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Inherent Vice 
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Heinlein Biographer

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Post Inherent Vice
Have been reading in Thomas Pynchon's latest, Inherent Vice (which seems a collateral of Vineland), and up to chapter 4 my main reaction is Dorothy Heydts Seven Deadly Words


Tue Sep 15, 2009 6:05 am
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Post Re: Inherent Vice
My reaction to most John Irving novels.

A variation of Heydt's words (eight, by most counts) is Steven Brust's Law: "Life is too short for bad books." It's a standard verb in some circles - the Minneapolis crowd, our household - to have 'brusted' a book - tossed it aside unfinished.

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Tue Sep 15, 2009 6:45 am
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Post Re: Inherent Vice
JamesGifford wrote:
My reaction to most John Irving novels.

A variation of Heydt's words (eight, by most counts) is Steven Brust's Law: "Life is too short for bad books." It's a standard verb in some circles - the Minneapolis crowd, our household - to have 'brusted' a book - tossed it aside unfinished.

I'm close to the Brusting stage.


Tue Sep 15, 2009 5:48 pm
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Post Re: Inherent Vice
I hadn't heard that Steve was behind that little saying, but I've been an adherent of it since at least junior high school. If a book is palpably bad after ten or twenty pages, I generally put it on the "to be disposed of at the used book store or Goodwill" pile unfinished. I'd rather spend the time rereading something good, if I don't have another new book awaiting my attention.

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Sat Sep 26, 2009 9:28 pm
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Post Re: Inherent Vice
I got it more or less directly from the horse's mouth back in the days when the Minnesota gang was all online. As I recall, his formulation was something like this:

Someone challenged SB for not finishing a book he thought was rotten, implying that he had some obligation to the author or the expense or himself or the universe to plug on through. He replied:

"I am 32 years old. I can expect to live, compos mentis, until I am 75. What with one thing and another, I can read one new book a week. That means I can read only about 2300 more books in my lifetime. If I get a few chapters into something that stinks and choose to grind through to the bitter end, I am wasting one of my slots that might be used for a more worthwhile candidate. Therefore, life is too short for bad books."

The above may in no way closely resemble SB's words, but the gist is there, and this statement cured me forever of spending another few hours/days/weeks plugging through something that stunk a few chapters in.

I have "brusted" many books in the twenty years since and never looked back. My prize is the *awful* Mr. Norrell and Jonathon Strange, or something like that - that monstrous brick of a book by a first-time author who got a million dollar contract for her years of adding excrescences to her ms. I read about three chapters. Nothing happened. I read a few more. Nothing happened. I was about a third of the way through, firmly ignoring the good Mr. Brust, when I read another reader's snippet - it might have even been in the old NitroForum - that this nothingness persisted all the way until page 882 the last. You could hear the brusting in the next county. It probably saved me seven or eight days of precious reading time (of which I have less and less these days; I long for the era when I could knock off a novel a day.)

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Sun Sep 27, 2009 10:11 am
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Heinlein Nexus

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Post Re: Inherent Vice
I actually enjoyed that book, Jim. Not sure I'd ever want to read it again, but it was charming....but then again, I like Pynchon too. Maybe I'm just too accepting as a reader...

...or more patient.


Mon Oct 05, 2009 11:58 am
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Post Re: Inherent Vice
I keep getting echos of a book written almost contemporaneously with the events of Inherent Vice but which I enjoyed quite a lot -- John Boyd (Boyd Upchurch) The Gorgon Festival.

Pynchon writes some very good sentences . . . but I Just Don't Care About these People.

The malaise is lightening a little as I get to chapter 11. I keep it by my bedside and read a chapter as the spirit moves.


Mon Oct 05, 2009 2:04 pm
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Post Re: Inherent Vice
RobertJames wrote:
I actually enjoyed that book, Jim. Not sure I'd ever want to read it again, but it was charming....but then again, I like Pynchon too. Maybe I'm just too accepting as a reader...

...or more patient.

I can be enormously patient when a book demands - and deserves - it.

Strange and Norrell made the demand, but without earning it. It did not help that I dislike general fantasy, fantastical period fiction included. I never finished The Name of the Rose, either, and didn't feel bad about it when I read Eco's smug comments about making it deliberately difficult to read.

It just read like a first-time author's overwrought, then over-praised and overpaid effort. Clearly quite a few people thought otherwise. *shrug*


Mon Oct 05, 2009 2:54 pm
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Post Re: Inherent Vice
Your distastes preceded you into that book, Jim; my own like for historical fantasy opened me to it. As for Eco, I liked that book immensely, but couldn't stand the next one he wrote. And I was a fan of John Irving for many years, up to and including "A Prayer for Owen Meany", which is a masterpiece. But after that, it all got spun out of control, and I haven't been able to read him happily ever since.

I do hate certain books -- I find "Catcher in the Rye" and "On the Road" to be insufferable books. Pynchon's Vineland is definitely second-class Pynchon. And if I ever have to teach "Young Goodman Brown" again I'll scream. That said, I like Hawthorne in general.

What I can't stomach any more in fantasy fiction is the series. I never thought I'd miss trilogies....and whatever you may say, Strange and Norrell had the virtue of being a finished book.

I got burned out on Jordan when I realized he was NEVER going to finish that thing, because it was a cash cow. His death left it unfinished, but it was never meant to be finished.

I also found there is truth to the axiom that if you don't think LOTR is the greatest book ever written at 14, there's something wrong with you. But if you still think the same thing at 40, there's something REALLY wrong with you.


Tue Oct 06, 2009 9:57 am
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Post Re: Inherent Vice
Someone else that actually reads hates Catcher in the Rye! There is hope for me yet. I would rather read Cooper, and I have Twain's opinion of Cooper. I had to teach Last of the Mohicans many years ago (before the movie) to 7th graders - that was an interesting experience. They liked the violence. I had to teach them Homer also and they liked that violence even more - sigh.

I reread LOTR some years at Christmas - it used to always restore my belief in the essential possibility of the powerless to change the world, but I have not been able to get the same lift in the last few years - possibly the effect you mentioned of aging. I do not think it was the best book ever written or even the best fantasy - it is a bit turgid and the elvish (for pages!) does slow things up quite a bit. OTOH the twins are currently reading them and there is quite a bit of joy in sharing it with them. Bob (our oldest) was like that for Orson Scott Card at their age.

I think books can send us deeper into our own cynicisms, or they can open our eyes to all that sense of wonder that got us reading Heinlein et al in the first place. I hope I never get too old for that.


Take care,

Audrey


Tue Oct 06, 2009 9:16 pm
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