NYRB Classics discussion

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message 1: by WndyJW (last edited Dec 06, 2018 08:16PM) (new)

WndyJW | 288 comments We can use this thread for general, miscellaneous thoughts and chatting that isn’t book specific.
If we find ourselves starting divergent discussion under a thread we can “meet at the bar” to continue the discussion without hijacking a thread.

message 2: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 288 comments I wish I knew how to suggest authors for nyrb to pick up. I have heard a lot of good buzz about Henry Green and see that he has a number of titles in nyrb catalog.
I would love to see Patrick White brought back of the attention of readers.

message 3: by Louise (new)

Louise | 491 comments Mod
What a great idea Wendy! Thank you.

I noted a lack of African authors among the NYRB Classics so I poked around their website and found their book recommendation page:


If they publish your suggestion you get a free copy!

message 4: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
Love it!

message 5: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 288 comments Awesome Louise!

message 6: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 288 comments I found a perfect copy of Transit Transit by Anna Seghers in a used book store.

message 7: by Louise (new)

Louise | 9 comments Oh I like that one - it's pretty ironic, considering how things are now, to read a book where everyone is desperately trying to leave Europe, and go to Africa/Latin America...

message 8: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 288 comments “How things are” now is why I read!

message 9: by Lia (new)

Lia Personally, I’ve read more NYRB reviews of books (i.e. articles from their magazine) than books published by them.

Would this be a good place to potentially discuss those? (Either the articles or the books they reviewed).

message 10: by Louise (new)

Louise | 491 comments Mod
Hi Lia

Anything NYRB related is welcome here. We could start a new thread called The New York Review of Books (the magazine). Let me set that up.

message 11: by Mirko (new)

Mirko | 77 comments WndyJW wrote: "I found a perfect copy of Transit Transit by Anna Seghers in a used book store."

Interesting you mentioned that. I also found my copy of Transit in a used bookstore I regularly visit and it is was/is in pristine condition. I love it when I can find used NYRBs that look like new.

message 12: by Lia (new)

Lia I have a general request/ suggestion/ question: Can we post the first page or the introduction or the first chapter (within fair use, so under 10% of the book IIRC), especially for the bookclub nominations? Even a phone camera photo, or OCR of that, or screen shot if you are using ebool would work, would be enormously helpful for me. It would help me decide which book I might want to vote for, or purchase, or hunt down in my UBS excursions, if they’re not available in my library (and many aren’t in my library.)

If they already have “sample pages” on their website, a link would work too!

message 13: by Louise (new)

Louise | 491 comments Mod
There are no sample pages on the website, and given the number of nominations we get, it would be cumbersome trying to take photos of several pages of each book. There are usually links to the Good Reads page though for more info. on the book and reviews, which I find helpful, plus you could also look the books up on the NYRB website: https://www.nyrb.com/. Easy to do with their search feature.

message 14: by Lia (new)

Lia Thanks Louise.

If I purchase a book, I’d want to see the writing samples, not the blurb. That’s why I wondered if we could share sample pages here.

I can probably find some samples on amazon or google play books if they sell the ebooks, thanks for the suggestions anyway.

message 15: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 288 comments I think it’s very useful if we use the add book/author tool, above right, when we mention books here. It’s easy to do and with one click members can read up on the book, see other reviews, and click again to Amazon for sample pages.

message 16: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
Usually Amazon has a nice big sample on the book’s page, and you can even download the first bit for the kindle for free to test it out. It would be very cumbersome and time consuming to post samples or photographs of the books under nomination. Happy to talk about them to get impressions, etc., to help persuade people to vote for a given book, of course!

message 17: by Lia (new)

Lia Thanks again. I can see how it would be cumbersome, never mind. I just thought it would be convenient to have a collection of “sample pages” for readers considering buying in order to participate, but you’re right, sharing phone camera picture or screen shot probably isn’t ideal.

I’m probably the exception here, it seems most of you already have extensive collection of NYRB books, whereas I’m vaguely curious and wish to participate, but will have to start to build my collection before I can join.

message 18: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 288 comments Lia, if you like to buy books, but don’t want to buy every book new check out www.abebooks.com and the Book Depository. Abes has most books for very good prices, often with free shipping. The Book Depository has new books for lower prizes than Amazon with free shipping, but it takes about 2 weeks to get the book.

message 19: by Lia (new)

Lia Thank you WndyJW, I want to believe I’m a fully recovered books-shoppaholic... but I can still feel the pull!

I can get quite a few (but not all) the nominated books from NYRB via ILL loan as well, but since I also have to pay a fee when I use ILL, it might be worth it to just buy second hand.

