place Books pulled in local author Garth Stein to fill that role.

    It was a pretty intimate event involving the two men sitting in large chairs with a small table between them. I made sure to get there early and scored front and center seats about 10 feet away from where Carlos and Garth were sitting.

    My first impression of Carlos Ruiz Zafon is that he speaks as well as he writes. His speech flowed in an unhurried manner, but every single word was selected as if it had been vetted carefully for days. Carlos would tell a relatively short story in response to one of Garth’s questions, and that brief yarn would be packed with insight and humor. Mr. Zafon is a very funny man in person. Fermin was always humorous in an over the top kind of way, but Carlos has a very dry and extremely potent sense of humor.

    Garth kicked off the event by mentioning the names of Carlos’s books as well as the Prisoner of Heaven, which had been out one day in the US. He then asked Carlos about not being on Twitter and Facebook, which Garth uses quite a bit. Carlos took the opportunity to critique the Twitter\Facebook culture. Some of it was along similar lines about losing connectivity to each other. Why are we facebooking when we can walk down the street and see our friend in person? But he kind of took it further as to how it related to books and reading. Reading in an investment, and you need to commit yourself to appreciate the nuances and development of plot and character. More troubling to Zafon than a lack of in-person communication is the inability of a large part of society (particularly the younger generation) to focus on a task long term. People listen to music on their iPods, but can’t even finish a track before they click to the next song. He mentioned a hypothetical about a teenager at a Transformers movie, but not being stimulated enough to avoid texting a friend while there. And it wouldn’t even be a good text, but more a “hey im at a movie”, “cool” variety. Zafon seemed concerned a bit sad that the art of reading is something that might be lost.

    The conversation moved to The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, which caused a noticeable buzz in the crowd. Zafon mentioned that people always ask him where it is in Barcelona, and he tells them it doesn’t exist. They will then ask slyly. “Really, I’m going to Barcelona next month, will you tell me where it is?” He joked with the mayor of Barcelona once about the matter, and the mayor said sarcastically “We’ll just have to build one.” The next day the local paper ran a headline that the city had plans to construct a Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Zafon then mentioned that most people would be surprised that the inspiration for the Cemetery actually came from Long Beach, California. There’s a used book store there in a former airplane hangar. If you go there after 4, you have to bring your own flashlight because there’s no lighting in the building. He talked of making amazing discoveries and finding rare novel in the haphazard shelves of the book store. I thought this story was really awesome, and I want to go check out that book store.

    Garth mentioned the order he read the books as Shadow of the Wind, Prisoner of Heaven, Angel’s Game, instead of the order publishes (Shadow, Angel, Prisoner) or the chronological order (Angel, Shadow, Prisoner), and he asked Zafon the order in which he recommended reading them. Carlos then explained how he envisioned the four book series as a labyrinth with four entraces, and depending on where you entered, you would see actions with a different perspective. Zafon spent a very long time plotting out the four books and wanted readers to be able to tackle them in any order they chose. Interesting stuff there. I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had time to read lately, but I’m working on Shadow of the Wind. I had intended to go Angel, Prisoner afterwards, but maybe I’ll go Prisoner, Angel.

    Zafon spoke in length about what he considered the two central figures at the heart of his story: Fermin and Barcelona. Fermin he described as a classic example of the Fool in literature. Often the Fool speaks the wisest words, but nobody listens to them or takes them seriously. As much as Daniel and Julian drove the plot of Shadow of the Wind, Fermin certainly hovered over the action, narrating the events and guiding Daniel in his flamboyant manner. Apparently the last two novels will explain a lot about Fermin, and the secret to his past will play a pivotal role in the rest of the story. I cannot wait to read the next book and see what lies in store for Fermin and Daniel as well.

    Carlos spends about half his time in LA and half in Barcelona, where he grew up. He talked about the city and how it has changed over the years. It was remarkable free of bombing during WWII, and the old city itself was very constrained by a wall. After wall was taken down, the city expanded outwards, but the historical ancient city remained at its center. Anyone who has read Zafon’s books knows what a glorious love note, Zafon wrote to his city. He spoke about how the people have changed over the years and how much he still loves his home town.

