Off Topic Art & Literature

Discussion in 'Southampton' started by St. Beddytare, Nov 26, 2019.

  1. VocalMinority

    VocalMinority Well-Known Member

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    I Have all the hornblower books on Audible, really enjoyed reading them. The books kind of jumped around in quality as they weren't written in chronological order, although that is definitely the best way to read them.
    IIRC forester had more planned but unfortunately died before finishing them.
    I think the final book was finished after his death from a draft.

    Something I found interesting about those books is that many of them were written during ww2 and he received money from the government to write them, so they had that all of europe against england propaganda to them where england was holding out and in the end victorious against the whole of Europe ruled by a dictator. Also the part set in Russia with Russian allies was written at the same point Russia was helping us against the germans.
     
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  2. Ian Thumwood

    Ian Thumwood Well-Known Member

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    Second Stain

    Thanks for your recommendations. I like historical novels and had tried "Master & commander" back around the time that the excellent I film came out. As you state, the books probably have a narrower appeal because they are so thoroughly researched. At the time I had been reading a lot of books about maritime explorers and the Royal Navy and was keen to see how similar the book was to the film. I must admit I was really surprised by the book which was not at all what I expected. Oddly enough, my Dad had simultaneously read another of Patrick O'Brian's series and he felt the same. They seemed a little bit underwhelming and we both felt that they were disappointing given the degree to which the while series had been lauded. It was series of books that I thought I would really have enjoyed yet "M & C" seemed more wordy than I had anticipated. I had expected to have become hooked on his books but, for some reason, I felt the story was actually a little bit silly. I do not know if I chose one of the weaker books in the series but I have never been tempted to pick up another even though I usually love intelligently written novels.

    Another historical novelist I struggled with was Rose Tremaine.. "Music and silence" was aboit an English composer in the court of the Danish kind in the 1600s. The premise seemed interesting yet barely anything happened in the story. I found it very irritating even though I did struggle through to the end which was a total anti-climax.

    I would also add that I have also been engrossed by a series of books by one author in the past. The strangest of these in my opinion was Ian Fleming's James Bond series which struck me as though they could have been written by different authors they were so different. Some such as "On her majesty's secret service" and "From Russia with love" are really good and others such as "The spy who loved me" are so different from the films that they fascinate. The wierdest aspect of Fleming's writing for me was the James Bond had a different personality in the short stories than the longer novels. He was more akin to Daniel Craig's character on the former. It was also clear that Fleming got totally bored by the character so something like "You only live twice" is absolutely terrible and you can understand why Roald Dahl was drafted in to pen a totally new story for the film of the same name as Fleming's was so risible. By the time that the final "The man with the golden gun" was written, society had changed and Fleming seemed to get a second wind, picking up on the changing culture of the later sixties. You are left with the feeling that Ian Fleming was staggeringly inconsistent. Still, I felt that William Boyd's Bond novel "Solo" is probably the most original approach to this charater that reimagined Bond struggling to cope with the cultural changes of the late 1960s and being slightly out of his depth working in Afirca. Fleming's breezy style has similarly been ridiculed and praised but in Boyd they managed to find an excellent writer and someone with the imagination to offer a vision of James Bond which was both original and in keeping with Fleming's better efforts.
     
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  3. Archers Road

    Archers Road Urban Spaceman

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    My local bookshop has shut for the foreseeable. So has the Oxfam Bookshop. I’ll be alright, I’ve been stockpiling books and records for decades. Might finally get round to tackling James Joyce - probably not though
     
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  4. Ian Thumwood

    Ian Thumwood Well-Known Member

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    It s funny how some books have a lot of literary clout but seem too formidable to attempt. I read the first volume of Proust on recommendation and it drove me to distraction!
     
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  5. Archers Road

    Archers Road Urban Spaceman

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    I think some books have been read by literally no one except a few university professors, and because the professors pronounce them works of genius, everyone else agrees for fear of looking stupid.

    Having said that, I think you have to be over 40 to appreciate certain artists; Tolstoy, for instance, and your man Miles Davis. Like the Chet Baker movie with Ethan Hawkes, where Chet fails an audition for a spot at Miles’ club, and Miles says, “Come back and try again when you’ve lived a little”. So he did.

    I was made to read Keats at school, and hated it. If I’d realised what a bunch of truly revolutionary idealists those English Romantic poets were, I’d have stuck with them, but not sure I would have ‘got’ them at 16.
     
