Reading Books in 2021


I would love some pointers on what I should read of Roth’s. I generally like the ‘big’ American writers (although Saul Bellow is still unchartered territory for me) but nothing has quite clicked.

I’ve read Portnoy’s Complaint (which, as I said in my comment above, I liked, but didn’t love, and I like the conceit of it, especially in the context of the reveal at the end). I’ve also read Our Gang, which again, I thought was fun as an idea, and I read it at the height of my mini-obsession with all things Nixon related in 2008 and filed it next to that Robert Altman film with Philip Baker Hall playing Nixon in the category of ‘things I wanted to like more than I did’. The only other book I’ve read is The Ghost Writer, the first of the Zuckerman books. I think I liked this one the most but because I 100% prefer reading the physical copies of books rather than E-books, especially ones I want/need to flick back a few pages to pick up on details, I haven’t gone any further with the Zuckerman books because I want to read them in order, and I have limited access where I live to physical copies of books and ordering stuff from the UK is annoyingly expensive and books take literally weeks to get here.

FWIW I am really enjoying Nemesis. From a bit of online searching, I’ve seen that it’s not universally loved, and some people think it was a bit of a disappointing way to bow out, but I’m not sure I agree. I guess in the digital age, it’s kind of fun to do a quick google of all the place names mentioned, and I think the sense of location really works, even if the characters are not exactly jumping off the page at me.

Reading Frances Hardinge a lot at the mo - ostensibly for teenagers, but high quality and imaginative fantasy. Really tremendous.

If you didn’t enjoy Portnoy’s Complaint it’s sort of hard to recommend as I would argue it’s in his top 5. However, for my money, the loose ‘trilogy’ of American Pastoral, I Married a Communist and The Human Stain is about as good as it gets in terms of late 20th century literature. Any one of those I highly recommend.

I am reading The Beach for a book club and I think it might have the most deeply unlikeable protagonist in any book I’ve ever read.

My current cloudlibrary book is soooo boring but I only have 70 lages left out of 300 so I have to finish it now. Something exciting better happen soon so help me god :unamused:

Giving up for today and reading something very enjoyable instead.


Does your translation differ to mine?

Yukkiko struggling with diarrhea on the train to Tokyo

It’s a masterpiece, btw.

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that’s the one. It’s particularly blunt in my version, memorable in itself but also so good in that it encapsulates the entire theme of the family’s decline in one sentence. Great book.

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recent reads:

Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber

very interesting but quite depressing investigation into the bullshit jobs phenomenon, looking into the historical basis for it and why it’s prevalent now. uses a lot of anecdotal evidence from disgruntled workers, some are pretty funny, some are just tragic. it’s a little bit dryer than some of the more populist anti-capitalist books tbh.

Concrete by Thomas Bernhard

hadn’t read any Bernhard for a year or two after going on a bit of a binge with him. this is fairly typical ‘story’ for him of an ageing Austrian hermit who is struggling to write his magnum opus about his favourite composer, all the while complaining of his overbearing sister. there is really no one who writes like him- it feels a bit like you are being sucked into a vortex. once you get past the facade of misanthropy you realise he is actually a very funny and absurdist writer.

Manifestly Haraway by Donna Haraway

I’d heard about the Cyborg Manifesto for a few years and was intrigued to delve into it. It is quite unique and can see why it’s been taken up by newer generations. It’s kind of an alternate view of gender/body politics through an almost science fiction POV- the idea that the line between human beings and technology has been almost eradicated. unfortunately I don’t come from a philosophy/biopolitics background so found quite a bit of it challenging and abstract. there is a good Q and A at the end which helpfully illuminates a lot of the ideas discussed in it though.

currently reading:

Tehran Noir

a collection of short stories based in Tehran with a noirish feel. this is surprisingly grizzly so far- lots of violence and sexual assault. the Tehran backdrop is pretty interesting though because you have all the turbulent political goings on which feed into the stories.

Finally read The Universe Replies, the oral history of Romance is Boring that Los Campesinos put out. Was amused to see that DiS gets several mentions.

I’m really curious about Agota Kristof, I understand those books were a big influence on the Mother series of RPGs, which comes as something of a surprise based on what relatively little I know of either trilogy

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I don’t know Mother but The Notebook is definitely worth a read.

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