The Book Thread 2021

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Re: The Book Thread 2021

#121  Postby NamelessFaceless » Apr 13, 2021 1:25 pm

Animavore wrote:1. Entangled Life - Merlin Sheldrake.
2. Reading Music Made Easy - Jake Jackson.
3. CCNA 200-301 - Wendall Odom.

Pretty much the only book I've been reading the last 6 weeks. Can't wait to get back to reading for fun again.

And yes. I passed this morning.


Way to go!!! :cheers: :cheers: :cheers: :
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Re: The Book Thread 2021

#122  Postby NamelessFaceless » Apr 13, 2021 1:30 pm

Challenger007 wrote:And I can't listen to audiobooks. I perceive the plot very badly by ear. And so it would be possible to have time to get acquainted with a much larger number of books.


I do a lot of gardening this time of year and listening to audiobooks works perfectly for this. Especially the long classics like Hunchback and Charles Dickens. Amazon Prime has a pretty good collection of classics on audiobook available to borrow for free, so I've been pretty well set for gardening days. They even have War and Peace available, but that one really feels like cheating if I listen to it before reading it.
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Re: The Book Thread 2021

#123  Postby don't get me started » Apr 14, 2021 1:44 pm

1. Pragmatic Meaning and Cognition – Sophia S.A. Marmaridou
2. Fire and Fury: The Allied Bombing of Germany and Japan - Randall Hansen
3. Cognitive Exploration of Language and Linguistics – René Dirven and Marjolijn Verspoor (Eds.)
4. Age of Static: How TV Explains Modern Britain – Phil Harrison
5. The Secret of Our Success: How Culture is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating our Species and Making us Smarter – Joseph Henrich
6. Heroic Failure and the British - Stephanie Barczewski
7. Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain - Maryanne Wolf
8. Language Soup: A Taste of How Diverse People Around the World Communicate - Kathryn A. T. Knox
9. A Place for everything: The curious History of Alphabetical order – Judith Flanders
10. Contrastive Analysis - Carl James
11. Impossible Languages- Andrea Moro
12. Languages in the World: How History, Culture and Politics Shape Language – Jukie tetel Andresen and Phillip M. Carter

13. HHhH - Laurent Binet (Translated from the French by Sam Taylor)

This had been sitting on my shelf for a good while and I had put off reading it for a variety of reasons – more fool me. What a stunning book. I have a fair amount of background reading on WW2 under my belt and I had seen various movies and documentaries about the assassination of Heydrich, so I thought that this book would mostly be telling me things I already knew. Oh no. The author takes as his theme the path of the execution squad (I will not call them assassins) sent from London and the path of the criminal and murderer (the correct term, I think) and leads us towards the moment where their paths cross. And this is riveting enough. But in addition to this, the author makes himself a character in his novel, the two narratives running side by side. The determined men and their target move forward to their fateful meeting and also the author immersing himself in the writing of the book about this convergence. What could have been a bit of post-modernist legerdemain goes much deeper and engages us the reader in questions about how we represent history, how we ourselves become part of the story in the telling of that story. (I am minded here of Art Spiegelman's 'Maus'.)

Binet details his struggles with setting down the events- what to include, what to omit, how to bring the characters to life and how that artifice means going inside the character’s mind, describing thoughts and conversations that he, the author has no experience of and questioning whether we have the right to animate and voice these characters who are not here to do so themselves. Binet sometimes gives a paragraph or two and then confesses to the reader that he has no idea if this is factual or not, and in a wry piece of conspiratorial commentary states that he will probably not use the aforementioned passage in his book. The artifice could have been hokey, but it works and it enmeshes us the readers in the compromises of representing reality through art.

One more thing that I’d like to add is the underlying tone of moral outrage over the crimes of Heydrich and the Nazi machinery that unleashed such misery. Binet weaves through his narrative a deep sense of repugnance, physical in part, intellectual in part, but also something beyond this. Our moral sense, some part of that which makes us human is affronted here, beyond language or culture or religion of philosophy. The crimes were not just against the victims of the day, but against all of us. The author does a fine job of capturing what we mean by the expression ‘crimes against humanity’.