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  6. StJabbo1

    StJabbo1 Well-Known Member

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    #446
  7. Archers Road

    Archers Road Urban Spaceman

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    Good site, that Poetry Foundation one.

    Memoirs of a Fox Hunting man is the first volume of Sassoon's memoirs, covering the period up to his enrolment at the beginning of WWI. The second volume, Memoirs of an Infantry Officer, covers the war, Sassoon's conversion to pacifism, and his anti war activism which in many ways was as courageous as his war record.

    Both volumes are extraordinarily poignant and moving. Fascinating character, Sassoon; a Jewish homosexual who could never be fully part of the English Country set he aspired to. His sincere, tender love for England is one of the factors that make his war experience so harrowing. Memoirs of a Foxhunting Man is a wonderful recollection of a rural England that has disappeared forever.
     
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  8. StJabbo1

    StJabbo1 Well-Known Member

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    I've read them, long time ago, I'll revisit when I'm in the right frame of mind.
     
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  9. Archers Road

    Archers Road Urban Spaceman

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    <laugh> About four months hence?
     
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  10. StJabbo1

    StJabbo1 Well-Known Member

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    Could be, I'll see how/if things settle down.
     
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  11. Archers Road

    Archers Road Urban Spaceman

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    I actually read Memoirs of an Infantry Officer during a very stressful period of my life. Reading a few pages of that before bedtime put my problems into perspective.
     
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  12. TheSecondStain

    TheSecondStain Needs an early night

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    Hmm, I have a similar situation. I have a book by Friedrich Nietzsche. I could read it, but I know really that it's not going to happen. Expansive mind, but I'll just say that he had issues, and leave it at that.
     
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  13. StJabbo1

    StJabbo1 Well-Known Member

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    .
     
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  14. StJabbo1

    StJabbo1 Well-Known Member

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    Stumbled across Alan Bennett's Untold Stories that's next, the Sassoon's I'll have to find new copies of or ebooks, not preferred.
     
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  15. Ian Thumwood

    Ian Thumwood Well-Known Member

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    With regard to "difficult" books, I was surprised by T.E. Lawrence's ("Lawrence of Arabia") account of his exploits in World War One, "The seven pillars of wisdom." The film with Peter O'Toole was on television for the first time in the mid 70's and I was hugely impressed, especially as it lived up to the expectations I had been given by my parents as being a great piece of cinema. The book is something else, though. I had wanted to read it for years and was eventually given a copy as a birthday present back in the late 1990s. I knew from the first paragraph that the book was going to be really hard work. Not a lot happens and the books is philosophical in tone. I found the Arab names really confusing and too much seemed to be given over to description of things like rock formations. It was something that I considered giving up although I stuck with it until the end. Turgid does not describe it! It is probably the most disappointing book I have ever read,

    Picking up on other books about World War One, I wonder if anyone had ever read Ernst Junger's "Storm of steel" which is a total contrast to the works of the likes of Owen, Sassoon and Graves. In this account from a German perspective,, it is clear that he enjoyed the war despite all the horrors. It is a fascinating account and, unlike Lawrence, very readable.

    I love vintage airplanes and after reading an account of the RFC in World War One, I took up the advice to trying some of W E John's "Biggles" books. I had read one as a child and found it a bit ridiculous and old-fashioned but returning to them 40-odd years later the early books are fascinating. When you realise that Johns actually flew in World War One and then discover that in the early "Biggles" books at least) the short stories are actually re-writings of true accounts of genuine pilots but recast as being carried out by a fictional character, the books start to come alive. They are often quite amusing yet the frightening reality is hidden beneath a veneer. I found the account of flying to be some of the best regarding what it would feel like to be airborne as well as to appreciative the frailty and unreliability of the planes they were flying. I was surprised how good they were,
     
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  16. Archers Road

    Archers Road Urban Spaceman

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    I read Laurence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom last year, having tried years before and put it down quite early on.

    You’re right, it’s a bit of a slog. Worth it though. More of a philosopher and a scholar than he was either a writer or a soldier. Hard as ****ing nails though; not swaggering macho hard, but quietly unassumingly possessed of bottomless inner strength. That’s why the Arab nomads loved him, because no other European and very few people of any nation could have survived the hardships of the desert without being born to it.

    The descriptions of the natural environment could get a bit repetitive - he wasn’t a naturally gifted writer - but I enjoyed his sense of wonder at these almost supernatural landscapes.
     