    They opened the book up to questions, and I immediately raised my hand with the question that I have long wondered. How much of the beautiful prose in Zafon’s writing is his doing and how much is the translator? After hearing him speak eloquently for 45 minutes, I at this point knew that Zafon’s English was outstanding. Lucia Graves is the translator, and is a personal friend of Carlos as well as the daughter of the poet Robert Graves. When his publisher moved to translate the book, Zafon asked to use her, but the publisher had a list of their own translators they wanted to use. After they all produced a chapter that Zafon and the publisher didn’t like, Carlos asked if Lucia could submit a single chapter to see how it worked. That was quite the success, and she was hired to produce the full translation. It was a very active collaboration, and they were in constant communication so she would have a better idea of how Carlos wanted the story written. There are a number of places where Zafon felt the words just didn’t work in English as well as they did in Spanish, and he would rewrite those sections to have them flow better. So it’s a definite combination of the author and translator with a much more active role for Zafon than I had thought. During his lengthy answer, Zafon was look me directly in the eye the entire time, which I thought was so personal and amazing.

    He took some other questions about the future translation of his older young adult novels (the last few are in the works), his passion for music (he is an accomplished musician and considers it along with writing to be one of his crafts in life), how long it takes to write (once the idea germinates, the writing takes 6-12 months, but the germination of an idea can take decades). He was asked if he calls himself an author, writer, or novelist. He said writer and that he felt other words were kind of pretentious. Garth redirected it back to an earlier conversation point. With music and writing, which sometimes requires research, can Carlos commit himself to devoting hours upon hours to a single subject. Zafon said he could although if he was doing research on Sacramento Property Case Law, he might get kind of bored. Stein replied that Sacramento had a more interesting history that Zafon knew, and Zafon said “Yes, 50 Shades of Sacramento. We should publish it and ruin our careers.” I still am amazed at how funny Carlos Ruiz Zafon is. After thinking for a few weeks, I can’t come up with a public speaker I’ve seen who was able to successfully weave humor into their words better than Zafon, and he did it seemingly without effort.

    Garth Stein wasn’t signing books for the crowd, but I was able to score an autograph for Raven Stole the Moon (Beware the Zebra) and How Evan Broke His Head (Rock On!). I had picked up a signed copy of The Art of Racing in the Rain a few weeks previously at a dinner party with Garth Stein. We then joined the long queue to get our Zafon books autographed. He was so amicable when we finally got to the front. He posed for a few pictures and was happy to chat about writing and very gracious to our compliments. I got all three book signed. The Shadow of the Wind (Friend of the Shadow), The Angel’s Game (Angle of Books with a picture of angel wings), and The Prisoner of Heaven (Readers form Heaven).

    All in all, a very cool event. As a writer, getting to see the authors of two of my favorite novels, was like manna from heaven. I am so awestruck by Zafon’s mastery of writing. While the plot of The Angel’s Game wasn’t the best (but I’m hoping it is more clear after reading Prisoner of Heaven), the writing was still hauntingly beautiful. After hearing Zafon speak, I know can see why.

    I need to get cracking on Shadow so I can see how this newest novel adds to the story of the Cemetery of Lost Books.

    A few pictures from the event
    [​IMG]

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    [​IMG]
     
  3. ScriboErgoSum

    ScriboErgoSum Contributing Member

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    I'm so glad you liked it, and Fermin is awesome! I am hoping to read all three over the next few weeks. I was disappointed in the ending of The Angel's Game, but I've read in a few places that the newest novel sheds some light on it. I do know that The Prisoner of Heaven picks up directly after The Shadow of the Wind and features both Fermin and Daniel. After listening to Carlos Ruiz Zafon speak about the overall plot, it sounds like you could read either next. I'll definitely post my thoughts after I get through his three books.

    That's great. The Book Thief is my second favorite novel of all time.

    My eyes! My eyes!

    You'll probably read 50 Shades next with your taste. :p
     
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  4. arno_ed

    arno_ed Contributing Member

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    Haha, I seriously doubt that. I will be continueing with the chronicles of the black company.

    I only read fantasy books. Altough I loved "A secret History" of Donna Tardt when I was 17 and I read it. I also read "Dracula" at the time, and those two books made me like reading again.

    However nowadays I only read fantasy books. And also some books about history, like books about Ghengis Khan by John Mann, and the autobiography of Ghandi.

    When I finish the Chronicles of the black company I will read the books you recommended me.
     
