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Current reading
Taken way longer than expected, but I finally wrapped up The Virginian. It's widely considered the first "Western" and the forerunner of most of the common tropes.

I've been on a kick recently of trying to read the "seminal" works of different genres (King Solomon's mines, Virginian, etc.). I really loved it. Though I would also note that it has the same problem a lot of fiction of the time period has: it spends too many pages of the middle sections on "travel documentary" type shenanigans. While I'm sure this was fascinating to someone in a small villlage in 1920, in 2018 it's just tedious as we've all seen umpteen movies, read a bajillion books, or even traveled to these places ourselves.

The Virginian has some surprisingly deep philosophical sections, particularly on the nature of manhood and on personal and governmental sovereignty (the best "plain language" summation of the gist of the Declaration of Independence I have EVER seen). It's also always fascinating to see the source of tropes. I myself quote The Virginian on a regular basis, and I have for years, and I never even knew the source. The climactic gunfight, just like in so many copycats, is about the build-up and the tension, not the actual event.
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Thirty years ago Elaine Shannon wrote the stunning Desperados: Latin Druglords, U.S. Lawmen, and the War America Can't Win - and she was probably right about that. 

In February, William Morrow publishes Hunting LeRoux, one of the first books under Michael Mann's publishing imprint. The story is fucking wild; any part of it would make a great movie on its own. [/url][url=https://ew.com/books/2019/01/14/hunting-leroux-cover-elaine-shannon-michael-mann/]From EW:



Quote:The capturing of a monster is usually cause for celebration, but when the DEA arrested the murderous transnational arms and drugs dealer Paul LeRoux in 2012, it was done in total secrecy.

LeRoux, a former encryption programmer who help make organized crime harder to track and prosecute by decentralizing its business of narcotics, murder-for-hire, and high-tech blackmarket arms deals, became the key to crashing his whole blood-soaked network.
The story of his secret capture and the way he was flipped to become a weapon against his own fellow killers and outlaws is told in journalist Elaine Shannon’s new book Hunting LeRoux, which hits stores Feb. 19.


Quote:“He spent seven months dealing face-to-face with LeRoux, recording their phone and personal conversations and exchanging emails with him,” Shannon says. “The video was made in Monrovia on the morning of Sept 26, 2012, by a device hidden in his clothing. It became the ultimate evidence that captured LeRoux’s criminal intent to traffic in drugs and arms.”

“His eyes are alight with anticipation as he looks forward to the next meeting, in which he plans to make a lucrative deal to trade North Korean meth for Colombian cocaine offered by ‘Diego,’  who he thinks is a Colombian cartel operative in Africa,” Shannon adds. “Actually, Diego is an informant too. I love this image because I can see LeRoux for what he really is: a powerful, determined master criminal, stripped of the civility he displays in court.”


Quote:“It’s one of the best detective stories and crime stories I’ve ever encountered,” Mann tells EW. “I have never read an account that places you so in the moment and in such close proximity beat by beat with a high order law enforcement operation that’s very complex and spans the world.”

One of his favorite aspects of the story is how LeRoux’s clandestine nature was used to “roll up his criminal empire.” When LeRoux was first seized by the DEA, that was just the midpoint, not the end of the operation. And it only worked because the criminal had insulated himself from his associates. They didn’t know to miss him.


Quote:Mann had other books he planned as his imprint’s first project but credited Shannon for her speed in finishing the story while also crafting one he couldn’t put down. That vaulted it to becoming the first title from Michael Mann Books.

Even after reading and advising for so many years, he said he’s still transfixed by the figure at the center of the story. “He did everything from designing guidance systems for the Iranians to moving North Korean meth to making undetectable explosives to contract murder to smuggling cocaine and killing people himself,” Mann says. “The reason why he was a ghost on the radar and undiscoverable is because there was no physical organization. He’s not like a Cartel based in Guadalajara or the Juarez Cartel.”

Quote:Mann’s films have always focused on the gray area between those who are driven to do wrong and those who push back to do right. This story also presented a number of heroes, particularly 960 Group point men Eric Stouch and Tom Cindric.

“Stouch and Cindric started out as street cops and then street agents, in the roughest part of Baltimore and Washington,” Shannon says. “They got to know each other on a Mid-Atlantic task force. They wound up in the 960 Group, which is like Yale’s Skull and Bones, for their investigative skills, their enterprise, their creativity, and that intangible, undefinable cop gut that great investigators have — a combination of keen instincts, obsession, crazy work ethic, and a world-class bullsh— detector. They are never off the job.”

