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#4501 usagi

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Posted 16 February 2019 - 01:30 AM

I need more recommendations for good contemporary fiction pls. I've always had little idea what's new or exciting in that sphere, I spent most of my earlier years with classics and it's biased me towards them and towards thinking that contemporary writing inherently has less value. Cormac McCarthy I know. Murakami, ehh, I should read him but it somehow doesn't grab me. can anyone recommend me something else?

 

I've really pushed to get back into reading this year as I felt myself sliding further and further away from it due to time demands/life. trying to read one a month at least. so far I've gone through:

 

- Call of the Wild (re-read)

- Lord of the Flies (re-read)

- A Farewell to Arms (re-read)

- As I Lay Dying



#4502 Roo

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Posted 16 February 2019 - 02:07 AM

On Faulkner, last month I finally caught up with Light in August and The Reivers.

 

Absalom, Absalom! (which I've read a few times now) happens to be my favourite novel, but no other Faulkners have ever really delivered anything near as strong for me, although Light in August is the 2nd best I've come across and does feel like a warm-up for Absalom, Absalom in many respects. The only others I've read were during 2010-11 (The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying & The Wild Palms), and I remember the least about As I Lay Dying. I generally dig his work, could spend forever reading about tales in that county.

 

In the last year or so I've been finally delving into local writers Patrick White and David Malouf (who like Auster has a voice I strongly relate to), as well as progressing further through the Aubrey-Maturin series (for which I have deep affection), and I've got Against the Day lined up (still haven't touched anything prior to Vineland, read everything else since). Pynchon & O'Brian are worth owning, as they are the sort of novels I'll read again and again.


Edited by Roo, 16 February 2019 - 02:12 AM.


#4503 usagi

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Posted 16 February 2019 - 04:10 AM

^ this is the first Faulkner I've read so I'm still coming to grips with his whole vibe and how he sees things. (I remember getting this copy with alco's blessing when I was in Chicago, shout out alco.) I read that he wrote it in six weeks in concentrated bursts and revised it very little, which makes sense when you realise you can get through most of the book with not a lot of action actually unfolding. it seems to be more about what's happening in the characters' hearts and minds. he has a peculiar way of writing about complex sentiments using simple words so you really have to dwell on it and work out what he's trying to say.

 

re: contemporary writing, I might start with Pynchon then. haven't read a word of his.



#4504 wobbegongs

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Posted 16 February 2019 - 04:16 AM

I'm reading the Aegypt series of books by John Crowley, who i'd not heard of until a couple weeks ago.. love em so far! I was first drawn in by seeing them described - sounds like secret history / occult / religion type stuff, with bits starring fictionalised versions of historical personages set in the 1500-1600s, something i always enjoy - but they're not quite what I expected.. beautifully low key.. vivid rural scapes.. the second book so far has been almost entirely a super detailed bit of Kentucky mountains childhood memories.



#4505 wobbegongs

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Posted 16 February 2019 - 04:32 AM

 

nearing the end of John Varley's Gaea trilogy..

tumblr_m4gu2u6KVP1qgr1oxo1_500.jpg

scifi. these got pretty good as they went on! some unexpected directions.. lots of centaur sex.. quite reminding me of Terry Pratchett's stuff in some ways, though these are much less explicitly humourous..

Is it a little weird with all the centaur sex? Or a lot weird? How was the trilogy altogether?

 

 

 

sorry, only just saw this.. yeah it was weird.. it goes into it, and like, breeding, love, genetics, in scientific detail. they aren't really centaurs but a race (titanides) resembling them, created sort of as an experiment by a super ancient advanced, but now quite mad, alien mind.. (the books take place inside a space environment which is (/appears to be) the giant body of this mind)... they have two different sets of genitals, one for romantic/fun type sex and one for breeding. there are 28 (or some number like that, i forget) different possible breeding group configurations. there are some small diagrams in the book explaining these a bit. the alien mind has, as partially a cruel joke and partially a measure to avoid overpopulation, made it so that for their eggs to be fertilised requires the saliva of one specific human................

 

yeah i really liked those books! can't really say smart things about them or anything but they went places. (i was surprised, after the cover art makes em look like some kind of pulpy fantasy). i really love very vividly conjured landscapes, that's sort of my favourite thing in books, and these were great at that.. 



#4506 romanticdude

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Posted 18 February 2019 - 04:49 AM

re: contemporary writing, I might start with Pynchon then. haven't read a word of his.


The Crying of Lot 49 is recommended often as the ideal starting point as it was his debut novella and already featured a lot of elements that make Pynchon so fucking great. But you might as well pick up some later novels like Inherent Vice or Vineland (seriously underrated), two stoner stories with all Pynchon paraphernalia intact, yet more easily digestible than Gravity's Rainbow or something.

