The 'Currently reading' thread...

Discussion of other topics not necessarily Keats or poetry-related, i.e. other authors, literature, film, music, the arts etc.

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Postby Saturn » Fri Jul 20, 2007 7:47 pm

Oh dear I'm sure even too much of Keats is a bad thing??

I won't be giving you any Keats books then... :wink:
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Postby dks » Fri Jul 20, 2007 8:46 pm

Saturn wrote:Oh dear I'm sure even too much of Keats is a bad thing??

I won't be giving you any Keats books then... :wink:


No, no..of course not...but critical works on my man can be a dreadful thing... :?
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Postby Credo Buffa » Sat Aug 18, 2007 5:48 am

Last week, I breezed through The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby. You all really need to read it. It's the memoir of the former editor of French Elle after having a massive stroke and suffering "locked-in syndrome", which basically means that he was mentally completely intact but physically paralyzed but for the ability to blink his eye, the method through which he dictated this book. It's amazingly painful and ironic and life-affirming and beautiful all at the same time. Plus it's very short and really takes no time at all to read. You will certainly remember it for long after, though.

Right now I'm reading The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. It was given to me as a Christmas present by a friend of mine. At a pretty significant 650-some pages, it started out as a real page-turner, but has since kind of lost some of its initial appeal. It strikes me very much as being akin to The Da Vinci Code, a plot-driven ride through Europe and through history (some of it real, some of it imagined) built entirely around suspense with a lot of explosition and minimal detail or character development. Though the writing itself certainly is better than anything Dan Brown could hope to produce, I'm thinking this is one that I'm going to find myself forgetting about soon after I've finished. . . unless things start to pick up in the next. . . 440 pages. But I'm interested enough to see where it goes, and I'm not one to stop reading a book once I've started it. Plus, it was a gift from a friend, and although his taste has been known to be questionable, I'll feel bad if I don't get through it for his sake. *makes mental note to get him a really good book for Christmas this year. . . maybe some Ian McEwan*
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Postby Heaven/Hell » Sat Aug 18, 2007 10:58 am

Credo Buffa wrote:Right now I'm reading The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. It was given to me as a Christmas present by a friend of mine. At a pretty significant 650-some pages, it started out as a real page-turner, but has since kind of lost some of its initial appeal. It strikes me very much as being akin to The Da Vinci Code, a plot-driven ride through Europe and through history (some of it real, some of it imagined) built entirely around suspense with a lot of explosition and minimal detail or character development.


That sounds rather interesting. Is it a part-expose of the occult societies and their beliefs? I'm a sucker for those type of books, they're really tantalising. It gives me great pleasure to know that intellectual giants throughout history have entertained these type of supernatural beliefs without a hint of rational scepticism like in modern age, it makes poetry reading/writing all the more pleasurable for me.
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Postby Credo Buffa » Sat Aug 18, 2007 9:17 pm

Well, the basic plot is that the Dracula legend is actually real, and there's a small group of scholars who've been unwillingly thrust into this reality. Like The Da Vinci Code, it uses kernels of real history--in this case, the history of Vlad the Impaler, but then contorts things to make the unbelievable seem believable. Definitely a fictional story, though. Nothing to do with real people (other than that sensationalized history of Vlad) or events.
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Postby Saturn » Sat Aug 18, 2007 9:34 pm

Am I the only person in the world that hasn't read the Da Vinci code or any Harry Potter books?
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Postby Credo Buffa » Sun Aug 19, 2007 5:55 am

Not the only, but one of the few. :P

Don't read The Da Vinci Code, though. It's not worth the time (although short). If you know anything about the plot, you've got no reason to read it, really, because all it is is plot.
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Postby Saturn » Sun Aug 19, 2007 12:36 pm

I have no intention of reading either.

I saw the Da Vinci Code movie.
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Postby Heaven/Hell » Tue Aug 21, 2007 1:32 pm

Credo Buffa wrote:Well, the basic plot is that the Dracula legend is actually real, and there's a small group of scholars who've been unwillingly thrust into this reality. Like The Da Vinci Code, it uses kernels of real history--in this case, the history of Vlad the Impaler, but then contorts things to make the unbelievable seem believable. Definitely a fictional story, though. Nothing to do with real people (other than that sensationalized history of Vlad) or events.


Intriguing. I guess it is is some abstract way to do with the occult, apparently the black magic practitioners believed that murdering someone enables the perpetrator to possess their soul, making him/her stronger. Countless despicably evil people and dictators throughout history have been obsessed with this notion, such as Vlad, Elisabet Bathory of Hungary who bathed in virgins' blood, Hitler, Stalin, Ivan the Terrible, etc.
You're right, a lot of the rumour and myth is sensationalised (glamorised even), but a conspicuous amount of them did have a latent interest in the occult and black magic, and serving malevolent Gods or causes for personal use.
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I'm reading

Postby Brave Archer » Sat Sep 22, 2007 9:38 pm

Crime and Punishment for the first time, I've recently really gotten into Dostoevsky's work.
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Postby Malia » Sat Sep 22, 2007 11:35 pm

The only thing I don't like about the Harry Potter books is that the author overuses passive voice. Passive voice (or the overuse thereof) is one of my pet peeves. When a sentence pops up containing passive voice I find myself translating the sentence into active voice rather than focusing on the story. So, when passive voice continuously pops up, concentration and immersion into the story dwindles.

As far as the DaVinci Code is concerned, I heard it was a lame book--not well written at all--and that it derives all of its momentum from the "secret" about Mary Magdaline. I figure, if you know the secret already, what's the use of reading the book especially if it is poorly written?
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Postby Credo Buffa » Mon Sep 24, 2007 5:22 am

Malia wrote:I figure, if you know the secret already, what's the use of reading the book especially if it is poorly written?