I belong to a somewhat active leave-one-take-one books exchange community in the neighborhood, so buying second hand might give my community something nice to read.

message 20: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 288 comments I’m still an unapologetic bibliophile. I love books around me.

message 21: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 288 comments Picking up on a discussion about characters in the Berlin Alexanderplatz thread: I love character driven books and am immediately drawn in to first person narratives.
I don’t need to like the protagonist, but I do prefer them to be consistent. If a character is meant to be sympathetic, don’t make them rapists, for instance.

Can you think of the most evil protagonist you’ve read? The first one that comes to mind for me is the priest in Beastings.

message 22: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 288 comments I read a long time ago that there are four doors into a book:
Setting, language, characters, and plot. I would add style to that. Do you agree with this? Are there more “doors” that you would add? What doors are usually the most important for you?

I choose my book by setting: where do I want to be and when? Followed by language and character. Plot is least important.

message 23: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) Wow, great question. Plot if I want to be entertained, along with characters I can empathize with in some way. Otherwise, I’ll have to think a bit about this.

message 24: by Louise (new)

Louise | 491 comments Mod
For me I would probably put characters first, with plot a close second, although a good book really needs all four elements. I love a "good story". It takes talent to tell a good, simple story without any extra frills. Some authors try too hard to be "different" and "experimental" and lose the story.

Another door is pacing. The right pace for the story is important. Some books have perfect pacing, then suddenly near the end, it speeds up and loses the flow.

message 25: by Lia (new)

Lia Plot driven, character driven, exhaustive world building, experimental ... I think I’m willing to let the author take me where he will, as long as the language isn’t awful. It sounds really pretentious to say language is the most important, and it’s not exactly what I’m saying — but it’s the only thing that would have me rule out a book as I stand flipping next to a library / UBS shelf.

For example, I think I would enjoy Dan Brown books a lot more if the prose didn’t make me cringe every second paragraph. I love the general idea, I hate the execution.

Whereas Nabokov and TS Eliot and Wilde and Yeats had me memorizing their lines without even consciously trying, it’s terrifying. I wish I could hate (some of) them, but I can’t. I’ve caught myself reciting lines when I walk my dog the day after reading something by these guys, it’s blackmagic.

message 26: by Lia (new)

Lia About characters in Berlin Alexanderplatz ... I dislike how flippant he is about sexual / domestic violence, he didn’t just make a mistake, he treats it like he’s victimized by them.

What gets weird for me is that I just finished reading Fatale and The Iliad, somehow I wasn’t repulsed by characters that are basically remorseless killing machines in those books.

I wonder if it’s because Berlin Alexanderplatz is so filled with real world “clippings,”: weather report, addresses, government notifications ... I slip into news-reading mode, and am less able to read this as inconsequential thought experiment.

message 27: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 288 comments I completely agree with you, Lia, and it’s not pretentious to say language is very important to you. I think all of us in this group are “book snobs” in that diction and syntax matter. Sometimes I am in the mood for a really good story, but a good story told at a 9th grade reading level is not readable for me. Other times I long for beautiful language and the story doesn’t matter.

I have been surprised this past year by what is considered experimental fiction. I conflated experimental with avant-garde then learned that many experiential novels are easily read. I can read 2-3 avant-garde novels a year, as long as they are slim. They are a nice exercise for my brain.

message 28: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 288 comments I give books as gifts to people I know well with no expectation that they will read it anytime soon. I am such a mood reader I know a book cannot be read before its time.

message 29: by Lia (new)

Lia So, yeah, about books as gift, I was just saying in the other thread:

I’m so glad I’m not the only one. A good friend recommended A Confederacy of Dunces to me, and very enthusiastically insisted that I read it, she even bought me a copy, and kept asking me about my progress on facebook. I felt so guilty about not being able to read it, I wonder if that’s why I gradually stopped talking to her 😝

message 30: by Lia (last edited Jan 05, 2019 06:59AM) (new)

Lia This is the perfect opportunity for me to share this. I got gifted this beautiful book (Dreams and Stones) recently, it’s got beautiful prose, it’s highly esteemed — and I just can’t get into it. I think I agree with some reviewers (or maybe it’s the translator) who said that it would be better off classified as a prose-poem. I expected a novel, and my brain was not prepared for that. As it turns out, language isn’t everything either.