#4507 hello spiral

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Posted 18 February 2019 - 06:08 AM

Lot49 was his 2nd, V was his first.

Personally I loved Gravity's Rainbow on the first (admittedly arduous) read.

I didn't really click with Lot49 until I read it the second time. But yeah, at least it's short. Agree with you on Vineland, love that one.



#4508 romanticdude

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Posted 18 February 2019 - 07:33 AM

Lot49 was his 2nd, V was his first.
Personally I loved Gravity's Rainbow on the first (admittedly arduous) read.
I didn't really click with Lot49 until I read it the second time. But yeah, at least it's short. Agree with you on Vineland, love that one.


Shit, you're right. My bad.

#4509 T3551ER

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Posted 18 February 2019 - 01:56 PM

David Mitchell's stuff is supposed be pretty good on the contemporary speculative fiction/sci-fi front - he wrote Cloud Atlas which I've not read but bookish friends say is quite good. Did read the Bone Clocks which was a pretty decent, "literary sci-fi" read (if a tad self-indulgent). 

 

I was slightly crestfallen to discover that

 

Spoiler


#4510 tec

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Posted 18 February 2019 - 06:14 PM

Cloud Atlas is very enjoyable, David Mitchell came in to do a quick signing when I worked in a bookshop too and he is a sweet man.

#4511 Roo

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Posted 18 February 2019 - 07:40 PM

I adore Vineland as well (despite how unwieldy it feels at points, and seeming protagonist Zoyd disappearing for such a vast chunk). Mason & Dixon is the only one I prefer. Bleeding Edge was also treated rather unfairly on release I felt, I expect that to grow in esteem as well, very much of the Vineland/Inherent Vice mold in that it doesn't scream masterwork but is still better than most everything else getting published.

 

That moment in Pynchon's Vineland where Zoyd Wheeler is bleakly night driving and singing mournfully along to Take It To the Limit always gets me. Some of Pynchon's musical references you never forget, and that song changed for me forever after Vineland.

 

As mentioned, I still haven't touched the initial phase stuff like Gravity's Rainbow, V and Lot49.


Edited by Roo, 18 February 2019 - 07:42 PM.


#4512 hello spiral

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 05:33 AM

If anything would be considered him finishing what he started with Gravity's Rainbow, it would be Against the Day. Pls read GR first.



#4513 frankbooth

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 07:20 AM

Read Taleb’s Black Swan and liked the half of what he was saying I could understand. If anything the book makes me want to read the news less, because it becomes clear that it’s a waste of time, but overall I can’t help think of NNT as an asshole.

Then needed something lighter. Read Woman in the Window in a day. Well done - novelist made it seem effortless.

On to Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Short read so far and I like this personal slice of introspection from him.

Need something sci-fi next.

#4514 caze

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 08:47 AM

David Mitchell is great, his first couple of books are good too, but mostly Murakami rip-offs (which I think he admitted himself), Cloud Atlas is great but I really like The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet too. Black Swan Green wasn't amazing, and the two recent ones were enjoyable enough, but his plots are getting a bit silly, would be nice if his next thing was more reality-based, he's always had weird shit, but more grounded in reality than in those two, which are quite childlike in their fantasy.

 

 

Read Taleb’s Black Swan and liked the half of what he was saying I could understand. If anything the book makes me want to read the news less, because it becomes clear that it’s a waste of time, but overall I can’t help think of NNT as an asshole.

 

His books are great, mostly all repeating the same idea, but it's a good idea. The man is one of the biggest assholes on the planet though, and having one good idea doesn't make you an expert on everything else. You should check out his twitter, it's pretty funny.



#4515 Nebraska

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 11:29 AM

41Z3TZ9YXWL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

 

ever read a biography and gotten the feeling that the author was embellishing A LOT of the story? this is one of those cases



#4516 frankbooth

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 10:09 PM

David Mitchell is great, his first couple of books are good too, but mostly Murakami rip-offs (which I think he admitted himself), Cloud Atlas is great but I really like The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet too. Black Swan Green wasn't amazing, and the two recent ones were enjoyable enough, but his plots are getting a bit silly, would be nice if his next thing was more reality-based, he's always had weird shit, but more grounded in reality than in those two, which are quite childlike in their fantasy.

Read Taleb’s Black Swan and liked the half of what he was saying I could understand. If anything the book makes me want to read the news less, because it becomes clear that it’s a waste of time, but overall I can’t help think of NNT as an asshole.


His books are great, mostly all repeating the same idea, but it's a good idea. The man is one of the biggest assholes on the planet though, and having one good idea doesn't make you an expert on everything else. You should check out his twitter, it's pretty funny.

