Whatcha Reading? (Picking it up again)

Just started Hidden Figures. I also just bought The Book Thief.

I used to read much more voraciously when I was younger, but kinda stopped over the years. Trying to get back into it.


I thought this was excellent, both the story and the way it’s written. Which are hard to separate, come to think of it.

Heavy, by Kiese Laymon

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Yes ma’am:

Apparently today is Tolkein reading day?


This looks interesting!

I enjoyed his previous book, A Little Devil in America…


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“A labor revolution by a society seeking to be in fact classless”, declared the poet William Carlos Williams in 1936, “is both great and traditionally American in its appeal” (SL 115). Often presented by literary critics as a liberal with paternalistic instincts towards the working poor, Williams was in fact one of the most exuberantly left-wing poets of his generation: a socialistic chronicler of proletarian scenes and settings in his native New Jersey, where he served as a pediatrician and doctor-on-call for over forty years. “I’m a radical!”, he exclaimed in a late interview, “I write modern poetry, baby!” The time has come to reclaim the subversive legacy of this canonical American writer.

When asked about his political leanings in 1939, Williams was characteristically succinct, and inspiring, in his reply: “long live in America the memory of Eugene Debs”, he said, referring to the perennial Socialist Party presidential candidate, who contested elections on the party ticket in 1904, 1908, 1912 and 1920. Famed for his passionate critiques of social inequality, Debs, who died in 1926, had been arrested for his opposition to America’s entry into the First World War, famously using the occasion of his trial to broadcast and re-affirm his political allegiances: “while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free”.

Although never imprisoned for his beliefs, Williams, like Debs, was unshakably sympathetic to America’s “lower class” of workers and vagrants: people worn down by labour or excluded from literary and cultural representation. Combining observational precision with parabolic force, his poem “Proletarian Portrait” describes a “young, bareheaded woman” coming to a halt in the open street, before reaching into her shoe to remove “the nail / That has been hurting her” (CP I 384). The American masses, we can surmise, might follow a comparable trajectory: reflection leading to practical action.

Adrienne Rich once remarked that during her years as a literature student in university, the books she “read only rarely suggested that for many people it is a common, everyday fact of life to be hungry.” Williams, by contrast, rarely allowed his readers to forget it. He had an uncanny ability to look at hunger, and perceive humanity; to register the wreckage and pollution of industrial development, and yet to sense the changing seasons, the renewal of the natural world beneath the surface of modern life. His work pulses with the intuition that “To Be Hungry Is To Be Great” – his piece of that title combining ecological attentiveness with rowdy proletarian hope in its celebration of the “yellow grass-onion, / spring’s first green, precursor / to Manhattan’s pavement” (CP1 400). Even in America’s sprawling cities, the poem proposes, the Spring’s returning “green”, the onion, might be “plucked”, “washed, split and fried”, then “served hot on rye bread […] to beer a perfect appetizer.” And “the best part/ of it”, Williams concludes, “is they grow everywhere.”


This sounds interesting!


For sure. I had heard of Cordwainer Smith and remember some weirdness, but Holy Cow! I don’t know what’s in the book but that link was fascinating.

eta: Oh, I didn’t realize this article and book were written by Annalee Newitz. I have been meaning to comment on The Terraformers, mentioned above in this thread.

I do have a question for folks who read the Terraformers. Or let me start with a statement. I found the way the characters (some people some deemed not, but mostly all created by enslaving owners far away) to be frightfully polite with each other. I’m assuming this is a commentary, and not just how polite the author is in her own life. This assumption is based on the the negotiating convention: whereby the losing side gets to extract one negotiated concession.

I found that politeness charming, if stilted, but perhaps that is on purpose? Anyway, it made an impression on me. Is this language also caused by the characters being so foreign, such as living trains, or CO2 breathing plant folks.

Did anyone else note that language used? Thoughts?
Also, I really enjoyed that book.


Her book will be out in June, so, we can all find out then!

Finally got around to the “King in Yellow” collection by Robert Chambers. Influential horror/unreliable narrator work that sparked Lovecraft and his contemporaries. The collection also includes fiction circling around art students in Paris, influenced by Chamber’s own time as an American student studying abroad.


And? What’s it like?

I think I may give that a look!

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That’s a good observation, and I think I just kept the formalized language in the back of my head while reading. What that language comes across as to me is the overly formal nature of professional relationships. Every character in the book was created, essentially, to function on behalf of a corporate entity. That stilted approach to being friendly but not too friendly is both a matter of culture and, perhaps, even their overall understanding of how language should work.

What struck me was a point in the book where characters from another area came in and introduced themselves with their pronouns, even if such data is transmitted another way so many of the other characters see little point in making similar declarative introductions. Newitz identifies as non-binary, making me wonder if this is a commentary on the tiring nature of having to make such declaratives when the information is already out there. Or that the current practice of encouraging introductions with pronouns is a hollow gesture.

@GospelX I noticed that bit when our familiar characters were surprised when the newcomers were announcing their pronouns. I too couldn’t tell what the intent is here, other than tracking them and sharing them would be ubiquitous.

Agreed on the entities being created for their own specific niche also impacting the nature of the language. Maybe if I re-read imaging two pieces of software handshaking and connecting that would resonate.

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I just finished reading Parallel Lives by Phyllis Rose, written in 1983 and it is GREAT. It’s a portrait of five Victorian marriages, with obvious and moving analogies to the present day. If you idolize Charles Dickens, here’s another take on him.


Oop, slow to respond.
The various ‘Yellow King’ stories incorporate several elements that became influential tropes in the later cosmic horror genre: The referenced books/Yellow Sign are never shown other than brief excerpts, rather we see their effects on the readers. Narrators are unreliable. The reader gets to witness their growing madness and disassociations. His influence can be clearly seen in the later writers.
There are a couple more classic thriller pieces like “The Demoiselle d’Ys” (man stepping out of time).
One of the more interesting stories for me was an alternate history (?) “The Street of the First Shell” of Paris under siege in a WWI-like environ.
Interestingly, Chambers wrote widely: novels, historical fiction, romances, childrens’ books, and was one of the more successful writers of his time.

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New releases!




Has a certain Ozymandias quality to it