  5. JuanValdez

    JuanValdez Contributing Member

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    I just finished reading Nothing to Hide by my friend Mark Bertrand. Call me biased since he's a friend, but it's a pretty good cop book (and series, since it's book 3). First thing I like about it is that it's set in Houston and he does a good job of really evoking the geography. Being a Houstonian helps you relate. The second thing I like is that he's very grounded about the mundane details of police business. The third thing is a bit of a double-edged sword. It has some Christian element to it, written by a Christian and published by a Christian publishing company, but it's more philosophical than theological (which I don't think the publisher is very pleased about). The Christian stuff is very light so far and might be a little out of place; the philosphical stuff is more prominent and well done. It gives his protagonist a lot of depth and gives Mark a chance to spread his wings beyond the boundaries of the genre (which I think is a quality of the best genre books).

    Now that that's done, I'm reading Graham Greene's Don Quixote. I'm not sure I'll make it all the way through.
     
  6. Joshfast

    Joshfast "We're all gonna die" - Billy Sole
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    I'm reading Isaac's Storm for the first time. Fascinating how the events unfolded around the Galveston hurricane in 1900. Great read so far.
     
  7. DaryleWard

    DaryleWard Member

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    I really enjoyed this book especially all of the details that were available about storm on its way to Gtown.

    I am more than halfway through Cloud Atlas right now. awesome book!
     
  8. Xerobull

    Xerobull You son of a b!tch! I'm in!

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    Scribo somehow ruined Erikson for me.

    Anyone want to buy the first two Malazan signed, numbered Subpress books?
     
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  9. RedNation

    RedNation Contributing Member

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    Last 3 books I read:

    Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Was a decent read ***

    As I lay Dying by Faulkner. Terrible. Just terrible. Here is a quote:
    "And since sleep is is-not and rain and wind are was, it is not. Yet the wagon is, because when the wagon is was, Addie Bundren will not be. And Jewel is, so Addie Bundren must be. And then I must be, or I could not empty myself for sleep in a strange room. And so if I am not emptied yet, I am is."

    Price of everything by russell roberts was also decent and gave a good intro to economics.
     
  10. ScriboErgoSum

    ScriboErgoSum Contributing Member

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    Let us know what you think of The God of Small Things. I've heard good things, and I'm officially intrigued. I just have to finish up Zafon, Water for Elephants, Life of Pi...
     
  11. Rashmon

    Rashmon Contributing Member

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  12. TheresTheDagger

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    Well, its pulp and short, but I have to admit, this book is a page turner and revealing. Found out a few details about the Simpson case I didn't know till reading this. (For example....while in jail for just over a year, Simpson signed approximately 3 million worth of memorabilia!)

    Will move back to A Storm of Swords when I finish it.

    [​IMG]
     
  13. Xerobull

    Xerobull You son of a b!tch! I'm in!

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  14. lpbman

    lpbman Member

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    Thank you Donnie Darko for getting me to read Graham Greene. I loved The Destroyers and The Quiet American.


    Just starting Daniel Suarez: Kill Decision

    Daemon and Freedom™ are made for Hollywood and were awesome.

    As unofficial casting director, I've got Nathan Fillion as Sebeck, Ed Norton as Ross and PCHoffman as Lainy.

    Who plays Loki and the Major?
     
  15. RedNation

    RedNation Contributing Member

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    The power and the glory by Graham Greene is pretty good too.
     
  16. s land balla

    s land balla Contributing Member

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    Pakistan: A Hard Country by Anatol Lieven
     
  17. RedNation

    RedNation Contributing Member

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    Just finished Game of Thrones. I really liked it and was shocked by certain parts such as
    Ned dying
    Can't wait to read the next one.
     
  18. MoonDogg

    MoonDogg Member

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    What do you think about it so far? Have you looked to see how much of the stuff he talks about already exists? It's disturbing.
     
  19. Two Sandwiches

    Two Sandwiches Contributing Member

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    Reading Stephen King's newest book (I think): 11/22/1963.

    I am only like 123 pages in, but this book is good. Never read one of his books before.
     
  20. lpbman

    lpbman Member

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    I'm not too far in, but It isn't as mind blowing as Daemon.
    As far as the drones go, the book makes things overly complicated and it is much scarier in real life. It makes no difference to the world if your drone makes the decision on it's own, or it is pre-programmed. I'm guessing later I'll see the "swarm" in action but so far it's superfluous.
    One only needs to look at something like the Davis DA-12, off the shelf servos, stabilizer boards and an android phone for navigation. Could be build for 15G's easily, have a range of 1000 miles, and carry 10 guided weapons each. You don't need all that A.I. to f this country up, because most of the targets you want are stationary and viewable on Google Earth. As long as you can use the Russian Glonass, it could be close to unstoppable.
     

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