Still, it’s like what WndyJW said, I might enjoy it later when I’m in a different mood, and I’m flattered that they thought I would spontaneously and effortlessly enjoy an artsy “novel” like that.

message 31: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 288 comments We can’t all like every great book, Lia. It doesn’t sound like my kind of book either, I pay attention to adjectives such as, “Dream-like” “hallucinatory” those are not my kind of books.

message 32: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 288 comments I was very pleasantly surprised to find a big fat envelope in my post box with Welcome to nyrb on the package. The Kindness of Strangers and The Human Comedy: Selected Stories arrived today!

message 33: by Louise (new)

Louise | 491 comments Mod
I received The Human Comedy last year when I first signed up for the book club subscription, and when I renewed this year they sent it to me AGAIN! What is the point in that??? They could at least send a different book. So do long time subscribers get The Human Comedy every year???

message 34: by Sunjay (new)

Sunjay (sunjayc) | 2 comments Louise wrote: "I received The Human Comedy last year when I first signed up for the book club subscription, and when I renewed this year they sent it to me AGAIN! What is the point in that??? They could at least ..."

Same thing happened to me a few years back when I was a subscriber. I renewed a month before my subscription was due to expire, and they sent me the same book. It seems like they change over their free book only once a year, so the best way would be to get closer to or even after your subscription expiry date, then renew.

message 35: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
I would bet a million if you reached out to them they’d make this right. They have great customer service, and because they are also avid book lovers they get it.

message 36: by Louise (new)

Louise | 491 comments Mod
Trevor wrote: "I would bet a million if you reached out to them they’d make this right. They have great customer service, and because they are also avid book lovers they get it."

I have but no response yet.

message 37: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 288 comments How does it work if they auto renew your subscription, which I think I did? I would think they would know that the free book in 2019 was The Human Comedy and send a new free book for the renewal.

message 38: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1425 comments Mod
It’s possible the free book is for new subscribers only and that you got the free Human Comedy by error. I think it’s been the free book on there for quite a while.

message 39: by Louise (new)

Louise | 491 comments Mod
I recall reading somewhere that subscribers were getting The Prank so I figured it was a new book every year but now I can't find the page where I read that.

message 40: by Louise (new)

Louise | 491 comments Mod
I heard back from customer service (4 weeks later). This was their reply:

"The Premium book was the same for both years. Your next renewal will be a different Premium gift."

I fail to see the logic in giving subscribers the same book for 2 years running.

message 41: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 288 comments I don’t either. If they send you the same book twice it feels more like they have a surplus of that book!

message 42: by Lois (new)

Lois (literanarchy) | 113 comments A rather disappointing response, especially given all you’re doing for them by reviving this group ...

message 43: by Louise (new)

Louise | 491 comments Mod
WndyJW wrote: "I don’t either. If they send you the same book twice it feels more like they have a surplus of that book!"

That was my thought as well, but just put it on sale then. Why give it to subscribers twice? I have a particular disdain all things illogical.

message 44: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 288 comments I have a particular disdain for all things stingy. I don't need a free book when I subscribe, the books included in the subscription is good enough, so the offer of the same book as a gift 2 years in a row only makes it appear as if nyrb does not think they will get repeat subscription customers.

message 45: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 288 comments Hello? Hello? Did everyone go on vacation for a week to warm, sunny San Diego or am I the only one who escaped winter for a week?

I hope the lack of activity the last few days means everyone is doing a lot of reading.

message 46: by Louise (new)

Louise | 491 comments Mod
We are all waiting for Feb. 1st with bated breath :-)

message 47: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 288 comments That explains it!

message 48: by Jason (new)

Jason (uberzensch) | 83 comments What happens on February 1st?

message 49: by Louise (new)

Louise | 491 comments Mod
The in depth discussion on Berlin Alexanderplatz begins.

message 50: by WndyJW (last edited Jan 31, 2019 05:12PM) (new)

WndyJW | 288 comments Hello fellow nyrbs (pronounced nerbs) I hope everyone that was impacted by the Polar Vortex stayed safe and warm. I work for Cuyahoga County in Cleveland and since they didn’t want clients risking the deadly weather they closed the building for 2 days. 2 grownup snow days are quite a treat.

I saw this question posed on Twitter and thought that it was topical during the group read of Berlin Alexanderplatz since it has been met with mixed reviews among our group: What book or books have you read that were really challenging and required a good bit of effort to finish that once you finished you found very worthwhile and that you now count among your favorites? Books that maybe weren’t even enjoyable to read, but were still well worth the effort?

For me that list includes:
The Tree Of Man by Patrick White. It is possibly the best book I’ve read, not my favorite, but the best. It is 480 pgs of dense, but intelligent, beautiful writing.
The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying; I read Faulkner with a some sort of study guide, but I just love him.
Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth. The writing didn’t make it difficult, but the story itself, set on a slave ship and then an island where the enslaved people made a community for themselves was so heartbreaking that I couldn’t wait to leave that brutal world. The story itself was very, very good.

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