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lono

What I am reading

the weird and highly subjective way I see it

Currently reading

For Whom The Bell Tolls
Ernest Hemingway
Progress: 232/505 pages
The Undying Fire
H.G. Wells
Progress: 33 %
Fifty Egg Timer Short Stories
Richard Bunning

Tieck between genius and madness

Der gestiefelte Kater - Ludwig Tieck

So far I have known Tieck only as a translator, never before have I read anything originally written by him and now that I have, I feel like I have missed out on something great so far.

 

This Puss in Boots is probably the weirdest play I have ever read and considering it was first published in 1797 it must have been the first metadrama ever written. There is so much in this short play that anticipated a lot of Brechts later theatrical tactics and manoeuvres that I am baffled and convinced that Tieck’s Puss in Boots signifies the birth of the anti-illusional theatre. This is a play of a play, portraying the completely failed attempt to stage a play. Yet, there is neither a real play with a plot, nor a framing story, but everything there is, goes hand in hand and cannot be separated from each other.

 

The only two downsides I would have to mention is the pretty antiquated language and the very much outdated satire. But besides that, Brecht, Beckett and Stoppard are looking quite old in comparison here.

To read or not to read?

A Midsummer Night's Dream - William Shakespeare

I went to the theatre to see a performance of Macbeth (I am not superstitious, therefore I can say that) last week and that actually got me in the mood for some Shakespeare. But instead of re-reading one of his tragedies (out of which I really enjoy Macbeth the most, but this review actually has nothing to with Macbeth, so I am going to stop mentioning it now), I wanted to try a comedy for a change.

 

I have actually seen a performance of A Midsummernight’s Dream a couple of years ago, but honestly I do not remember anything about it – which shoud have struck me as a bad sign to begin with. Anyway, after reading it, it now makes sense, that I forgot all about this play, because it really is a pretty shallow one (sorry to all of you hardcore Shakespeare fanboys and fangirls out there). It might also be possible, that I am only confused because nobody died and, reading Shakespeare, that is a first for me.

But A Midsummernight’s Dream was not my taste and considering my love for Russian literature, I might be more the kill-everyone-at-the-end instead of the they-now-live-happily-ever-after type of person in generall. Well, at least now I know that for sure.

Reading progress update: I've read 25 out of 87 pages.

Der gestiefelte Kater - Ludwig Tieck

Way to go. Instead of finishing Minae Mizumuras book which I am currently reading, I just started another one.

A literary break

Krankenzimmer Nr. 6. Erzählung Eines Unbekannten. - Peter Urban, Gerhard Dick, Ada Knipper, Anton  Čechov

The two stories in this volume (Ward No. 6 and The Story of an Unknown Man) were a short break for me while I am reading and writing almost exclusively for my master thesis, because I needed some change and some literary input. This is the first time, I read prose written by Čechov, so far, I only enjoyed his late plays, in which, I have to say, the language is a bit more refined.

Still, I really enjoyed both stories and I cannot decide which one was my favourite. While Ward No. 6 definitely had the more interesting topic, The Story of an Unknown Man was captivating due to its unique mixture of elements from Čechov, Lermontov and Dostoevskij. I was (pleasantly) surprised by the amount of philosophy explicitly thrown into both stories, basically because this is something I haven’t seen Čechov do in his plays.

Bottom line: one can never read enough of Čechov.

Reading progress update: I've read 91 out of 196 pages.

Krankenzimmer Nr. 6. Erzählung Eines Unbekannten. - Peter Urban, Gerhard Dick, Ada Knipper, Anton  Čechov

I needed a short break from all the materials and even the topic of my master thesis and what better to read in this case than Čechov?

 

I just finished Čechovs story Ward No. 6, which I can assure you is amazing!

Reading progress update: I've read 71 out of 221 pages.

The Fall of Language in the Age of English - Minae Mizumura, Mari Yoshihara, Juliet Winters Carpenter

Slow but steady is what I would call my reading progress here..

 

The book is super interesting though. I just wish, I'd have more time to read!

Reading progress update: I've read 36 out of 221 pages.