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Re: The Book Thread 2021

#124  Postby Blip » Apr 15, 2021 7:39 am

1. The Calcutta Chromosome by Amitav Ghosh
2. The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro
3. Thrush Green by Miss Read
4. A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro
5. Winter in Thrush Green by Miss Read
The Shortest Day by Colm Tóibín
6. The Binding by Bridget Collins
7. The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu translated by Ken Liu
8. The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu translated by Joel Martinsen
9. Death's End by Cixin Liu translated by Ken Liu
10. Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
11. The Ebony Tower by John Fowles
12. The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes) by Henri Alain-Fournier translated by Robin Buss
13. Strange Flowers by Donal Ryan
14. The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende
15. From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan
16. Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende translated by Margaret Sayers Peden
17. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
18. Front Page News by Sadie Gordon Richmond

I read this because I know the author personally and wanted to be supportive. It's not my cup of tea but if it's yours, the plot is pacy and interesting.
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Re: The Book Thread 2021

#125  Postby crazyfitter » Apr 18, 2021 9:21 pm

1. A Game of Thrones - George RR Martin
2. A Clash of Kings - George RR Martin. I’m enjoying this series more than LotR
3. A Storm of Swords - George RR Martin
4. Master and Commander - Patrick O’Brian
5. A Feast for Crows - George RR Martin.
6. Extraterrestrial - Avi Loab
7. A Dance with Dragons - George RR Martin
8. we are bellingcat - Elliot Higgins
9. The Midnight Library - Matt Haig
10. Gridlinked - Neal Asher
11. Empireland - Sathnam Sanghera
12. Ringworld - Larry Niven. It was ok but I’m not going to read the rest of the series
The slap in the face that is offered by anti-rationalist, pseudo-scientists and anti-intellectuals that infest much of public discourse is a sad coda to what has been achieved these centuries past by the scientific method - don’t get me started
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Re: The Book Thread 2021

#126  Postby UncertainSloth » Apr 22, 2021 8:06 pm

1. james brogden - the narrows - 8/10
2. nora roberts - of blood and bone - 8/10
3. nora roberts - the rise of magicks - 8/10
4. karen thompsn walker - the dreamers - 7/10
5. sophie draper - cuckoo - 7/10
6. laura carlin - the wicked cometh - 7/10
7. vikram palakar - the night theatre - 7/10
8. m r carey - the trials of koli - 9/10
9. bridget collins - the binding - 9/10
10. jac jemc - the grip of it - 7/10
11. carolyn jess-cooke - the boy who could see demons - 9/10
12. daisy johnson - everything under - 7/10
13. paraic o'donnell - house on vesper sands - 7/10
14. claire north - the gameshouse - 8/10 -
15. martin edwards - the coffin trail - 6/10 - not a massive fan of the crime thriller genre but i fancied the setting of the lake district mysteries...not much to hold my attention, though, and i'd sussed the twists out by about p40 as there was a few pages of fairly blatant signposting

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Re: The Book Thread 2021

#127  Postby don't get me started » Apr 23, 2021 7:19 am

1. Pragmatic Meaning and Cognition – Sophia S.A. Marmaridou
2. Fire and Fury: The Allied Bombing of Germany and Japan - Randall Hansen
3. Cognitive Exploration of Language and Linguistics – René Dirven and Marjolijn Verspoor (Eds.)
4. Age of Static: How TV Explains Modern Britain – Phil Harrison
5. The Secret of Our Success: How Culture is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating our Species and Making us Smarter – Joseph Henrich
6. Heroic Failure and the British - Stephanie Barczewski
7. Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain - Maryanne Wolf
8. Language Soup: A Taste of How Diverse People Around the World Communicate - Kathryn A. T. Knox
9. A Place for everything: The curious History of Alphabetical order – Judith Flanders
10. Contrastive Analysis - Carl James
11. Impossible Languages- Andrea Moro
12. Languages in the World: How History, Culture and Politics Shape Language – Jukie tetel Andresen and Phillip M. Carter
13. HHhH - Laurent Binet (Translated from the French by Sam Taylor)


14. Impoliteness: Using Language to Cause Offense – Jonathan Culpeper

292 pp.

