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Picture of Kalleh
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I'd love any of your suggestions for books for holiday presents. I was looking at a few today, but just hate to buy something I don't know anything about. For example, has anyone heard of "Claude & Camille?" It's a historical novel about Claude Monet.
 
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I guess no one is reading.

I just finished a good historical novel, "Tracy Chevalier's "Remarkable Creatures." (Link) It's about Mary Anning who had a talent for finding fossils. It took place in the early 1800s, before Darwin, and brought in the controversy of the time about what fossils are, particularly related to religious beliefs. It also highlighted the class differences of the time, as well as the place of women. I very much enjoyed it.
 
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I'm reading lots of comics...

Duncan the Wonder Dog: what if animals could talk and the most dangerous terrorists were apes angry at animal testing

X'ed Out by Charles Burns: Tintin-influenced weirdness

The Terrible Axe-Man of New Orleans by Rick Geary: an account of the New Orleans murders of 1918

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec by Jacques Tardi: Monsters and intrigue in turn-of-the-century Paris!

This message has been edited. Last edited by: goofy,
 
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How fun, Goofy!
 
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I just finished reading Moss Hart's Act One: An Autobiography, which was well written. And before that Anthony Burgess' M/F. Now, I'm reading Richard Hofstadter's Age of Reform and Albert-László Barabási's Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What it Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life and Gerald Rosen's Cold Eye, Warm Heart.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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And you are enjoying them?

I am currently reading Water for Elephants and am loving it. Has anyone read the 2003 autobiography of Margaret Burroughs ? She recently died, and there was an interesting editorial about her in the newspaper today, citing the book and how it opens with this poem:

I am but one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. What I can do, I ought to do - and what I ought to do, I will do.

The odd part is, there seem to only be 3 books (all used) available anywhere. They are on Amazon , and one is $42.39, while the other two are $227.33. I don't want to spend $40 (much less $200!) if it isn't any good.
 
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And you are enjoying them?

The Hart memoir was most enjoyable, and I am sure you can find it cheap used.Linked is a fascinating read. M/F was good, but I would only recommend it to a die-hard Burgess fanatic. Not sure about the Hofstadter book, but I loved his history of anti-intellectualism in the USA.

Looks like the Margaret Burrough's bio is out of print. I found another copy, used, for $20 on ABE ([url=http://www.abebooks.com[/url]).


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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Thanks. I only know about Amazon for books. It looks like there are some other good sites out there. Are there any other good sites?
 
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I like to use bookfinder.com
 
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I loved Water for Elephants too, Kalleh. The best novel I’ve read lately is Room by Emma Donoghue. The plot may be off-putting – a mother and son held captive in a small room (think Josef Fritz) told through the eyes of the boy. Don’t be dissuaded. You’ll weep, laugh and be holding your breath in suspense.

For non-fiction – Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand: the story of a US airman’s survival after being ditched in WWII. Absolutely, amazingly inspirational!

On a gentler plane there’s Mr Rosenblum Dreams in English by Natasha Solomons about a Jewish immigrant trying to make it in post-war England. For some reason it reminds me of a little book I’ve bought several times as a gift - The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett about how the Queen discovers books after following her runaway corgis into a mobile library. The hardcover version is lovely and it's a great size for posting. I wonder if it would appeal to US readers?
 
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It is good to see you here again, Stella. Thanks for those recommendations because I am looking for some good books for my kids.
 
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I spent part of the holidays reading Bill Bryson's Shakespeare: The World as a Stage. I must say that I was a little disappointed. It may be that I already knew more than I had realised about Shakespeare; there was not all that much in the book that was really new to me. The book limits itself to the subject's life and times: since there are huge gaps in our knowledge of his life, that means the book is necessarily short - only 272 pages.

That doesn't mean that the book wasn't enjoyable. It was written with Bryson's usual wit and style. Just don't expect too much.

There is a characteristic Bryson passage where he debunks someone who argued that Shakespeake couldn't have written the plays since he had a limited education, and that there was no evidence that he ever owned a book. Bryson points out that we don't have any evidence that he owned any clothes either, but that doesn't mean that he went around naked. Smile


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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I hear Bryson. I am so sick and tired of people wanting evidence (at least in my field) for everything. And of course, there is never enough evidence, so it's a wonderful excuse for not making decisions and not moving forward. I am all for collecting data and using the evidence to support decisions, but there are many different kinds of evidence. It doesn't always have to be a randomized controlled trial!

