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Thread: The Book Discussion Thread

  1. #6726
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    The Murder on the Links (Agatha Christie) - 3/5 (re-read)

    Second Poirot book's lighter tone from stuff like Hastings' romance and pompous Giraud character helps, as the solution hinges on convoluted layer upon convoluted layer even for the genre, such that for a Christie book it inspires less of satisfyingly snapping feeling in how various elements come together and more of "I guess, if these things happen to align together in order at that time." As said, the lighter tone somewhat alleviates such brain strain, and Christie is starting to nail the Poirot/Hastings banter and dynamics here.

    Klara and the Sun (Kazuo Ishiguro) - 3.5/5

    My second Ishiguro novel after Never Let Me Go, which I read around 2008-2009 so my memory is a bit fuzzy, but I remember as being so evocatively melancholic. Klara and the Sun has many thematic and stylistic overlaps with that book, but constricting a viewpoint entirely to the titular character's limited understanding of the human world. The tension between the humans' action and what Klara interprets of it and their world is fascinating and what drives the main narrative, but also what makes it doesn't measure up to that previous work I've read, as it feels less cohesive, and the humans' inter-drama are also at times less interesting and/or unconvincing. That said, I loved how the book doesn't explain the rules of this sci-fi world unless/until Klara knows or is informed about them directly, every of other characters' interaction with her is always compelling, and that coda is an exquisite heartbreaker.
    Midnight Run (1988) - 9
    The Smiling Lieutenant (1931) - 8.5
    The Adventures of Robinhood (1938) - 8
    Sisters (1973) - 6.5
    Shin Godzilla (2016) - 7.5

  2. #6727
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    American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer (Kai Bird & Martin J. Sherwin) - 4.5/5

    Makes my head spin at the unbelievably thorough details of a life placed within societal and political context at large weaved into a smooth biographical narrative. Sometimes it gets too overwhelming when the thoroughness means names and details are thrown at you non-stop when it switches to/introduces a new scenario, but compelling, staggering research achievement nonetheless, which makes for some real page-turner at several pivot points; I flew so fast through the vast conspiratorial set-ups gaining unstoppable steam against Oppenheimer at his security hearing, which on Strauss' part is so much uglier and more insidious than what is shown in the film (by adaptation and time necessities).

    The Remains of the Day (Kazuo Ishiguro) - 4/5

    My first experience with this story is the 1993 film which I watched and loved almost two decades ago as a teen, even if my memory had faint so what had stood out in my memory before reading this was mostly the aching almost romance. As somewhat expected, the original as allowed by being written is able to make both Mr. Stevens' severely stiff upper lip and his tentative romance being even more subdued than the film, to the point of that he comes off a pathological shell at times. And there are some instances or passages where I feel that first-person narrating voice crosses over into too affected signifiers, a rendition of admittedly powerful concept more than a fully natural voice. But it remains overall effective all the same, especially in the very suppressed romance so that, when it is fleetingly but explicitly addressed by a few words among Miss Kenton's one paragraph of speech near the end [
    ] those words linger to pack quite a haunting gut punch.
    Midnight Run (1988) - 9
    The Smiling Lieutenant (1931) - 8.5
    The Adventures of Robinhood (1938) - 8
    Sisters (1973) - 6.5
    Shin Godzilla (2016) - 7.5

  3. #6728
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    The Man in the Brown Suit (Agatha Christie) may be one of Christie's more ludicrous plots, but the whirlwind, one-thing-after-another pace (in a good way) and a host of colorful characters make this a very fun read. 3.5/5


    Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI (David Grann) - By adaptation necessity, Scorsese's film must be more of a focused snapshot compared to the book even at 3.5 hours, as Grann manages to lay bare how the corruption, exploitation, and murders operate in ways even much more systematic and widespread across power spectrum; truly grotesque. He manages the trick of making it a compelling read while maintaining a tone that never veers into sensationalistic itself. He caps it off with a final somber modern-day section, a writer's exploration of the present that feels like the seed for which Scorsese and Roth manages to cannily adapt it to the film's epilogue, different but working in similar way for both that medium and the director. 4/5
    Midnight Run (1988) - 9
    The Smiling Lieutenant (1931) - 8.5
    The Adventures of Robinhood (1938) - 8
    Sisters (1973) - 6.5
    Shin Godzilla (2016) - 7.5

  4. #6729
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    The People in the Trees (Hanya Yanagihara) - 4/5

    Not sure if my slight ambivalence to this is from coming to it after A Little Life. Largely different story, but there are more than a few traces that Yanagihara will use later in that one. Mainly, even if I find the structure ambitious, and its separate parts gripping in their individual arc and challenging empathy, the story eventually feels cohering not too satisfyingly in the end from those parts? Reading about the book afterwards, maybe it's from this story being "inspired" by a real person (in which his wiki reads broadly similar to the lead) so there's something akin to biopic shapelessness settling in. The book confirms, however, that I find Yanagihara an exquisite prose stylist, with this in a different register from her next book too; many passages here are evocative, engrossing, or masterful in its morally-shaded viewpoint, or sometimes all three at once.


    Room to Dream (David Lynch & Kristine McKenna) - 3.5/5

    This book about David Lynch is half-biography/half-autobiography, alternating one chapter of Kristine McKenna's biographical assembling of Lynch's life/work during a period (with interviews from his relatives, acquaintances, work associates) with the following chapter in Lynch's own remembrance during that same period. While I wouldn't want to lose either side of McKenna (informative) and Lynch (which has a feeling of stream-of-consciousness run-on sentences in the best possible way), I find the structure approaching repetitive often, especially in the early going; it may be possible that a concurrent structure incorporating both voices in one chapter might make for a book that flows better for me. Still, Lynch has such a distinctive and illuminating voice even in writing, and his life is interesting enough that going back and forth is worth it and I'm often enchanted anyway (well, maybe not the part about his successive relationships in which the new one starts right on the back/behind the back of the previous person, in which the latter is almost always caught up unaware; reading Isabella Rossellini recounting her own experience of that is especially brutal).


    Emma (Jane Austen) - 4/5

    I started reading Austen at Pride & Prejudice, then went back to Sense & Sensibility and has read her works chronologically since, which has shown how much she progressed as a writer, even if the overall effects may vary for each story. Mansfield Park is my least favorite so far, but it feels also like her most ambitious and thornier at that point. Emma didn't quite supplant P&P as my favorite, but it may be her most psychologically and sociologically rich yet, from having a heroine freed from her previous ones' worries of inferior monetary and/or social standings, so Austen is able to craft a more fully flawed protagonist, and has her navigating and interacting with Highbury village people, in which their society and class standings between each other may be Austen's most vividly portrayed yet.

    It also makes this one of her narratives that are on the more stalled momentum side, since at times (whether for satiric or character effect) the characters will go into long-winded stretches of dialogue interaction, especially from Miss Bates or Mrs. Elton, which feels specific as to be authentic for Austen's experience but can get too unwieldy. Still, that the characterization is sharp and a lot of the comic scenarios Austen has thought up are engrossing and funny in their satirically intricate details help alleviate that a lot though.

    Ranking of Austen I've read so far:
    1. Pride & Prejudice - 5/5
    2. Emma - 4/5
    3. Sense & Sensibility - 3.5/5
    4. Mansfield Park - 3.5/5
    Midnight Run (1988) - 9
    The Smiling Lieutenant (1931) - 8.5
    The Adventures of Robinhood (1938) - 8
    Sisters (1973) - 6.5
    Shin Godzilla (2016) - 7.5

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