Exactly. He’s got so many good points.
On to Cloud Atlas!

#4517 hello spiral

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Posted 20 February 2019 - 02:33 AM

I've only read Cloud Atlas but yeah very entertaining book!



#4518 chenGOD

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Posted 21 February 2019 - 08:44 PM

Cloud Atlas was good.
Usagi, you haven’t read any William Gibson? Neal Stephenson? Both contemporary writers that are pretty enjoyable. Maybe you meant just fiction, and not SF, and I misunderstood, in which case ignore me.

Currently reading Italo Calvino “The Baron in the Trees”. Hasn’t quite grabbed me the way “Invisible Cities” and “If on a winter’s night a traveller” did.

Recently finish McMafia, which is miles better than the fictional TV series.

Next up is a re-read of “ flow my tears”...such a great book.

#4519 usagi

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Posted 21 February 2019 - 09:04 PM

Usagi, you haven’t read any William Gibson? Neal Stephenson? Both contemporary writers that are pretty enjoyable. Maybe you meant just fiction, and not SF, and I misunderstood, in which case ignore me.

 

yes I have pretty much every Gibson book except for the last one, yes I've read Snow Crash and Cryptonomicon and am not inclined to read Anathem or anything later than that, and also yes that I generally meant non-SF (though SF is also welcome).

 

what I'm really looking for is contemporary writing that captures the "now", the zeitgeist, to use such a wanky word. I want to read stuff that, through the mirror of fiction, expounds on the world we're living in right now, especially people's inner lives and their thoughts and feelings. that's what I'm looking for, and I have no idea where to start. who out there is writing good stories about the present social, psychological, political and technological state of the world, in fiction? who are the new names who will be remembered the way, say, Fitzgerald was remembered for capturing his time?

 

I will read Pynchon/Gravity's Rainbow but that's from 1973 still.



#4520 sweepstakes

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Posted 21 February 2019 - 09:14 PM

I'm still slogging through Mona Lisa Overdrive at like less than a chapter a week. I'll read like 4 paragraphs on the shitter every other morning. I'm so sick of 80s Gibson but I gotta finish it.

Then I want to re-read The Pale King. I'm really feeling that mood right now. If anyone has suggestions for similar existential white collar desperation that's not too high brow, I'd appreciate it. DFW is kind of his own thing though, isn't he.

#4521 ignatius

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Posted 21 February 2019 - 10:20 PM

I'm still slogging through Mona Lisa Overdrive at like less than a chapter a week. I'll read like 4 paragraphs on the shitter every other morning. I'm so sick of 80s Gibson but I gotta finish it.

Then I want to re-read The Pale King. I'm really feeling that mood right now. If anyone has suggestions for similar existential white collar desperation that's not too high brow, I'd appreciate it. DFW is kind of his own thing though, isn't he.

 

 

i slogged through mona lisa overdrive as well.. so dated feeling for me.. and this was years ago.  his modern spy stuff sorta bored me too. wasn't too into it.. but i loved some of his other stuff "the Peripheral" is one i liked a lot. more recent and weird and still fun. i need to re-read "pattern Recognition". enjoyed that one and it made me feel really weird. jetlagged or something. i don't know. 

 

i haven't reread the Pale King. i have mixed feelings about that one. reread everything else by DFW though. Nicola Barker's Darkmans was really good but not really like DFW.. very different but seemed like there was something similar feeling there. can't put my finger on it but i liked it a lot. 

 

for pure smarts and density and craft and fun and big ideas... Neal Stephenson is always good. absorbing. 

 

but for DFW type american post modern or whatever the fuck people call it.. i don't know. people say Eggers but i read heartbreaking work of blah blah blah and after a while it's just a rant that loses its edge and i became un interested and not dazzled by the pace of it or the capturing of that moment etc and was more annoyed than i was pleased.  that book is the literary equivalent of whiskey dick.

 

Don DeLillo is good. Whitenoise might fit for a chunk of americana modern edge but more washed out or bleached.  the problems in the book seem related to DFW material to me. i've like all the DeLillo stuff i've read. 

 

some of Paul Auster's stuff i really like. Moon Palace is particulary good if memory serves. i should re-read that one. 

 

currently i'm reading Jerusalem by Alan Moore. only about 70ish pages into it but i like it. it's weird, the characters are good and once i got into his flow story telling and detail i find it sticking to me. 



#4522 sweepstakes

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Posted 21 February 2019 - 11:08 PM

 

I'm still slogging through Mona Lisa Overdrive at like less than a chapter a week. I'll read like 4 paragraphs on the shitter every other morning. I'm so sick of 80s Gibson but I gotta finish it.