The topic of politeness is a recurrent theme in quite a lot of situations here in Japan. There is a certain tacit feeling that the Japanese are polite, while English speakers are not. (It is never stated out loud, but I have certainly had it implied to me by various persons over the years.)
The truth is, of course, that all cultures have politeness systems, it is just that they are different in different cultures. What passes as normal behavior in one culture can be grossly offensive in another and it is an understanding of this lies at the heart of any attempt to communicate cross culturally.
This book mostly focuses on the Anglosphere and tries to tease out the underpinnings of what this thing called impoliteness is. Culpeper remarks that this is a challenging theme to research because politeness is the norm and actually gathering data of people being impolite is very hard to do. (The main venues for publicly accessible impoliteness are such contexts of military recruit training and exploitative, adversarial reality TV shows.)

Underpinning the whole is the canonical work of Brown and Levinson (1987) which described the way that people present themselves in social and interactive settings. Basically, people have a sense of ‘face’ and seek to avoid losing face. Face can be divided into two categories. On the one hand, people want to feel included, respected, ratified as fully functioning members of the society. This is termed ‘positive face’. On the other hand, people also have a sense of autonomy, independence and a desire to be free from imposition. This is called negative face. Persons seek to protect these two. Direct orders and peremptory commands violate negative face wants, as does intrusiveness, oversharing and over familiarity from strangers. Being ignored, made fun of, mocked, patronized, talked over, ridiculed etc. violates the sense of positive face.

Different cultures often have slightly different takes on how these works. Japan (and many other east Asian countries and also the UK) has a generally negative politeness culture. That is, privacy, restraint, modesty the like are prized traits. The US, Israel and some other countries have a generally positive politeness culture, seeking to maximize friendliness, outgoingness and casualness to show minimal social distance. When the differing perspectives meet, there can be misunderstandings. Brits and Japanese can be viewed as cold, unfriendly, snobbish, sneaky, deceitful and untrustworthy by people from more positive politeness cultures (It is a scalar thing not a binary.) On the other hand, Americans and Israelis can be seen as pushy, nosy, intrusive, overly familiar, aggressive and so on, from the point of view of people from more negative politeness-oriented cultures. It’s all very interesting.

The book deals with many cases of impoliteness as recorded by informants and deals with tacit rudeness, overt threats to face by use of threatening and abusive language, and everything in between. The lack of fulfillment of expected social roles, e.g., by serving staff and shop clerks, is a big source of commentary on what is or is not polite, it seems.

It also seems that, especially in the UK, calling people out for rudeness is not so common (It violates a politeness rule in itself). Rather, people tend to put up with a certain amount of rudeness and then discuss it in another context, e.g., complaining to friends about surly staff or rude fellow diners only afterwards…oh, yes, I know what this is like!

There was an interesting section (p. 61-63) on embarrassment and shame and the different ways these concepts are manifested and conceived of in different societies. The Japanese word hazukashii variously translates into embarrassment, shame and shy in English, but none of them are exactly the correct word.

Anyway, an interesting read, focusing more on the socio part of sociolinguistics.

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(Edited 4/24 for multiple grammar and spelling issues...)
Last edited by don't get me started on Apr 23, 2021 10:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Book Thread 2021

#128  Postby Blip » Apr 23, 2021 10:32 am

1. The Calcutta Chromosome by Amitav Ghosh
2. The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro
3. Thrush Green by Miss Read
4. A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro
5. Winter in Thrush Green by Miss Read
The Shortest Day by Colm Tóibín
6. The Binding by Bridget Collins
7. The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu translated by Ken Liu
8. The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu translated by Joel Martinsen
9. Death's End by Cixin Liu translated by Ken Liu
10. Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
11. The Ebony Tower by John Fowles
12. The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes) by Henri Alain-Fournier translated by Robin Buss
13. Strange Flowers by Donal Ryan
14. The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende
15. From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan
16. Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende translated by Margaret Sayers Peden
17. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
18. Front Page News by Sadie Gordon Richmond
19. The Split by Sharon Bolton