The Fall of Language in the Age of English - Minae Mizumura, Mari Yoshihara, Juliet Winters Carpenter

Minae Mizumura IS BACK!

… at least in my bookshelf. As far as I know, the real Minae Mizumura didn’t go anywhere, so why would she be back.

 

Anyways, this is her first non-fiction book and so far it is written (= translated) so beautifully!

The First Vonnegut

Player Piano - Kurt Vonnegut

Well, this was disappointing.

 

Player Piano was not a good book, although everything about it seemed so promising at first – I hate it, when that happens! I really adore Vonnegut, therefore it is hard for me to admit, that he really did come a long way since his first novel and that he was not born the amazing writer I know him to be. Also, on the bright side – I am now convinced, that there is hope for every single amateur writer out there.

 

The whole story of a couple of very smart people planning a revolution and to overthrow the system (which I had a very hard time getting into right from the start) reminded me a lot of Superstoe and I am wondering if Mr. Borden was a fan of Vonnegut as well? Probably.

 

But instead of rambling and complaining about why I didn’t like Player Piano I tried to find something to take away from having read it. You know, always focus on the glass that is half-full. So I interpret it as a search for a purpose in life, because as comfortable as it is if you’re provided for concerning all your basic needs, it does not quite make life worth living per se (especially if machines are doing all the providing-work). Everybody needs a purpose in life and wants to feel useful in some way or another. The other thing I am taking away from Player Piano is the importance to just give a damn about what you are doing. I think this is something I (if not we all) ought to embrace more these days.

Reading progress update: I've read 105 out of 320 pages.

Player Piano - Kurt Vonnegut

"History has a way of showing us what, in retrospect, are very logical solutions to awful messes."

 

It took me quite some time (time equals pages in this case) to get into the story of Player Piano, but now I think, we're getting somewhere.

Missed the beat

The Beats: A Graphic History - Peter Kuper, Harvey Pekar, Gary Dumm, Trina Robbins, Ed Piskor, Nancy J. Peters, Jay Kinney, Nick Thorkelson, Anne Timmons, Paul Buhle, Joyce Brabner, Mary Fleener, Penelope Rosemont, Lance Tooks, Summer McClinton, Jerome Neukirch, Jeffrey Lewis

The first 121 pages follow a clear concept, namely to explore the life of the Core-Beat poets Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs. Those stories are either pretty much focused on their homoerotic sexlife or on the very basics of them moving around a lot while switching from one odd job to the next or running out of money. And those facts are somehow presented in a less entertaining way than in any reasonable wikipedia article.

 

The second half is a bit more random. Different illustrators and writers focus on various poets, on some special perspective or aspect associated with the Beats, but they never get enough space to adequately deal with the subjects. I got the impression, that their goal was to somehow cram as many poets in there as possible, sort of a better-than-usual-because-illustrated name-dropping.

 

The constant changing in the style of the artwork in the second half of the book gets really annoying and speaking of the artwork in general, I think it was shockingly mediocre and the portrayed poets did not necessarily resemble their real life alter egos if you compare them to actual footage or photographs. Don’t get me wrong – it is better than anything I could ever do, but also, I am not earning my living as an illustrator.

Reading progress update: I've read 53 out of 208 pages.

The Beats: A Graphic History - Peter Kuper, Harvey Pekar, Gary Dumm, Trina Robbins, Ed Piskor, Nancy J. Peters, Jay Kinney, Nick Thorkelson, Anne Timmons, Paul Buhle, Joyce Brabner, Mary Fleener, Penelope Rosemont, Lance Tooks, Summer McClinton, Jerome Neukirch, Jeffrey Lewis

So far, so good.

Pretty focused on the Beats sex life.

The Gore of the War

Das Menschenschlachthaus - Wilhelm Lamszus

This is a book that needs some time for digesting. Even today and even for me.

 

Das Menschenschlachthaus (The Human Slaughterhouse) was a bestseller back in the days of 1912, years before books by Barbusse or Remarque were written, even before WW1 broke out. Lamszus, a cocksure pacifist who devoted his life to fight for peace tried to warn his audience of the dangers and devastating consequences of industrialised warfare. In his fictional scenario of a war between France and Germany he features the euphoria at the beginning and the resignation in the end, there are trenches, mines, shitty weather, the effects of machine guns against flesh and blood, the horrors of wounded soldiers, the nightmare visions of field hospitals, so basically WW1 without the gas.

