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Thread: What book are you currently reading?

  1. #121
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    I see reading as a way to escape, but more so as a way to improve on communication. Tolkien books are actually what started that for me - I read The Hobbit and then the Rings trilogy when I was around 8-10. I couldn't understand most of it, but I spent hours on hours highlighting words and going back chapter by chapter to understand them because I just felt like I had to understand it. The Silmarillion is admittedly dry, and fragmented, but Tolkien had such a way of dragging up unique vocabulary and ways of conveying his thoughts that its still worth it to me.

    As far as How to make friends, I couldn't have become the person I am today without it. The concepts seem so simple while you read them, but also like a light finally went on in your head. Its really astounding how well its principles work in interpersonal relationships.

  2. #122
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    Quote Originally Posted by ForeverGuest View Post
    The second time I read it, I sort of led some friends through the reading of it. We'd chat over emails about the book once a week or so, sort of like a masters class or a bookclub. My friends and I, and a lot of people I know, always felt that fatigue around the 40-50 page mark, like you mentioned. The first reason for this is, I think, an obvious one: The writing is incredibly dense and stylistically complicated. Also, the book isn't about any particular plot, so there's not a lot to grasp onto when getting into the text. The other reason, though, has more to do with structure and is harder to notice unless you have a pretty nuanced understanding of narrative architecture. Usually, with any narrative, a writer is going to try to get the reader involved in the narrative's underlying focus—whether it be plot action, character development, structural motifs, etc.—within the first 10 percent of the narrative, give or take. For books of normal length, this is usually around 25-35 pages into the story. At this point, the reader is able to figure things out and begin to make some decisions about the narrative and its characters. This is how writers create investment.

    However, IJ is around 1200 pages if you include the footnotes (and the teacher in me really implores you to include the footnotes), so Wallace is able to take somewhere around 120 pages, almost a full novel, just to get the reader situated in the story. All the work being done up to the point is intended to lay out all the lines the reader will eventually need to follow to understand and complete the narrative. Essentially, it's all intended to build the world and scope of the remaining narrative. The reason why everyone seems to hit that wall around 30ish pages is because we've been conditioned as readers to expect certain things from our narratives after reading that number or pages. But the feeling one gets while reading IJ's first 30 or so dense, complex, seemingly unrelated pages is that nothing is happening when SOMETHING should really be happening. My hypothesis has always been that part of what Wallace was doing in the book was playing with those expectations as a way of drawing out tension. This is why the footnotes are such an important part of the experience of the book while not always being important to the action of the book.

    That said, my feelings about the book change about 150 pages into it. At that point, I could feel the investment take root. I could start to detect patterns for the first time and understand certain things about the various threads I had been introduced to. The book becomes a much less exhausting, if still laborious and dense, experience. Part of what makes the book so goddamned impressive is how well it manipulates the reader experience and how satisfying that moment of investment feels. It's hard-earned. Ultimately, for those of us who are Wallace devotees (of which I am one, big time, if you couldn't tell) his ability to convey the emotion and action of his scenes in the structure of his sentences (hence the density and free-flowing style) and the way he uses form and structure to mimic in the reader the emotional experience of the characters and scenes within the narrative is what makes the book genius.
    Great analysis!
    If it's any consolation, I found Infinite Jest a lot more accessible the second time through. (I'm thinking about tackling a third run soon. It's easily my favourite novel, and it's so rich it stand up well to rereads, which isn't something I normally do.)

    I think once you've gone through it once and somewhat got your arms around the whole, on the second pass the pieces click into place a lot better.

    But it's not for everyone, and it's a tough sell to tell someone struggling with the first read that they're going to need to do it twice (or more).

    Personally, I had a harder time with Gravity's Rainbow. I finally got through it on the third try.

  3. #123
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    @ForeverGuest wicked analysis of the book. Almost almost makes me want to go back and give it a try. But wow. It is just so indepth and heavy. Like you were saying, I think I would be exhausted if I ever managed to get past the 40 or so pages. Recently I was talking with a university prof friend of mine. Even she was struggling to get through the book. Kind of makes me feel bad for giving it to her as an Xmas present now...

    @bviaallison I too read the Tolkien books when I was a kid. Loved The Hobbit. I too should probably go back and read the books again since most of what went on in the novels likely went over my head. There are just many books out there that I want to read these days that going back over books I've read before is hard for me to do. Even if I would likely enjoy the experience immensely. Totally agree with you about How To Make Friends though. Good words of wisdom in there.

  4. #124
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    Quote Originally Posted by DocDave View Post
    @ForeverGuest wicked analysis of the book. Almost almost makes me want to go back and give it a try. But wow. It is just so indepth and heavy. Like you were saying, I think I would be exhausted if I ever managed to get past the 40 or so pages. Recently I was talking with a university prof friend of mine. Even she was struggling to get through the book. Kind of makes me feel bad for giving it to her as an Xmas present now...
    It's definitely something that takes some commitment. I'm just a huge Wallace fan and have read pretty much everything he's written, both fiction and nonfiction. I've been wanting to teach a class on IJ, but my department head thinks it's too much for undergrads. I probably agree.

    Quote Originally Posted by AnvilsAreFunny View Post
    Great analysis!
    If it's any consolation, I found Infinite Jest a lot more accessible the second time through. (I'm thinking about tackling a third run soon. It's easily my favourite novel, and it's so rich it stand up well to rereads, which isn't something I normally do.)

    I think once you've gone through it once and somewhat got your arms around the whole, on the second pass the pieces click into place a lot better.

    But it's not for everyone, and it's a tough sell to tell someone struggling with the first read that they're going to need to do it twice (or more).

    Personally, I had a harder time with Gravity's Rainbow. I finally got through it on the third try.
    Yeah, man. Pynchon is from another planet. I've started and stopped Against the Day three or four times now.

  5. #125
    Varsity Member Shade's Avatar
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    "Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is!

  6. #126
    Super Moderator DocDave's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ForeverGuest View Post
    Yeah, man. Pynchon is from another planet. I've started and stopped Against the Day three or four times now.
    What I like about the guy is his sense of humour. Anyone who can rock The Simpsons is alright in my book.


  7. #127
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    I have a very vivid and healthy imagination. That being said, I get too bored with reading. The last book I read cover to cover was 6... 7 years ago? It was about Biff, Jesus' childhood best friend.

  8. #128
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    Anyone interested in photojournalism should give It's What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario a read. Makes me wish I done something a little more exciting with my life.

  9. #129
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    Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson. Great book about the history behind WWI and how the Americans became pulled in to the war. Not to mention the history of shipping and submarines. Excellent read...as all of Erik Larson's books are.

  10. #130
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    Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. 1st book in a sci fi trilogy that won a ton of awards (including the Hugo). So far pretty good.

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