Then I want to re-read The Pale King. I'm really feeling that mood right now. If anyone has suggestions for similar existential white collar desperation that's not too high brow, I'd appreciate it. DFW is kind of his own thing though, isn't he.

i slogged through mona lisa overdrive as well.. so dated feeling for me.. and this was years ago.  his modern spy stuff sorta bored me too. wasn't too into it.. but i loved some of his other stuff "the Peripheral" is one i liked a lot. more recent and weird and still fun. i need to re-read "pattern Recognition". enjoyed that one and it made me feel really weird. jetlagged or something. i don't know. 
 
i haven't reread the Pale King. i have mixed feelings about that one. reread everything else by DFW though. Nicola Barker's Darkmans was really good but not really like DFW.. very different but seemed like there was something similar feeling there. can't put my finger on it but i liked it a lot. 
 
for pure smarts and density and craft and fun and big ideas... Neal Stephenson is always good. absorbing. 
 
but for DFW type american post modern or whatever the fuck people call it.. i don't know. people say Eggers but i read heartbreaking work of blah blah blah and after a while it's just a rant that loses its edge and i became un interested and not dazzled by the pace of it or the capturing of that moment etc and was more annoyed than i was pleased.  that book is the literary equivalent of whiskey dick.
 
Don DeLillo is good. Whitenoise might fit for a chunk of americana modern edge but more washed out or bleached.  the problems in the book seem related to DFW material to me. i've like all the DeLillo stuff i've read. 
 
some of Paul Auster's stuff i really like. Moon Palace is particulary good if memory serves. i should re-read that one. 
 
currently i'm reading Jerusalem by Alan Moore. only about 70ish pages into it but i like it. it's weird, the characters are good and once i got into his flow story telling and detail i find it sticking to me.

 

Yeah, MLO is kind of a dumb thing to read in 2019, isn't it? I just wanted to finish the trilogy because it's something I always wanted to read, I guess. Some of the action scenes are kind of entertaining in this smug cringey Baby Boomer kind of a way. There was one chapter where the assassin woman (whom I think of as the main character even the book is in that cheesy multiple story lines style) talks to the digital ghost in the alley and I really enjoyed that, it was almost worth the read just for that. But I could pretty much do without the rest of it. I also enjoyed "Pattern Recognition" very much; there was definitely a weariness to it. I think it will be worth re-reading since it's been 10+ years and now I've read his legendary trilogy, which frankly I was not that into. 

 

I haven't dived all that deep into DFW. I'm the cliche guy who's had a copy of Infinite Jest for 10+ years and still hasn't finished it. Sometimes he hits the spot though. But yeah, I loved Pale King. Or, at least, I remember loving it. Like it's bland or even banal but unsettling... almost Lynchian but with a different kind of dread? There was something special about it to me, even if it was unfinished and imperfectly compiled and doomed. Like perfect afternoon sunshine on a building that's so dreary it's surreal. I'm probably projecting something onto it that isn't really there.

 

Thanks for the recommendations. I usually read whatever PKD I haven't read yet... started getting into Jeff Vandermeer a bit last year but right now I'm not feeling the sci-fi/speculative thing as much. I'm in the mood for something that's imaginative without being escapist or fantastical or purple or overly clever, if that makes sense. 



#4523 sweepstakes

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Posted 21 February 2019 - 11:12 PM

what I'm really looking for is contemporary writing that captures the "now", the zeitgeist, to use such a wanky word. I want to read stuff that, through the mirror of fiction, expounds on the world we're living in right now, especially people's inner lives and their thoughts and feelings. that's what I'm looking for, and I have no idea where to start. who out there is writing good stories about the present social, psychological, political and technological state of the world, in fiction?

Feeling this... minus the technological, though. I wouldn't mind something that kind of ignored cell phones, for example. I'm so tired of cell phones both in reality and in media. Maybe I do want to escape a bit, but in a way that makes me feel more compelled to live more meaningfully, instead of being the literary equivalent of Doritos.



#4524 usagi

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Posted 21 February 2019 - 11:12 PM

edit: ^ the problem is that the technological aspect has an intense influence of everything else, especially socially. I don't think it can realistically be ignored if you want to capture the times.

 

Pattern Recognition is great. I like that whole arc.


Edited by usagi, 21 February 2019 - 11:13 PM.


#4525 Roo

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Posted 21 February 2019 - 11:54 PM

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara was an interesting contemporary depiction, in that contextual references to period were totally excised, just vaguely somewhere in the 20th/21st century despite over several hundred pages.

The characters seem to use things like computers and phones throughout their adult lives, but such particulars are treated with such disinterest that they don't give anything away.

The book has some flaws, a little overlong and repetitive, but the treatment of the central characterisation is entirely absorbing and makes it a must-read.

Edited by Roo, 21 February 2019 - 11:57 PM.