Books! What are you currently reading or just finished?


Replying to old post alert.

Gravity’s Rainbow isn’t simply a great book, it is one of the pivotal novels of twentieth century literature.

And in my mind (because literature is now less important) potentially the last real innovative literature we have. Post this we get to similar sprawling post modern stuff (Infinite Jest), ernest middle class bollocks favoured by those in publishing houses (McEwan, etc) and kind of minimal ‘experimental’ stuff in a line from Kafka (Murakami, Auster).

I’d also point out I’ve had a couple of glasses of wine and that this list is notable for the absence of any female/non-male writers. I guess what I’m trying to say that the Pynchon actually a really, really important book.


I would probably strenuously dispute your claim that literature is unimportant, although in the sense that perhaps it is harder for a new novel to make waves in the way it might have a few decades ago I might cautiously agree.

All that said, yes, absolutely, a very important novel indeed!


Not to derail further but the O’Hagan piece is online in full on the link above and the person who is described as leaving with a suitcase is the Tory Councillor responsible for the tower’s renovation - not the owner of the flat. Also - he was quoting the Daily Mail.


Yes, I was thinking this too when I heard the news this morning being discussed on Vanessa. This piece was such a big article there are going to be inaccuracies in that too , I am not regarding it as the last word. I am not sure Andrew O’Hagans piece was particularly left leaning- he was having a real dig at the protest groups.


Cool, and thanks. I kind of think that’s what I was alluding to - for those without having direct access to the piece the news report implied the LRB had made that allegation.

There’s a very interesting case study here around misrepresentation.



I don’t disagree, but in the context of a thread about books, I think it’s reasonable to cite Gravity’s Rainbow as an important one.

As to the importance of literature, having studied it many years ago I made a reasonable conscious choice (or it least it seems in retrospect) to give it up for reasons of relevance. Basically, whilst I might think it significant, most people I knew didn’t give a shit, and more importantly, the ins and outs of literary criticism in reality had very little impact on the billions that struggle to survive on a daily basis.

But - I can’t help but feel from a historical perspective, the invention of the printing press and the circulation of writing as a mass media and the use of literature to highlight social inequality (Dickens, workhouses, etc) might have been in some way helpful. There may be similarly harmful examples though.


I’m just coming to the end of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals, which, with every page I turn, makes me think that literally everyone should read it.

The book is a non-fiction investigation into the meat industry instigated by the author becoming a father and wanting to learn about the origins of the food he would be feeding his soon-to-be-born child. I hasten to add that it’s not a vegetarian (let alone vegan) preach-fest in any way. He begins the book by talking about his love for burgers, steak, and all of his grandmother’s traditional dishes, featuring lots of chicken and beef, and then goes on a real journey as he crosses the US seeing how meat is produced in a variety of different settings. If you turn your nose up at this book, you’re the type of person who should be reading it!


Just got these— anyone read these?


I read Pink Noises. It was a good read overall, though like many things I’ve read, from descriptions of the artists’ work I got excited to listen to many of the unfamiliar ones, only to find out that most of them weren’t really to my liking in practice.

I remember kind of snorting at the idea that the term “trigger” is violent and therefore masculine and makes women less likely to be interested in electronic music – I think of all the factors that make it too much of a boys’ club that’s got to be down around number 700 on the list. I’ll accept the idea that certain genres do tend toward more violence-oriented terms though, but at the same time I’d argue the association of violence with masculinity is a bigger problem than the association of violence and music.


… Wow that sounds like an annoyingly bad argument Pink Noises makes. Almost as bad as the notion that women don’t study science because they’re not sufficiently enticed by it for not being cute enough or something, rather than being, I dunno, pushed out as they go…


I’m curious what you mean by pushed.

In 40 years in a university environment I’ve never seen someone what I would call pushed. I see a lot of social signals but…

In my department (geoscience) we typically average 60% women. And I’ve sat in on CS courses a lot where there are more like 20% and the vibe is very much ‘how can we get more women in CS’ from the profs and the students alike. But my experience is one data point in a whole ocean of situations, so… I’d love to hear more.


Ahhh, I think I meant “pushed” a little more broadly than you did, so “social signals” would count toward that in my book. definitely poTAYto poTAHto though. I will say that in my experience in Calculus classrooms, most of the women I see struggling are not uninterested in what is patently a poor approach to an interesting subject, just very doubtful of their ability to learn the material.