 

The language is incredible, Lamszus knew how to make a point (no wonder, Barbusse was a fan of his). It’s great and easy to read, yet hard to take in.

Logan runs and Jessica stumbles along

Logan's Run  - William F. Nolan, George Clayton Johnson

I am still very much into dystopian fiction and Logan’s Run seemed like a classic must-read to me.

 

The story in a nutshell would be a future earth society in which everybody has to go or is being put to „sleep“ at the age of 21. If you want to live longer, you can try to run. But you will most likely be hunted down by the so called Sandmen or be killed by some renegades, outlaws, cyborgs or robots. Logan and Jessica run, survive various adventures, fall in love aaaand happy (yet kind of open) ending.

 

The novel has a classic late 60s setup – a strong, smart, goal-oriented, enduring white male protagonist and a pretty, quiet, cooperative, helpless female companion who stumbles and falls down a lot or who gets stripped naked and tied to a rock, waiting for rescue. And these rescue manoeuvres sometimes get quite ridiculous. I mean, at one point, Logan is forced to have sex with six lovely ladies in order to get an antidote to save Jessica. Need I say more?

 

Logan’s Run is an okay entertainment, definitely no world-class literature and filled with 60s sexism, racism and all sorts of prejudices, also, the writing sometimes jumps between first and third person narration. But, let’s face it – it had me with words like „rebel hipsters“ or „pleasure gypsy“ on page one.

 

…just a side note: this is one of the rare occasions in which I think that the movie really is way better, because the story (in the movie) makes more sense and is less focused on showing what a tough guy Logan is.

Chaos on the Western Front, or: The trenches are on fire

Das Feuer - Henri Barbusse

Reading All Quiet on the Western Front made me not only appreciate our (more or less) peaceful present here in Europe, but it also made me wonder about WW1 in general. Although I am from Austria, the country which had a finger in both World War pies, I have to admit, that I am frightfully uninformed about this section of history. In school we somehow tend to briefly mention that WW1 happened because of the assassination of the Habsburg heir in order to focus the rest of our history classes almost exclusively on WW2.

 

After reading what Remarque had to say about the Western Front, I wanted to know what the other side of the story looked like in the French trenches straight across No Man’s Land, because when it comes to history, nothing is worse than a one-sided view. Since Barbusse’ novel Under Fire appeared in 1916, it was one of the first non-propaganda books about WW1 and although Barbusse and Remarque had similar aims and viewpoints, their novels differ considerably.

 

Under Fire basically tells the reader about the common soldiers’ everyday life in the French army, therefore not focusing so much on fighting action, but mainly on hopes and dreams, boredom, physical strains, angst and chaos. It is at the same time more humane and universal than Remarque’s novel, but in comparison doesn’t do such a good job at conveying the deep personal struggles of the protagonists.

 

Although Under Fire was a huge-ass success when it was published, I can now understand why All Quiet on the Western Front is completely overshadowing it. Barbusse’ writing style is something to get used to – it is partly realistic, yet extremely expressionistic and overly symbolic. Also, the many episodes of the novel are somewhat disconnected from each other in terms of time as well as space (=setting) and it as hard as it is annoying to try to follow the disjointed snippets of different conversations which are interrupting and overlying each other all the time.

Reading progress update: I've read 26 out of 294 pages.

Das Feuer - Henri Barbusse

I hoped that Barbusse’ novel would be as easy and exciting to read as Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, but no. So far, definitely no.

Reading progress update: I've read 37 out of 320 pages.

Player Piano - Kurt Vonnegut

I haven’t written anything in quite a while, because I fell ill and, of course, it was the worst time possible to be sick, because I had so much work to do which just kept piling up and had to be done. So, reading had to be halted for a couple of days as well. Also, my head hurt.

 

So, hi there! I am back again.
The most striking feature of Player Piano so far is the writing stlye. Since this is Vonneguts first novel, he clearly hasn’t found his distinctive style yet.