19 March, 2014

Cult Books

One of the issues of  reading newspapers on the web, is that you can easily miss things, since, on the internet, the act of turning pages, and some article 'catching your eye' is severely reduced, if not entirely lost.

Although I used to exercise this indulgent act most Sundays, via the sharing of brunch, newspapers and coffee , it seems that this has slipped away over the years, and the Sunday breakfast is now a solo affair in front of a screen.

Yes, its usually earlier in the day now, and often followed by a lunch, but, with regards to accidental discoveries, as Roy Hawkins puts it , "The thrill is gone".

Hence, I found this interesting list of cult books a little late :)

Reading through it, there are both great and dismal books mentioned, some of which I have to admit to reading ( many, and mainly, it is true,in my youth :).

Siddartha, The Prophet and Jonathon Livingston Seagull, fed my esoteric teenage passion for sure, while Testament of Youth attempted to balance the more political history I devoured ( 20th Century Totalitarianism was one of my specialities at College).

The Dice Man was something I 'borrowed' from my brother. I don't recall finishing it, since even at that age, I sensed it was probably too violent and sexual for me at that time !

Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance :  Who didn't read it among my teenage friends is easier to count than who did, although these days, I doubt if I'd go through it again.

Many others lurk there, including The Holy Blood and Holy Grail ( allegedly re-worked as lucrative fiction by Dan Brown ), a book I read a few years after seeing the original BBC documentary about the priest and his treasure, and even Dune is therea book I've read several times since the Seventies, and thoroughly enjoyed each read.

But is there a chess book in this list of cult reading ?

Well, not exactly, but what caught my eye was the review of one book that I never read...

" Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R Hofstadter (1979)

 About what it means to think, and how that happens, this is written in the spirit of Lewis Carroll. Pattern recognition in the work of geniuses. Loved by maths geeks and anybody with Asperger's syndrome and anyone with sense. But at root a chess textbook. AMcK "

Before I even reached the indicative, final sentence, the mention of pattern recognition had already sparked off the flint of my chess mind, primed by the many mentions of "patterns are the key" by all those switched on Chess theorists.

Needless to say, this is added to my own 'books to read sometime'  list, although what number on the list, it is hard to tell.


AoxomoxoA wondering said...

Gödel, Escher, Bach is definitely not! a book about pattern recognition.
Its a book about modern mathematics ( recursion, logic .. ) and philosophy, art , System-theorie, and, and written for non scientists.

Read some pages of the book here: http://www.amazon.com/G%C3%B6del-Escher-Bach-Eternal-Golden/dp/0465026567/ref=sr_sp-atf_title_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1395238417&sr=8-1&keywords=G%C3%B6del+escher+bach#reader_0465026567

Signalman said...

Well, there you go ! Some of the mini-reviews of books on the list, are distinctly " provocative", I would say. Maybe the reviewer in this case had neither read the book fully, nor recently and gave his half-remembered views on it !

AoxomoxoA wondering said...

You can download some pages of the book at this link above and read for yourself. I did not read all of the reviews, the few i did read where quite ok in my opinion; but i have to admit: i did read the book in the very early 80's, so i am not complete aware of the content anymore.

Anonymous said...

I am too young for most of the books. "The Road" is spectacular, but a cult book? And I love Haruki Murakami, haven't touched his latest books though.

Signalman said...

@Anonymous: Thanks for commenting !

Too young ? Well, I am as well, if you go by published date, but even so, some of the older books led me on a happy trail in my time.

Trying to find "A rebours" in an English translation in the 70s was almost impossible ( limited cash and a library not in London ), but it did lead me to discover all sorts of "interesting" things via recommendations ( er, I don't have that , but what about this...?) ending up with esoterica via another of Huysman works ( 'La bas' ) to Eliphas Levi, McGegror Mathers, Dennis Wheatley ( a brilliant author of thrillers and historical fiction) and such people as Aleister Crowley !

Crowley's "professional" works were not for me, but his fiction was pretty amazing. 'Moonchild', for example, must surely classify as a cult book if there ever was one !

Camus, I never properly read, until I think " The Plague" turned up somewhere in my travels. However, post-teenage, The Cure's 'Killing an Arab' was what drew me to investigate " The Stranger". I will say though, that French existentialism ( or whatever Camus is classified as ) never really appealed. The only French novels I read were either Dumas ( Count of Monte Cristo, is an amazing read ) or detective fiction ( Japrisot, Vargas ).

Dodie Smith, I only ever knew as the writer of " 101 Dalmations". It was my father who recommended I read the memoir " I capture the castle". Never have got around to it (yet).

L Ron Hubbard's " Dianetics" I have never read. I remember picking up one of his sci-fi books as a young teen, and even I thought it was garbage. I had never heard of scientology in those days, so discovering that he was the force behind it at some point in the late 80s was bizarre.

"The Story of O" was a book that all us teenage boys were supposed to have read, but never did. My young teenage sexual fantasy was fulled by the "Passion Flower Hotel". Anyone remember that ?

In fact of the books that are contemporary to me, I can say I have read fewer than those that are not. Certainly, I never read " The Celestine Prophecy" when it was published, and never will. Same for any book by Paulo Coehlo. I read about 20 pages of "The Alchemist" and put it down forever. I didn't lie to the person who loaned it to me, who told me it would change my life. He was right : I determined never to waste an hour of valuable reading time on a Coelho book again !