 


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I'm on a music biography kick right now. Currently I'm +3/4 through Robbie Robertson's 'Testimony'. The guy started playing professionally at age 15-16 with rockabilly legend Ronnie Hawkins, which morphed into Levon and The Hawks and then backup band for Bob Dylan's controversial 'electric folk' tour; then the evolution into The Band and the creation of some incredible music. In the process, they crossed paths with a wide variety of musicians and songwriters through the 1960s-mid-1970s, but its amazing they survived their demons to wrap things up with 'The Last Waltz'. That's about where I'm at right now; Robbie's initial meeting with Martin Scorcese and pulling the concept of the concert together. This memoir really captures a love of music in a time of creative freedom and absolute craziness. A great storyteller and a great read. Next up: the Steve Earle bio 'Hard Core Troubadour'.
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Currently almost through Leviathan Wakes.  I'd been on a waitlist at the library since watching the Expanse, didn't finish by the due date and they wouldn't let me renew.  Found a forgotten Barnes and Noble gift card, bought the first three book box set.
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Just finished the latest Meg book, Meg: Generations. Of course it ended with a cliffhanger and mention of "Meg: Purgatory". Dammit. On to the next book--I think it will be the last book in the "Clean Sweep" series, One Fell Sweep.
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I should be getting my copy of Men, Women and Chainsaws any day now. It was the commentary track for The Final Girls that made me want to read it.

Due to a mix up at Amazon, its going to be awhile till I read that book.
I've got good news and I've got bad news. The bad news is that I have lost my way. The good news is that I'm way ahead of schedule.
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Elric books 1 and 2 down, starting on 3 (going by the late 70s series order I think). These are friggin awesome! It's like the missing link between Jack Vance and Roger Zelazny. Outstanding writing technique and imagination.
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Had the book for over a year, but finally read and finished Infinite Jest.  I knew next to nothing about the book, outside of that it was considered one of the best modern novels and focused on tennis and drug addiction.  

I have to admit, the level of detail, concepts, and language used was a bit daunting at first, but after about 300 pages it started to make sense and was more time consuming, due to its massive length, then being actually difficult to read.  That being said, reading something like this reminds me how difficult it must be to write a book.  The references to math, the descriptions of the molecular structures of pharmaceutical drugs, the fact that he created his own game (Eschaton) and was able to describe how it is played in intricate detail just through language, among many other things is really quite impressive.  Guy was really intelligent.

Considering I read Ulysses fairly recently, it was interesting to see similarities in his style of writing(sentences that are more than a page long, made up words, etc) when compared to that.  It really was an impressive book.  While the way it ends is kind of confusing, it didn't really bother that much, because everything that came before it was so well thought out.

Funnily enough, I mentioned that I read it to my friend who I knew had the book, but wasn't sure if he read it and it turns out he was actually at ISU when Wallace was a teacher there.  He said he saw him in the hall a few times and said he looked like a dick.  Also, his girlfriend at the time told him he was kind of a scumbag to women as she was an English major and was familiar with him, but didn't take any of his classes(I'd heard this about him before I read the book).  He said he read the book and he liked it a lot.  I asked him why he read it, if he already knew he was kind of an asshole in real life, and he was like "It made me not want to read his book, but I got a used copy and decided to read it one day, and I thought it was good".   He said he has no interest in reading his non-fiction work though.  

Either way, I thought it was definitely worth reading and I can see why it has been included on many "best modern novels" lists.
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Reading Don Winslow's The Border right now.

There's a string of killings here that will just horrify you. Couldn't put it down though.
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Not up for reading The Border right now. Maybe next month when the sun is shining a bit brighter.

 


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FACTFULNESS is brilliant and engaging and illuminating. Now I know why Bill Gates recommends it. So do I!
I've seen so many good people in my life that I've almost lost my faith in the wickedness of humankind.

--Will Durant
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I'm getting very into Christopher Priest, author of The Prestige. I blazed through 3 of his books in a few weeks, starting on A Dream of Wessex now.

The Inverted World was a good twisty H.G. Wells style tale, with all kinds perceptual distortions. The Affirmation and The Glamour were both very Memento-esque, in a good way. The Glamour is going to need a re-read before before I completely understand it. A book takes a lot longer to replay than a movie though, hehe.

Jeff Tweedy's book is worth a read for Wilco fans. I've read a ton of interviews and articles about them over the years, and I still learned a lot. Tweedy's style is informal and blog-esque at times, but it's breezy and informative.
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I think it's been recommended to me in excess of 25 times over the years, by many people, but I'm finally giving On the Road a read. My focus as an English Lit major was actually Shakespeare, so I have a ton of holes in my ledger in regards to modern novels.