[Rant over!/]
 
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I enjoy Bill Bryson too, Arnie. Here are two holiday epics (bit late in the day?) both sagas but of a different ilk -

Hilary Morton's Wolf Hall

Jonathan Franzen's Freedom
 
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quote:
I am so sick and tired of people wanting evidence (at least in my field) for everything.

Of course. It is patently evident that the world is flat.


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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This book looks to be worth considering if you are looking for a present in a few months' time.

If you're not already subscribed to the author's blog site, Inky Fool, you should be!


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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I just subscribed, arnie, though I was annoyed that he didn't have a link to our site. Mad

You must enjoy comic books, but if you do, this is a great book about Yiddish.
 
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You must enjoy comic books

Not especially. I've read a few, but normally go for "proper" books. I was never a great reader of comics as a kid, and the more modern comics on more "adult" subjects have somewhat passed me by.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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The Yiddishkeyt comics look interesting. Harvey Pekar was played by Paul Giamatti in American Splendor.

Yiddish is an “amalgamated language, borrowing freely from German and Polish and Hebrew with its own unique constructions and confabulations,”

I would disagree with this. Yiddish is basically a Germanic language (like German and Dutch) with a sizable vocabulary that is of Slavic and Hebrew/Aramaic origin.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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Originally posted by Proofreader:
It is patently evident that the world is flat.

Then how come we're not all under water? It must be flat AND lumpy!

Anybody picked up Salmon Rushdie's new kiddie lit book? I've forgotten the title. There, back on track.


It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. -J. Krishnamurti
 
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Judging from the state of things in the Northeast lately, I'm guessing our part of the world must be flat
 
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Not especially.
I think so, arnie. The entire book is in comic book form, and I think people who don't enjoy that would be put off, even though it seems to be an informative book.
 
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My book club just read Ford Madox Ford's "The Good Soldier" (Oxford Classics edition). It apparently has been consistently on the 'best 100 books' list. My thought soon after diving into it was, how impoverished is the language of the modern novel by comparison.
 
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I have just finished Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms. It made me realize that I know almost nothing about all the battles and all that went on on the Italian-Austrian front during the Great War.

Ford Madox Ford had wanted to entitle the book: The Saddest Story, but the publisher changed it to its current state. I read it about one or two decades ago and it was a great book. I see why it's on those lists.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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My thought soon after diving into it was, how impoverished is the language of the modern novel by comparison.
Interesting, Bethree. Any examples of some of the rich language?
 
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Originally posted by zmježd:
I have just finished Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms. It made me realize that I know almost nothing about all the battles and all that went on on the Italian-Austrian front during the Great War.

Hemingway! maybe I shall plunge there next. Good antidote to the tripe inexplicably chosen for Oct by my bookclub (it's called 'Heart of the Matter'-- we must have mistaken it for Graham Greene LOL).

I am lately intrigued by the period just before the Great War, sparked by my current Spanish page-turner, a translation of Follett'e 'Fall of Giants' (bestsellers OK if in Spanish Wink) Ford's 1915 novel added depth to Follett's reading of the moneyed class on its last legs. (As does the update of BBC's Upstairs Downstairs which I'm hoping to see). Any suggestions novel-wise?
 
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Originally posted by Kalleh:
quote:
My thought soon after diving into it was, how impoverished is the language of the modern novel by comparison.
Interesting, Bethree. Any examples of some of the rich language?


Glad you asked! Tough to pick just one. Here's an example of his deftness and precision, from a description of 'the good soldier' himself early in the book:

quote:
I had forgotten about his eyes. They were as blue as the sides of a certain type of box of matches. When you looked at them carefully you saw that they were perfectly honest, perfectly striaightforward, perfectly, perfectly stupid. But the brick pink of his complexion, running perfectly level to the brick pink of his inner eyelids, gave them a curious, sinsiter expression--like a mosaic of blue porcelain set in pink china. and that chap, coming into a room, snapped up the gaze of every woman in it, as dexterously as a conjurer pockets billiard balls. It was most amazing. You know the man on the stage who throws up sixteen balls at once and they all drop into pockets all over his person, on his shoulders, on his heels, on the inner side of his sleeves; and he stands perfectly still and does nothing.
 
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Oh, that is really great, and you are right, authors don't write like that any more.

A work colleague today was just raving about a novel that I hadn't heard about. I'll get the specifics tomorrow.
 
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Ford Madox Ford's "The Good Soldier"

I've heard of the author and the book, and it has been on "to read some time" list for a while. However, I've just read the plot summary [major spoilers] on Wikipedia, and am not so sure I want to read it now, judging by how gloomy the story seems to be.