Precisely.
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Postby Saturn » Mon Sep 24, 2007 9:22 am

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Postby Heaven/Hell » Mon Sep 24, 2007 1:04 pm

The Byzantine period - the time of the famous (in literary circles) de Medici family?
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Postby Saturn » Mon Sep 24, 2007 10:32 pm

Heaven/Hell wrote:The Byzantine period - the time of the famous (in literary circles) de Medici family?


Not exactly....

Instead of the usual wikipedia link I give you my own answer since I like to think I know a fair deal about this period.

I hope you all don't mind reading my little mini-essay....could be interesting I hope/think. I let you be the judge.

A lot of people don't even know the Byzantine Empire ever existed which is not only a shame but a disgrace as much of western society is indebted to this great civilization.

The word Byzantine itself is something of an anachronism.

Byzantine has come to mean a certain sybaritic luxury, abundantly opulent, or tortuously complicated, or devious, depending on which context it is used.

It comes from the original Greek settlement of Byzantion [or Byzantium] on the site of modern Istanbul [previously Constantinople] in Turkey.

The Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire endured from the fourth century A.D. until 1453 when Constantinople was captured by the Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mehmet II.

The fourth century Roman Emperor Constantine [after whom Constantinople was named] chose the site as an ideal militarily strategic meeting point between east and west, better to defend the frontiers of the then endangered Roman Empire.

In the western Empire, provinces were under attack from Germanic and other tribes and the frontiers were gradually being overrun.

In the late third century, the last great Pagan emperor Diocletian divided the Empire into two with one emperor in the western half of the empire and another equal colleague in the eastern half of the empire. In turn each of these two emperors [given the title Augustus] chose a junior emperor and successor under the title of Caesar. This, Diocletian hoped, would maintain the unity and strength of the Roman world while allowing for a continuous dynasty ruling the empire with each Caesar succeeding his senior Augusti.

Rome was no longer the heart of the Empire, indeed it was so far from the vital frontier crisis areas that it became in this period merely the symbolic capital of the Empire, with Ravenna in northern Italy being the headquarters of the Western Emperor and Antioch in the east being the capital of the Eastern emperor.

To cut a very long story short this system did not survive Diocletian himself and after a long period of brutal civil wars Constantine was triumphant and became the sole ruler of the whole empire.

Despite paying his respects to the ancient capital of Rome, Constantine wished to create his own capital, a new ostensibly Christian capital of his newly reunited empire [Constantine was the first outwardly Christian emperor, indeed attributing his success in the civil wars to the Christian god].

So, as mentioned above, he founded on the site of the ancient Greek port of Byzantion his new capital in the year 330.

And so slowly this new capital of Constantinople began to supersede in magnificence, political influence and opulence 'old' Rome - Constantinople had became the 'New Rome'.

After Constantine's death the empire was again divided into two and the squabbling between his sons and their successors eventually made this divide permanent.

There were many differences between the two empires, a crucial one was language. While in the west Latin was the predominant tongue, in the east it was Attic Greek.
Also, once the empire was fully Christianized, these differences increased with the different practices and beliefs of the western and Eastern churches.

The western Empire was slowly invaded by various 'barbarian' tribes and finally was extinguished in the year 476.

In the east, however the Empire prospered and Constantinople became the most wealthy and largest city in the known world.

The Eastern Empire retained the name and the prestige of the Roman Empire, and although it became gradually more Greek in character and Eastern influenced, even in its last gasp the Byzantines thought of themselves as Romans.

The Byzantine Empire continued to flourish, even after the fall pf the west albeit slightly diminished by the conquests of the Arab and Muslim rulers from the seventh and eighth century onwards.

Also during its history it did much to spread the word of Orthodox Christianity, to the countries of the Balkans and Russia owes its Orthodox Christian belief to the influence of Byzantium.

In the period of the Crusades it was an ally [though in hindsight regrefully] of the forces of Christendom and provided safe passage and aid to the Crusaders.

However, in the infamous fourth Crusade, due to the crippling financial situation and under the influence of the Venetian Republic's forces, the Crusaders turned on their fellow Christians and captured Constantinople in the year 1204.
For two generations ineffectual and incompetent Latin emperors ruled the Eastern Roman Empire until the Byzantines regained control of a shattered empire.

The Empire never recovered its former glory after the sack of 1204 and for much of the rest of its existence it was effectively powerless to stop the advance of the Turkish forces into its domains. Gradually the Turks invaded all the provinces of the Empire until only the city of Constantinople itself was left of the once mighty Roman Empire

Byzantium was a unique civilization, incorporating and propagating the ideals, the artistic and spiritual, and legal ethics of the Ancient Greek and Roman civilizations.

The Renaissance movement itself can in part be attributed to the Byzantine Empire.

After the fall of Constantinople, and even before it fell, in 1453, Byzantine scholars brought with them to the west priceless manuscripts of many of the works of the greatest ancient Greek and Roman authors, previously unknown or thought lost in the west.

They brought with them also the teaching of the Greek language which would have an immense impact on the Christian religion as scholars could now read the gospels in their original form, abandoning the established Vulgate Latin translation.
This would directly lead to The Reformation.

Much of continental Europe's laws and legal practices are based on Byzantine codifications of Roman law throughout the centuries.

All in all, the Byzantine Empire is the great forgotten civilization of the western world, one which deserves more recognition and more exposure for the great and enduring empire that it was.
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