The novel is depressing the hell out of me. Not because of the content, but because I always kind of wanted that "travel with no responsibilities" phase of my life and I never really got it. Worked my way through college, worked through most of law school, immediately began working full-time as soon as I was done studying for and taking the bar exam, then got married and had kids once I was somewhat established in the legal arena. Also, the U.S. in Kerouac's writing seems full of hope and possibility and energy, and things don't really seem to feel that way anymore. Maybe I need a career change.

Also about 75% through Fire & Blood, Martin's Targaryen history. Holy. Fuck. This thing is a dense monster. There are four major sections, and I'm finishing up section three now. It's all over the place readability wise. I'll alternate between enraptured and falling asleep. I've been pissed at Martin for ignoring ASOIAF, but now I'm wondering if he hasn't been ignoring it, he's just been 100x more interested in the Dunk and Egg and historical compendiums than he is in the main series.

The Dance of Dragons/Targaryen civil war portion feels like it's at least twice as large as the excerpt from the earlier anthology and the Aegon chapters feel like they're 3x more detailed. Those are easily my two favorite sections, and IMHO the Dance of Dragons feels ripe to leap from the page directly to a television series. A fascinating page-turner, at least for me, though I can see why the style of prose would be off-putting for many.

Aegon's conquest is a bit more fait accompli ... I mean, he just fucking steamrolls all of Westeros with the death of Meraxes being the only blip.

The Jahaerys section of Fire and Blood is significantly slower and snooze inducing for vast stretches. The detailed history of his thirteen fucking children got too be a little much around child number eight.

I can't believe this is only volume one. It is nearly 800 pages of fairly intense reading ... how many hours has he poured into this?
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I hated On the Road. Every person in the book is kind of an asshole. I mean, I get why it's a classic, and if you enjoy it, cool. Just wasn't my thing.
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Kerouac sucks.

Dharma Bums was almost unreadable. "Look at how enlightened I am! Do you wish to be a writer? Then you must write like me because I'm so enlightened!"

Annnnnnd he drank himself to death at 47.
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(04-25-2019, 01:00 PM)RCA Wrote: I hated On the Road.  Every person in the book is kind of an asshole.  I mean, I get why it's a classic, and if you enjoy it, cool.  Just wasn't my thing.

Still only 60-70 pages in.  We'll see!

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You ever heard of this neat book The Catcher in the Rye, Overlord? Smile

I haven't read On the Road, but it sounds like the kind of book that plays better in your early teens.
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(04-26-2019, 12:52 AM)kyle reese 2 Wrote: You ever heard of this neat book The Catcher in the Rye, Overlord? Smile

I haven't read On the Road, but it sounds like the kind of book that plays better in your early teens.

Incredible insight there, Kyle. Exactly the other novel I was thinking of.

I read Catcher WAY too late and hated it.  The entire time I thought "I would have loved this is in high school."

Same sensation with On the Road.

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Maybe a third of the way through On the Road. Love it. Fantastic. There's a couple amazing passages where the narrator cuts through the enervating din of the frenzied narrative and you get a glimpse of just how empty and lonely are these existences, despite all the excitement and fervor.

Took a break to try out Bukowski's "Post Office," as a buddy has bugged me for years to give him a try. Made it 80 pages and basically was ready to chuck it across the room. An unreliable narrator is one thing, but Bukowski seems to think we should take the semi-autobiographical ramblings of an aimless, lying drunkard seriously. The entire enterprise feels pointless and meaningless, and maybe that's what he's getting at, but it sure as fuck isn't interesting or entertaining to read about. I've seen enough of alcoholism to know it doesn't impart any special wisdom or make life super-awesome. Considering that the narrator comes across as a fairly degenerate specimen of humanity the constant tone of him being above it all seemed really out of place quite fast.

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Bukowski said that most people who write, shouldn't.

I would include him in that number.
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(05-21-2019, 02:25 PM)bendrix Wrote: Bukowski said that most people who write, shouldn't.

I would include him in that number.


I agree with the second sentiment.

And that kind of superiority-complex mindset is imbued in his Post Office protagonist and is one of the reasons why the novel is so fucking excruciating to read. 

The only people I can see enjoying it his work are people who just gleefully like to see conventional narrative/structure/characterization thrown out the window ... or maybe dragged through the gutter is the more appropriate analogy.  And there isn't necessarily wrong with that, I just found that I loathed it.

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(05-21-2019, 02:25 PM)bendrix Wrote: Bukowski said that most people who write, shouldn't.

I would include him in that number.

If Ham on Rye is as bad as Post Office, it would make me want to consume an actual ham sandwich, instead.  Even if I were a vegetarian!

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Which came first, my hypothetical ham sandwich or yours?
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(05-24-2019, 11:23 PM)bendrix Wrote: Which came first, my hypothetical ham sandwich or yours?

We'll call it a tie.

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