Sharon was in the Body Pump class I used to attend; she's not the boastful type and I only found out she's a popular author when the instructor told me. If you like mystery thrillers, you may well like this one.
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Re: The Book Thread 2021

#129  Postby UncertainSloth » Apr 27, 2021 10:33 pm

1. james brogden - the narrows - 8/10
2. nora roberts - of blood and bone - 8/10
3. nora roberts - the rise of magicks - 8/10
4. karen thompsn walker - the dreamers - 7/10
5. sophie draper - cuckoo - 7/10
6. laura carlin - the wicked cometh - 7/10
7. vikram palakar - the night theatre - 7/10
8. m r carey - the trials of koli - 9/10
9. bridget collins - the binding - 9/10
10. jac jemc - the grip of it - 7/10
11. carolyn jess-cooke - the boy who could see demons - 9/10
12. daisy johnson - everything under - 7/10
13. paraic o'donnell - house on vesper sands - 7/10
14. claire north - the gameshouse - 8/10 -
15. martin edwards - the coffin trail - 6/10
16. laird hunt - neverhome - 8/10 - enjoyed this rather sparse and duty tale of a woman who goes to fight in the american civil war...my sort of americana

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Re: The Book Thread 2021

#130  Postby Blip » Apr 28, 2021 7:26 am

1. The Calcutta Chromosome by Amitav Ghosh
2. The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro
3. Thrush Green by Miss Read
4. A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro
5. Winter in Thrush Green by Miss Read
The Shortest Day by Colm Tóibín
6. The Binding by Bridget Collins
7. The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu translated by Ken Liu
8. The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu translated by Joel Martinsen
9. Death's End by Cixin Liu translated by Ken Liu
10. Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
11. The Ebony Tower by John Fowles
12. The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes) by Henri Alain-Fournier translated by Robin Buss
13. Strange Flowers by Donal Ryan
14. The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende
15. From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan
16. Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende translated by Margaret Sayers Peden
17. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
18. Front Page News by Sadie Gordon Richmond
19. The Split by Sharon Bolton
20. Outline by Rachel Cusk

The third in my little series of novels by authors with whom I have some sort of connection, stretching the point here as Rachel is married to a chap I used to work with: I've never met her though. It's not bad, perhaps rather introspective for my personal taste but well-received, I see.
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Re: The Book Thread 2021

#131  Postby crazyfitter » Apr 29, 2021 3:26 pm

1. A Game of Thrones - George RR Martin
2. A Clash of Kings - George RR Martin. I’m enjoying this series more than LotR
3. A Storm of Swords - George RR Martin
4. Master and Commander - Patrick O’Brian
5. A Feast for Crows - George RR Martin.
6. Extraterrestrial - Avi Loab
7. A Dance with Dragons - George RR Martin
8. we are bellingcat - Elliot Higgins
9. The Midnight Library - Matt Haig
10. Gridlinked - Neal Asher
11. Empireland - Sathnam Sanghera
12. Ringworld - Larry Niven. It was ok but I’m not going to read the rest of the series
13. Apeirogon - Colum McCann
The slap in the face that is offered by anti-rationalist, pseudo-scientists and anti-intellectuals that infest much of public discourse is a sad coda to what has been achieved these centuries past by the scientific method - don’t get me started
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Re: The Book Thread 2021

#132  Postby don't get me started » May 02, 2021 11:54 am

1. Pragmatic Meaning and Cognition – Sophia S.A. Marmaridou
2. Fire and Fury: The Allied Bombing of Germany and Japan - Randall Hansen
3. Cognitive Exploration of Language and Linguistics – René Dirven and Marjolijn Verspoor (Eds.)
4. Age of Static: How TV Explains Modern Britain – Phil Harrison
5. The Secret of Our Success: How Culture is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating our Species and Making us Smarter – Joseph Henrich
6. Heroic Failure and the British - Stephanie Barczewski
7. Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain - Maryanne Wolf
8. Language Soup: A Taste of How Diverse People Around the World Communicate - Kathryn A. T. Knox
9. A Place for everything: The curious History of Alphabetical order – Judith Flanders
10. Contrastive Analysis - Carl James
11. Impossible Languages- Andrea Moro
12. Languages in the World: How History, Culture and Politics Shape Language – Jukie tetel Andresen and Phillip M. Carter
13. HHhH - Laurent Binet (Translated from the French by Sam Taylor)
14. Impoliteness: Using Language to Cause Offense – Jonathan Culpeper

15. Ethosyntax: Explorations in Grammar and Culture – N. J. Enfield (Ed.)

327 pp.