I’m excited to hear geoscience is doing so much better than Math! (Of the PhD students in my program, there are currently four women, each of us in a different year, out of ~25 total students. Within that, I’m the only one studying “pure” math. :upside_down_face: Although I said “pushed” above, I would actually characterize my program as really good about gender… just, poor in numbers.)

Aw man, I feel like I had a good thought or anecdote on this subject that would make a good addition to this reply, but it has fallen plumb out of my mind.


Thanks for the thoughts.

I have unpleasant memories of first year engineering… badly taught, no empathy for struggling students, … a lot has changed though and I think though there is still a ‘tough it out’ attitude it is, well, less bad rather than ‘good.’

Interested in the math perspective. My son is CS/Math at U. Waterloo (just finishing) and not only is it a male-dominated program, the university itself is I think a little tilted. :slight_smile: But we can change that, we can have different role models, teaching calculus in a new way!


Coming back to the HSP subject…

Somebody elsewhere pointed out (in a thread about the upcoming biography of Fred Rogers) that people, especially Americans, are so concerned with being cool that they have a hard time being anything else. Part of the cool they want to portray is cynicism, indifference… pretty much the opposite of sensitivity. Being sensitive isn’t cool, and caring about things isn’t cool.

And I find that hard to deal with. I don’t understand that mindset. Nor do I understand many peoples’ need to always compete and be aggressive and hostile when it’s not necessary or appropriate (for instance: driving), or why that behavior bothers me so much.

I’m definitely going to read that book…


my mom just bought two copies. one for her and one for my wife and i. we are going to read it and kinda book club it together. i’m really loving it thus far. some of it gets barely psych-heavy but some incredible insight imo and very very gentle which i really really value. :squid:


One of the best books on music ever written. I’ve read it multiple times. The associated compilation from the Virgin Ambient series is a just jaw-dropping exposition of his thesis.

Toop is an amazing improviser and brilliant critic. I recommend all of his books but this one and Exotica are my favorites.


It’s nice to have finally finished a book:

Ascension, John Coltrane and His Quest by Eric Nisenson.

I found it to be a great balance of details and overviews.

Coltrane really pushed the boundaries, and when he first joined Miles Davis group everyone thought he should be fired, for not being an original voice. Really unbelievable how far he was able to take his life and music.

Also contains a lot of little insights into other musicians as well, like Miles, Monk, Elvin Jones, Eric Dolphy, Mingus…


:heart:️ Ocean of Sound - so much atmosphere in it. I very much enjoyed reading The Ambient Century somewhere around that time too, but this one is more immersive.


Recently finished The Storm Before the Storm by Mike Duncan and On Revolution by Hannah Arendt.

  • The former is well rounded accounting of a too often overlooked part of Antiquity: the genealogy of the fall of the Roman republic into civil wars and ultimately imperium in the generations before Gaius Julius Caesar. Figures like the Gracchi brothers, Saturninus, Marius, and Sulla feature heavily as drivers of the narrative but Mr. Duncan takes a wider view of the era in the economic conditions, socio-political system, and foreign military engagements that shaped the environment for insurrections, revolts, and institutional terror – the latter especially during the quasi-dictatorship of Cinna. There are hints of tracing the old question of “If America is Rome where are we now on that timeline?” (the author explicitly addresses this in the foreword), but throughout the main body of the text, it is thankfully left for the reader to ponder.

  • The latter book is yet more proof in my mind that Ms. Arendt was someone who saw the whole of human history at once. The book deals with the question of the ultimate fate of revolution: its élan through the process, what becomes of its governing structures, and how its spirit is ultimately abandoned. Obviously, much of the authors writing is focussed on dealing with the wreckage of the mid-20th century and existing in the seeming state of Trotskian permanent revolution – the writing was near the time of the Hungarian Revolution. However, the author’s take on the Glorious, American, French, and Bolshevik Revolutions is fascinating, deep, and at times hauntingly close to a warning about the current political moment. Her quotations are apt, analysis compelling, and prose delightful (to wit the phrase “fear of the chartless darkness of the human heart”, superb).

Nothing currently in progress except texts on topological quantum computing; although some history of Reconstruction Era America is next on the list.


I read Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem and was a horrible/wonderful experience for pretty much the reasons you mention about her ability to see.

I read it about the same time as I read The Prince for probably the 5th time and Popper’s Poverty of Historicism and Plato’s Republic.

Pretty rough couple of weeks.