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  17. Ian Thumwood

    Ian Thumwood Well-Known Member

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    Archers

    Some years later after struggling through this book, I watched a documentary on television where a former SAS soldier tried to recreate Lawrence's journey to Akaba because he had always felt that it was an incredible achievement and thought that it would help him better understand someone who he greatly admired. What was interesting was that the programme revealed that there has always been scepticism amongst the Arabs of Lawrence's account as told in the "Seven pillars of wisdom." It is deemed to be wholly inaccurate in that part of the world. Accordingly, the premise of the documentary was to prove that the sceptics were wrong and that. whilst lacking modern equipment and navigation methods, this journey was the work of a genius. Unfortunately, the journey proved more difficult than planned and concluded with the SAS man vociferously arguing that what Lawrence had grossly exaggerated what he had claimed. In fact, he position was that Lawrence could not have possibly arrived in Akaba in the speed that he had alleged. It is also worth remembering that the first draft of this book was lost by Lawrence when he left it at a train station in error. I wish someone had told me this before I embarked upon reading this book!

    The more you learn about Lawrence , the more complex a character he seems to have been. He tried to avoid attention after the war by living under another name and you can still see his cottage which is located not too far from Bovington tank museum.

    In the past, I was determined next to let a book defeat me. I love reading but I would say that there are three books which I have found excruciatingly hard work to complete. Lawrence's book is one and the first volume of Proust was another. A friend recommended Proust and whilst I initially looked the attention to detail, this increasingly started to grate when it became apparent that nothing actually happened. I was never tempted to pick up the next 6 volumes! However, the worst book I have read was an academic study about King Alfred that I wrestled with nearly 25 years ago. The premise of the book was that the charters associated with Alfred and Asser's biography were all medieval forgeries so that what little I knew about him was probably not true. This argument was centred around the syntax of the original Latin. I have never encountered any book as dull as this. I was told many years later that the author, who had an esteemed reputation in the academia surrounding medieval history, had been advised by colleagues not to publish his theory because it far too controversial and not accepted as being correct. The book cost me about £30 at the time and was very expensive.

    These days, I am more inclined to give up on a book if it is too dull. I did this with a Simon Schama book but more recently gave up with the novel "The Essex Serpent" which drove me to distraction. It proports to be a mystery about a Loch Ness type monster in Essex but the book seemed to drag on for ages and I got the impression that the book was really about conflict between Darwinism and the folk and religious traditions as opposed to any real monster. I got so impatient with it, I decided to read some reviews on line and as soon as I realised that my suspicions appeared to be correct, I gave the book away. I never found out what my work colleague's wife thought about it but it was hopeless as far as I was concerned.

    I am currently reading Ian McEwans's "Machine like me." I find McEwan to be a writer on the other end of the spectrum as whenever I start reading anything my him I find the book impossible to put down. This latest novel about an alternative 1980s with artificial humans is brilliant and, in typical McEwan fashion, you get the sense of impending menace and the likelihood of things going wrong. In my opinion, he is one of the best writers of our time.
     
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  18. Archers Road

    Archers Road Urban Spaceman

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    Ian, I used to have it hard wired in my consciousness not to give up on a book until, I'd finished it, but now I just think life's too short. Sometimes though, I have found that books I've struggled with in the past have just opened up for me when I've picked them up at the right time. One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest is an example of that, I tried so many times to get past the first chapter; eventually I did, and it became one of my favourite books. And it took me til my 50s to get a taste for Shakespeare, though I enjoyed Romeo and Juliet when we did it at school

    Don't think I'll ever finish Joyce's Ulysses, but you never know. One day I might pick it up and it'll flow, I've had a copy of Milton's Paradise Lost next to my bed for 10 years and I don't know if I'll ever read all of that either, but it's handy to have as so many other authors refer to it.

    On Lawrence, your story tells me that Lawrence was tougher than the SAS (and those guys are pretty tough). He might have got some details wrong, because memory plays tricks, but I'm pretty sure that exaggerating his own experiences was not in the man's character at all.
     
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  19. Susan

    Susan Well-Known Member

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    Have just finished reading;

    Fahrenheit 451
    Old Man and the Sea
    Wuthering Heights

    Next up;

    Part Two of Don Quixote
    Lord of the Flies
    Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

    Playing a lot of GTA5 and working my regular full-time hours though, so not expecting to get through these any time soon.
     
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  20. St. Beddytare

    St. Beddytare Plays the percentage

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    Suggest you try lord of the rings too......I enjoyed that (and the film) immensely :emoticon-0148-yes:
     
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