A very interesting collection of essays dealing with a knotty issue – how does culture get reflected in the grammars of various languages? Indeed, does it get encoded at all? Now, it should be quite clear that the vocabulary of any language will have certain items that are culturally specific. Words like Futon, Haggis, Madrasa and the like will probably pass into the vocabulary of foreign languages intact as they encode things that are specific to the source culture. (In the field of cuisine, ingredients are variously linguistically encoded – potato, Kartoffel, pomme d’terre, jyagaimo, but the names of dishes often just sneak across the linguistic boundary intact - Sushi, Paella, Borscht, Tom Yam Kung…). But at the level of grammar, are there structures and patterns that can be seen to be based on that specific culture? The essays in this book argue ‘yes’, but with a generous helping of theorizing and appropriate academic hedging.

There were chapters in subjects and languages as diverse as locatives in Mixtec, Masculine and Feminine in N. Iroquoian and Associated Posture in Lao. (I won’t summarize these here as I am not quite sure I got a firm handle on all of the issues discussed.)

A chapter I found particularly interesting was Chapter 8 on English causative constructions- specifically all of the meanings associated with the English word ‘let’. I know from experience that students here often have problems with this and associated causatives, confusing things like ‘I let him do it', 'made him do it', 'had him do it', 'got him to do it' and so on. In this chapter the author (Anna Wierzbicka) gave a thorough semantic analysis of ‘let’ and compared it with supposedly equal words in other languages. The English word has, at its core a meaning of ‘refraining from action’, as in 'I let her sleep', or 'He let his kids run around in the restaurant'. (There is an extensive list of sub meanings for this word which I won't detail here.) Wierzbicka posits that the fine-grained distinctions made in the causative grammar of English are tied into a basic Anglo cultural preoccupation with personal autonomy, non-interference, cause and effect stipulation, and she argues that other languages that don’t have such cultural preoccupations have a much simpler system of causatives, citing evidence from Russian and also German (The verb ‘lassen’ is actually very different from its supposed English equivalent ‘let’.)

Something similar happens in Japanese where a sentence is ambiguous between ‘He let his son play the piano’ and ‘He made his son play the piano.’ For English speakers these two have very different meanings = [He did nothing to prevent his son (who wanted to play the piano) from playing the piano] versus, [He used his power/authority/ status to cause his son (who may or may not have been unwilling) to play the piano.] My students often mess this up and even at home, don’t get her started (who is a pretty fluent English speaker) may say something like ‘I’m off to the shops. Let him do his homework.’ Meaning, make sure he does his homework.

Another chapter (4) that I found interesting was the essay on ‘give’ verbs. In English, the sentence ‘A gave [Item] to B encodes an act of purposeful transfer, where some item is transferred from A’s possession/ownership to B’s possession/ownership. There is absolutely nothing in the verb ‘give’ that encodes any status differences between A and B. In Japanese there is a fair-sized menu of verbs to choose from, which have to be selected with care as they encode the status of the giver and receiver. For a student giving a teacher a book, the direction of transfer is ‘upwards’, but a teacher giving a book to a student is ‘downward’ so a different verb is used. Basically, there are different verbs which can only translate as something like ‘graciously bestowed upon’ (from up to down) and ‘humbly proffered’ (from down to up). It is impossible to be neutral about status in giving/receiving actions in Japanese (I’ve only touched on the surface here, there is a lot more to it than this) and the author of this chapter suggests that this elaboration is a linguistic manifestation of the central cultural preoccupation of Japanese with status and hierarchy. (There is also a description of giving in Amele- a language of Papua New Guinea where there is a complex string of affixes encoding things like tense, mood, aspect but no actual verb of ‘give’ in an utterance describing transfer of an item between two agents…)

I found several of the chapters really hard work but several of the chapters a joy to read…lots of Post Its applied and chasing down references on Google Scholar. I’ve got another few linguistics books lined up, but I think I’m gonna have to take a break shortly and immerse myself in something more literary.

