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I actually learned nothing from assembling my list of all of the novels that I really love

I’ve spend several days looking at the list that I put together a few days ago. And as far as I can tell, I’ve basically learned nothing. I can tell because I actually had an epiphany about my own work the other day. Which is that the works of mine that I enjoy are the ones […]

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Fiction isn’t a very good tool for shedding light on how things work

I used to think that the purpose of fiction was to make sense of the world. Fiction was a hypothesis about how certain people would act under certain situations. That’s why I was drawn to science fiction. By creating more outré and stylized situations, it was possible to make bolder statements about human behavior. The […]

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[Wrap Up 2013] This year, I learned that I shouldn’t bank on any reading project that involves more than 3 to 7 books.

I’m a big fan of grand reading plans. A few years ago, I read all the Russians. The year after that, I read Proust. And last year I read lots of Victorian literature. At the beginning of the year, I announced that I was going to spend this year reading all of the 19th century […]

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The purpose of life cannot be to pursue your own happiness

It’s a very common thing to state that you can’t directly pursue happiness, that if you do something solely for the pleasure and satisfaction that it brings you, then that pleasure and satisfaction will eventually fail to come (it’s called the Paradox of Hedonism). I’ve often thought that this was bull. I understand that it’s difficult […]

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Finally finished reading the Magic Mountain

That was an unexpectedly long and involved undertaking. I blew through Buddenbrooks in a few days, so I assumed that although MM is long, it’d be a similarly easy read. However, it is not. It simply can’t be read at that speed, because not as much happens in it. You can’t just get caught in the […]

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Posting on Sunday is so freeing. Since no one is really reading, I can just kind of say things.

I’m halfway through The Magic Mountain. It’s a really interesting novel. Very evocative (you really feel like you’re up on that mountain) and full of comic characters. Nothing happens. I mean it. Nothing happens in this novel. Well, I guess he kind of got with the lady. But only somewhat. And it’s not a problem […]

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I’ve become obsessed with German fiction

There are hundreds of books that I don’t read even though I know I’d enjoy them. I have a copy of Anthony Trollope’s Can You Forgive Her? on my e-reader, and I’ve browsed through the first few pages on a number of occasions. And each time, I’ve thought, “This looks really good.” And I’ve still held […]

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The literature of exhaustion, and the impoverishment of the imagination

The thing that struck me about John Barth’s collection Lost In The Funhouse was that it was as much a literary essay as a collection of stories. Its theme was that our literature was in an age of exhaustion: there’s a sense that all the salient point have been raised; the only thing left is to […]

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Thomas Mann’s _Buddenbrooks_ is the last sprawling 19th century family epic

  I have rarely loved a book as much as I am loving _Buddenbrooks._ I meant to read it years ago, but I always kept getting derailed by thinking, “Hmm, if I’m going to read Mann, I should really read The Magic Mountain.” Well that was silly. Buddenbrooks is its own thing: a novel about […]

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