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ironed_orchid @ 01:43 pm: The Chess Garden
I finished The Chess Garden about a month ago, and have been meaning to write about it but somehow not found the motivation until now.

Without giving plot stuff away, I will say that one of the things which I loved about this book was that while it is an embedded narrative with several layers, every single layer worked for me. It also worked for me on several layers, intellectually, emotionally, and as entertainment and story telling.


I was interested in the chapters on the Doctor's past and the debate between empiricism and rationalism (well, ok, that's only one of my favourite topics EVER, so I was pretty much the perfect audience for such material) and how such philosophical ideas permeated science and medicine in the 19th Century. The platonic notion of the Good(s) worried me a little at first, as philosophically it's not a concept which I have a lot of sympathy towards, but I was quite satisfied with how it was used in terms of its function in the letters from the Antipodes.

Emotionally I was engaged with the romance and the wooing of Sonja, and also with children in south africa, and perhaps more unexpectedly, with the totems and the vandals - particularly when it came to the story on the tapestries. I was also delighted by the story of how the Doctor and Sonja came to set up their house and chess garden in Dayton, Ohio, and the space that they created for the community and the role that the community created for them to occupy.

As for story telling, as I already said, I found that each of the different levels, the external narrator, the doctor in his letters, and the stories he related therein, worked well on their own, yet as a whole they fit together very beautifully and rounded one another out. There's a sort of thrill I get from reading a book that works well, partly it's the intellectual puzzle solving joy of seeing pieces fit together, but also it's the sheer enjoyment that comes from reading a narrative that leads me to sometimes unexpected places, which are better than anything I had anticipated.
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In other reading news, I finally read Borges' The Library of Babel, and what a wonderful tale it is. Very fitting that it should have inspired the name of this community. If you haven't read it, there is a version here. I really recommend it.

Currently I'm reading: Jeff Vandermeer's City of Saints and Madmen

I've also started on The House of Leaves, again, but I find that tends to be more of something I dip into rather than gooble up all at once.

In my to-read-pile I have: Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man
Margaret Atwood - The Penelopiad
Herman Melville - Moby Dick
Doris Lessing - Going Home
Tobias Woolf - Old School

On my to re-read pile I have Yumi no Hon

Comments

From:ex_literatim603
Date:November 28th, 2005 04:10 pm (UTC)
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Moby Dick! Moby Dick! Moby Dick! Another one of my favorites. I like Pierre much better, but MD is much wittier and laugh out loud funny than P. But, too, it's also composed like a domestic novel and has a lot of the same conventions, which I find terribly amusing.

And *squee!!* for IM.
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From:ironed_orchid
Date:November 28th, 2005 04:32 pm (UTC)
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I have read Pierre before, and not ever read Moby Dick - I guess it's cos I didn't got ot school in the US where it seems to be ubiquitous.

I'm really excited about this list of books, they all look very promising.

I'd like to nominate Penelopiad for us, if we ever list new books for the Winter session - although maybe better to wait until the paper back is out and everyone can get a copy at little expense.

I'm also thinking of making more of an effort to write about the books I'm reading which aren't on our lists, just to swap notes and recs with others who might be interested.
From:ex_literatim603
Date:November 28th, 2005 04:47 pm (UTC)
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In grad school, we were told that MD is what you must read as an undergrad and P is a must read for grad students (well, Americanists anyways).

I hadn't even herad of Penelopiad, which is tragic because I adore Atwood. Maybe it is at the library? Me no likey hard cover.

"I'm also thinking of making more of an effort to write about the books I'm reading which aren't on our lists, just to swap notes and recs with others who might be interested."

Oh, you can always do that here. I'm hoping I can read more in the next two months before baby comes, so I'd be interested in doing this, too.

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From:ironed_orchid
Date:November 28th, 2005 05:03 pm (UTC)
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We read P as undergrads, however, Vijay's course was tracing the relationship between realism and the gothic, so it was a perfect text for such matters.

Penelopiad : The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus came out about a month ago, although amazon lists it as the 9th of November - I think I have the British edition. It's also being offered with Winterson's new book - Weight : The Myth of Atlas and Heracles - which would be a perfect combination, and the titles are eerily similar. From the Weight page it appears that they were commissioned. (If there is a series on women rewriting myths, why hasn't anyone approached Cat, goddamnit, she would be more than perfect.)
From:thesibylqueen
Date:November 29th, 2005 08:48 pm (UTC)
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...why hasn't anyone approached Cat, goddamnit, she would be more than perfect.)

*sighs, and dreams wistfully*
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From:ironed_orchid
Date:November 30th, 2005 01:04 am (UTC)
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OK, so I know she doesn't have the reputation of Atwood or Winterson - yet - but Cat's Persephone and Cat's Innana are already fascinating, not to mention Cat's Snow Queen.
From:thesibylqueen
Date:December 8th, 2005 04:22 pm (UTC)
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I would love to hear what everyone else is reading here; I meant for easyforletters to be something like that, but I keep being lazy and simply reviewing...
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From:ironed_orchid
Date:December 9th, 2005 01:32 am (UTC)
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Perhaps you could do some book notes here with links to your latest reviews. I often find myself less able to write pithy reviews and more wanting to ask "did anyone read this and did you also feel X when Y occurred?"
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From:ironed_orchid
Date:December 9th, 2005 01:33 am (UTC)
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He has writers block and bad incestuous feelings - it's a lot of fun.
From:thesibylqueen
Date:November 28th, 2005 05:36 pm (UTC)
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Too funny--I just added Invisible Man to my TBR pile as well!

How do you like City...?
From:ex_literatim603
Date:November 28th, 2005 07:46 pm (UTC)
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It's like an infection. Mwhahaha...
From:thesibylqueen
Date:November 28th, 2005 08:09 pm (UTC)
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Look, you're practically Oprah! ;)
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From:ironed_orchid
Date:November 29th, 2005 01:44 am (UTC)
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Yes, she is - only cute and smart and lovable.
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From:ironed_orchid
Date:November 29th, 2005 01:42 am (UTC)
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I'm Really liking CoSaM. I'm only about a quarter of the way in, but it's one of those books where I regret having to put it down.
From:orange_velcro
Date:November 29th, 2005 02:59 am (UTC)
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I've also started on The House of Leaves, again, but I find that tends to be more of something I dip into rather than gooble up all at once.


I've never read that one, I do however own The Whalestoe Letters Which is the letters that his mother wrote to him. It includes the ones in HoL but has many more. You only have her letters also. None of his replies. So it's a very lopsided view and a wonderful look at the descent of madness. I found that I had compassion for her on a level that those who have read HoL don't seem to have. (This knowledge I gleaned from those that I know who have read HoL and not teh letters.)
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From:ironed_orchid
Date:November 29th, 2005 03:05 am (UTC)
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Amazon just reccomended that to me - actually getting something right for once. Maybe I'll read it after I read HoL.
From:orange_velcro
Date:November 29th, 2005 03:12 am (UTC)
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Don't buy it, I'll send you my copy to read first in case you hate it.....(I found mine for 50cents at woolworths...)
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From:ironed_orchid
Date:November 29th, 2005 03:16 am (UTC)
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Darling, I think my days of buying books from amazon are over - well, until I get some miracle job as a full time lecturer.

Remember to wait until I send you my address.
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