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Re: The Book Thread 2021

#133  Postby NamelessFaceless » May 04, 2021 8:18 pm

Audiobooks in Italics

1. Lying Next To Me - Gregg Olsen
2. I Can't Make This Up - Kevin Hart
3. Beloved - Toni Morrison
4. In Our Time - Ernest Hemingway
5. Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf
6. Hollywood - Charles Bukowski
7. The Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka
8. A Simple Favor - Darcey Bell
9. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
10. The Sorrows of Young Werther - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

11. The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Victor Hugo
12. Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Dafoe
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Re: The Book Thread 2021

#134  Postby Blip » May 07, 2021 7:15 am

1. The Calcutta Chromosome by Amitav Ghosh
2. The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro
3. Thrush Green by Miss Read
4. A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro
5. Winter in Thrush Green by Miss Read
The Shortest Day by Colm Tóibín
6. The Binding by Bridget Collins
7. The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu translated by Ken Liu
8. The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu translated by Joel Martinsen
9. Death's End by Cixin Liu translated by Ken Liu
10. Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
11. The Ebony Tower by John Fowles
12. The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes) by Henri Alain-Fournier translated by Robin Buss
13. Strange Flowers by Donal Ryan
14. The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende
15. From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan
16. Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende translated by Margaret Sayers Peden
17. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
18. Front Page News by Sadie Gordon Richmond
19. The Split by Sharon Bolton
20. Outline by Rachel Cusk
21. Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell

A novel of Shakespeare's wife Agnes and children Susanna, Judith and Hamnet with the death of the last inspiring one of the world's greatest plays. It's a highly credible interpretation and the tale is very well told.
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Re: The Book Thread 2021

#135  Postby NamelessFaceless » May 07, 2021 4:46 pm

Audiobooks in Italics

1. Lying Next To Me - Gregg Olsen
2. I Can't Make This Up - Kevin Hart
3. Beloved - Toni Morrison
4. In Our Time - Ernest Hemingway
5. Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf
6. Hollywood - Charles Bukowski
7. The Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka
8. A Simple Favor - Darcey Bell
9. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
10. The Sorrows of Young Werther - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

11. The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Victor Hugo
12. Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Dafoe
13. Swann's Way - Marcel Proust
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Re: The Book Thread 2021

#136  Postby don't get me started » May 11, 2021 12:58 am

1. Pragmatic Meaning and Cognition – Sophia S.A. Marmaridou
2. Fire and Fury: The Allied Bombing of Germany and Japan - Randall Hansen
3. Cognitive Exploration of Language and Linguistics – René Dirven and Marjolijn Verspoor (Eds.)
4. Age of Static: How TV Explains Modern Britain – Phil Harrison
5. The Secret of Our Success: How Culture is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating our Species and Making us Smarter – Joseph Henrich
6. Heroic Failure and the British - Stephanie Barczewski
7. Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain - Maryanne Wolf
8. Language Soup: A Taste of How Diverse People Around the World Communicate - Kathryn A. T. Knox
9. A Place for everything: The curious History of Alphabetical order – Judith Flanders
10. Contrastive Analysis - Carl James
11. Impossible Languages- Andrea Moro
12. Languages in the World: How History, Culture and Politics Shape Language – Jukie tetel Andresen and Phillip M. Carter
13. HHhH - Laurent Binet (Translated from the French by Sam Taylor)
14. Impoliteness: Using Language to Cause Offense – Jonathan Culpeper
15. Ethosyntax: Explorations in Grammar and Culture – N. J. Enfield (Ed.)

16. Second Language Speech Fluency: From Research to Practice – Parvaneh Tavakoli & Clare Wright.

190 pp.