I found the text of the book online at http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Good_Soldier and have read the first few paragraphs. I must say that I do like the author's style.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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True that, tho it's not plot-driven, really, & hasn't a depressing effect. It is almost a comedy of manners, with humor at the narrator's expense, yet despite that 18th-c sort of thing going on there's a curious amoral effect which is very modern. The narrator gradually reveals himself to be unreliable, which keeps things interesting. And the Oxford classic's notes made it a travelog thro pre-WWI Europe for me.
 
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I am very much enjoying "In the Garden of Beasts" by Erik Larson. It's based on some historical evidence, though there is also some "filling in" of the facts. It takes place in 1933 in Germany from the perspective of William Dodd, a history professor from the real U of C (that's for z Wink) who was America's first ambassador to Hitler's Germany. The subtle changes made in early Germany are very interesting. In those early years, unless you were intricately involved, you didn't realize what was going on.

Someone asked me if it would be considered an historical fiction. I don't think so as much of the information was cited through letters, etc. Yet, it really isn't a strict history as the citations are included. Not sure what to call it.
 
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a history professor from the real U of C

I've never called or heard Cal called the U of C. Just plain old UC or Berkeley. The University of Chicago is a pretty great University. After all, it had the first linguistics department of US university. Both Sapir and Bloomfield taught there. Besides the main campus (UCB and UCLA), there are some "minor" ones like UCSF, where some of my nursing biz friends have studied. Wink

I've just finished In the Garden of the Beasts. It was a great read. I'd call it an historical novel with emphasis on the history. Anything anybody is quoted as saying comes from documents. The interior / psychological descriptions are mainly the musings of the author. There's a huge footnotes section and a bibliography. Not something you usually find in novels.

I am currently reading Beirut Blues by Hanan al-Shaykh. I have a co-worker who is Lebanese, and she will read it after I'm done. We've been discussing the Lebanese Civil War which looms large in the novel.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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When I was at UCSF, I could have sworn they called Berkeley U of C...but that was a long time ago.
 
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This sounds like a great book for this board: "The Language Wars," by Henry Hitchings. He takes the middle of the road stance between prescriptivism and descriptivism, apparently.

Has anyone read it?
 
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He takes the middle of the road stance between prescriptivism and descriptivism, apparently.

It just does not make any sense to me. He admits that the rules of language (i.e., grammar) are mere conventions, but then goes on to say that people want to know what these rules really are. The only way I can think of discovering the rules of language (grammar) is to observe how the language is used and then describe it. The other view is that there are somehow rules of language which exist apart from how people speak and write. That is nonsense.

These leaves aside the fact that most normative grammarians don't have a clue about how language actually works, but do have a sort of rag-bar of usage fiats that masquerade as "grammar rules" that they trot out whenever somebody makes a "mistake".


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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He admits that the rules of language (i.e., grammar) are mere conventions, but then goes on to say that people want to know what these rules really are.


Probably ought to discuss it outside the books thread but I can't see a contradiction here.

The rules are mere conventions and people do want to know what the rules really are.
This has nothing to do with language and a lot to do with people. We like rules. We want rules. We need rules. And it doesn't matter if there aren't any, we'll just invent a few.
We have an instinctive feeling that there ought to be rules so if someone is kind enough to hand us a set of rules then we'll happily accept them no matter how valid they might or might not be.
 
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I agree with Bob in this. We are always looking to produce order out of chaos. The sciences are devoted to producing rules that the universe obeys (until someone produces a better theory).


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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We are always looking to produce order out of chaos.

But that does not necessarily imply that the order is there in the chaos. It could just be in ourselves. But, this misses the point that what the peevers are doing is not describing the rules that govern language, but their desire to govern the speakers of language. You cannot have it both ways (OK, you can, but what's the fun in that?).

When I write some text in English I am using grammatical rules that I learned before going to grammar school. These are unconscious rules. What normative grammarians are on about, is the idea that native speakers of a language have somehow gotten in wrong and are using the wrong rules (or making mistakes). Some go so far as to imply that people whose rules are different from them don't even have rules and are just babbling.

The only way I know of determining what the grammar of a language is is to observe speakers of that language speaking or writing and then describing the grammar they are using. No amount of arguing from logic or aesthetics can detract from that. If one group of people has a slightly different set of rules from another one, then they are speaking two different varieties of that language (aka dialects).


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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The rules are mere conventions and people do want to know what the rules really are.