This is a recently published book giving a good overview of the developments in research into L2 fluency that have taken place in the last decade or so. The authors are at pains to point out that, unfortunately, many L2 teachers have a fairly poor understanding of the nature of (both L1 and L2) fluency and this is not helped by much of the literature which has been replete with reductive, circular and often vacuous definitions of this complex and multi-faceted aspect of language. I might add here that the problem is further compounded by institutional educational cultures (I’m looking at you Japan) that just avoid the issue altogether and prioritize rote learning, top down, declarative knowledge for the purpose of completing standardized written tests. I have a large portion of my first-year students who can successfully complete quite sophisticated grammar tests but who struggle to participate in even the most basic spoken exchanges…. (Rant concluded).

So, that being said, what do the authors say about the nature of fluency? Well, the simple notion that it is fast, error free speech is reductive in the extreme. There are a multitude of moving parts in the construct, all interacting in subtle ways with each other. There is the cognitive aspect involving things like ease of recall, rapid deployment of formulaic chunks, longer term planning that allows coherence across clause, phrase, sentence and discourse levels of scale. (My Japanese is at the multi sentence level of coherence, but starts to fall apart at the multi- paragraph level of spontaneous speech.)
Then there is the articulation level, that is the ability to transfer the mentally constructed utterance to actual speech. Finally, there is the perceived level, where the perception of the recipient is ‘a crucial aspect of L2 fluency'. (P.25)

The authors pay due attention to the different genres of speech. A monologic speech act, something like a picture description in test environments or giving a rehearsed, memorized and scripted (or PowerPoint supported) speech will give a very different view of a person’s fluency compared to participating in spontaneous multi-participant spoken interaction (i.e. conversation.) As the authors note, even though a spontaneous conversation would typically be seen as more challenging for the L2 speaker, there is evidence to suggest that the mutuality and co-constructed nature of this genre actually helps the L2 speaker, with speakers activating latent and passive knowledge in each other and producing a joint speech act which is greater than the sum of its parts.

The interactional nature of fluency is something that I have worked on and researched a lot over the years. Setting aside things like grammatical accuracy and vocabulary choice, things like turn boundary behavior (i.e. prompt taking of a next turn at a tacitly signaled transition relevance point), smooth and chunked use of discourse markers (wellyouknowthethingis) and appropriate repair strategies (hold on, you went where?) can create a sense of fluency even when grammatical and lexical shortcomings abound. Although the authors talked about this in fairly general terms, I think a few concrete examples would have supported the case they were making.

A final point is that the authors urge us (L2 teachers and testers and researchers) to move away from the native speaker model of fluency. Speaking to the level of a native speaker is not only an unrealistic goal for L2 learners, it is deeply demotivating. ‘It is evident that this standard is hard to reach in daily life, even for many L1 speakers. It seems, therefore, rather unrealistic to take it as the standard for L2 speakers’ (p. 151) Anything less than the NS standard will be viewed as failure. Fluency is a variable even across individual L1 speakers, not a monolith.
(As counterintuitive as it may seem, my Japanese interactional skill bumped up a notch once I learned how to ‘uhm and ah’, hedge, use, you know, like, erm filled whatjucallem, erm like filled pauses and all that kinda stuff. )

Very good book with a wealth of insights into this fascinating subject. Lots of notes made and references chased down (and also that little bit of academic chest puffing when I already knew a fair few of the references…)

Now, to get back to that paper I was writing on fluency that has been sitting in my ‘Works in Progress’ folder for far longer than I care to admit.

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Re: The Book Thread 2021

#137  Postby NamelessFaceless » May 12, 2021 2:33 pm

Audiobooks in Italics

1. Lying Next To Me - Gregg Olsen
2. I Can't Make This Up - Kevin Hart
3. Beloved - Toni Morrison
4. In Our Time - Ernest Hemingway
5. Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf
6. Hollywood - Charles Bukowski
7. The Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka
8. A Simple Favor - Darcey Bell
9. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
10. The Sorrows of Young Werther - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

11. The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Victor Hugo
12. Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Dafoe
13. Swann's Way - Marcel Proust
14. Fear of Flying - Erica Jong
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Re: The Book Thread 2021