I have rarely observed that in the wild. People do not want a 2000-page grammar of English. They don't want to pay the price, both monetarily or mentally. What they want is a neat little self-help book like Strunk & White or even an unstructured rant like Eats Shoots and Leaves. Most speakers of a language will never know what the rules (of language) are, anymore than they'll know what the big bang was.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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But that does not necessarily imply that the order is there in the chaos.

I certainly wasn't implying that. I was just saying that it seems a human trait to want to find order.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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And I did say that, "it doesn't matter if there aren't any, we'll just invent a few".

I do agree though that the people who complain loudest about split infinitives et al are the ones who would like to impose their idea of the rules on everyone else.

It doesn't invalidate my point that people want rules, whether they exist or not. And that doesn't contradict your point about wanting Strunk and White rather than a 2000 page grammar, because what people want is simple rules. They want to believe that someone somewhere can tell them, in a few short pages, what is right and wrong.

Never split an infinitive.
Do not use the passive voice.

It doesn't matter that these aren't real rules. It doesn't matter that most of the people who call them rules wouldn't know an infinitive from an alligator or recognise a passive if they were beaten about the the head with it. What matters is that someone is telling them "the rules" so the world is a safe place filled with structure and empty of chaos.

People want Strunk and White, Lynne Truss or any other self-appointed authority because people like to be told what to do.

(And I think I should have put really in quotes in my original post to indicate that it wasn't really "really". Wink
 
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So...no one has read the book, right? I wonder if he is balanced in his book.

I can't imagine have no rules for writing, can you, z? I mean, a sentence needs to start with a capital letter and end with punctuation, right? Paragraphs are good for separating thoughts, right? Could you imagine a whole book with no paragraphs?

On the other hand, the whole passive voice, ending with a preposition (which I am never allowed to do at my place), etc. is a bunch of baloney. I wonder if this author acknowledges that or if it's another hackneyed rule book. I am a little afraid it is the latter, particularly because the review was in the WSJ and I tend to think of conservatives as being precriptivists.

I might have to buy it. Roll Eyes
 
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Latin inscriptions had no punctuation, not even spaces between the words.
 
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I can't imagine have no rules for writing, can you, z? I mean, a sentence needs to start with a capital letter and end with punctuation, right? Paragraphs are good for separating thoughts, right? Could you imagine a whole book with no paragraphs?

Well, this is just for modern languages mostly written in the Latin alphabet. If you look at books from about the 15th century, you'd see very little white space. And pretty much only chapters began with a capital letter, sometimes hand-written into the printed book in red ink. Japanese and Chinese do not even have letters, let alone capital letters.

I suppose punctuation as it exists in present-day English gives us something, but it covers so little of really goes on phonologically in speech. Take periods (full stops) and question marks. In a way, it could be said that they are marking suprasegmental tone at the end of a sentence, but they actually mark more than that, as linguo-kvetchers would complain about marking the following sentence with a question mark:

The book is on the TV?

Probably because syntactically, the sentence is a statement and not a question. Even though we utter statements all the time with a rising tone at the end of a sentence to indicate doubt or surprise.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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Never split an infinitive.
Do not use the passive voice.


What on earth would bureaucrats do w/o the passive voice? It's the best way to criticize another dept w/o naming names. That the passive should be forbidden is the sort of thing up with which cannot be put. Wink
 
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For those in search of better detective series, Scandinavians are hot; a good historical mystery is always a challenge as well. Norwegian Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole (pron. 'hoolay') is hitting both marks in 'Redbreast', which deals with fallout from combat on the side of the Nazis during the occupation. Hole is a classic type; the setting & culture add welcome new twists. I'm also stocking in C J Sansom's Shardlake series, which are set in Henry VIII's time, beginning with "Dissolution", referring to the dissolution of the Church.
 
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I always like your recommendations, Bethree.
quote:
What on earth would bureaucrats do w/o the passive voice?
The passive voice is very useful when writing up research reports. There are only so many times one can write, "The investigators found..."
 
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I bought Hillenbrand's "Unbroken" for my new son-in-law last year. I hadn't read it but heard it is excellent. I finally am getting around to reading it and am loving it. It's about Louis Zamperini and his escapades in becoming an Olympic athlete, as well as during WWII. I highly recommend it.
 
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Twelve Months of Reading: lots of interesting selections in this poll of writers' readings for research and pleasure over the last year
 
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If I had the money, I'd buy this book for Kalleh and Shu. :-)


*******
"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
~Dalai Lama
 
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