#138  Postby UncertainSloth » May 12, 2021 4:31 pm

1. james brogden - the narrows - 8/10
2. nora roberts - of blood and bone - 8/10
3. nora roberts - the rise of magicks - 8/10
4. karen thompsn walker - the dreamers - 7/10
5. sophie draper - cuckoo - 7/10
6. laura carlin - the wicked cometh - 7/10
7. vikram palakar - the night theatre - 7/10
8. m r carey - the trials of koli - 9/10
9. bridget collins - the binding - 9/10
10. jac jemc - the grip of it - 7/10
11. carolyn jess-cooke - the boy who could see demons - 9/10
12. daisy johnson - everything under - 7/10
13. paraic o'donnell - house on vesper sands - 7/10
14. claire north - the gameshouse - 8/10 -
15. martin edwards - the coffin trail - 6/10
16. laird hunt - neverhome - 8/10
17. jesmyn ward - sing, unburied, sing - 8/10 - a fairly grim but engrossing read

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Re: The Book Thread 2021

#139  Postby NamelessFaceless » May 19, 2021 2:23 pm

Audiobooks in Italics

1. Lying Next To Me - Gregg Olsen
2. I Can't Make This Up - Kevin Hart
3. Beloved - Toni Morrison
4. In Our Time - Ernest Hemingway
5. Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf
6. Hollywood - Charles Bukowski
7. The Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka
8. A Simple Favor - Darcey Bell
9. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
10. The Sorrows of Young Werther - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

11. The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Victor Hugo
12. Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Dafoe
13. Swann's Way - Marcel Proust
14. Fear of Flying - Erica Jong
15. The Wave - Todd Strasser
16. Kidnapped - Robert Louis Stevenson
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Re: The Book Thread 2021

#140  Postby don't get me started » May 20, 2021 2:39 am

1. Pragmatic Meaning and Cognition – Sophia S.A. Marmaridou
2. Fire and Fury: The Allied Bombing of Germany and Japan - Randall Hansen
3. Cognitive Exploration of Language and Linguistics – René Dirven and Marjolijn Verspoor (Eds.)
4. Age of Static: How TV Explains Modern Britain – Phil Harrison
5. The Secret of Our Success: How Culture is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating our Species and Making us Smarter – Joseph Henrich
6. Heroic Failure and the British - Stephanie Barczewski
7. Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain - Maryanne Wolf
8. Language Soup: A Taste of How Diverse People Around the World Communicate - Kathryn A. T. Knox
9. A Place for everything: The curious History of Alphabetical order – Judith Flanders
10. Contrastive Analysis - Carl James
11. Impossible Languages- Andrea Moro
12. Languages in the World: How History, Culture and Politics Shape Language – Jukie tetel Andresen and Phillip M. Carter
13. HHhH - Laurent Binet (Translated from the French by Sam Taylor)
14. Impoliteness: Using Language to Cause Offense – Jonathan Culpeper
15. Ethosyntax: Explorations in Grammar and Culture – N. J. Enfield (Ed.)
16. Second Language Speech Fluency: From Research to Practice – Parvaneh Tavakoli & Clare Wright.

17. At Day's Close: Night in Times Past – A. Roger Ekirch

447 pp.

In this book the author describes the way that people in preindustrial Europe and America experienced night. It is hard for us to comprehend now, but nights in those times were a wholly different world. Artificial lighting was weak and expensive and prone to failure and darkness was often total. Combined with the dangers of pratfalls losing one’s way and fatal accidents, night was a time of real terror to people in those superstitious times. Devils, demons, witches, sprites, fairies and Satan himself were commonly believed to work their mischief in the hours of darkness. Another great fear of people in those days was fire, with naked flames and combustible materials combining with sleep and drowsiness to create a constant hazard. Indeed, people learned that when being assaulted or robbed at night, it was better to shout ‘fire’ than ‘murder’.

Crime was also a constant fear and brigands, robbers, highwaymen, housebreakers, pilferers and arsonists all made night a time of real anxiety for these pre-modern people.

Ekirch also discourses on the nature of sleep and recounts how people, before the advent of plentiful artificial light, would have first sleep and then be active for a while in the wee small hours before retiring again for second sleep. He also notes how people saw the quiet of night as a time for reflection, study, meditation and other kinds of inner life, and the importance of dreams in those days.

The text is compendious with references from sources spanning the centuries. The author quotes them and retains the archaic spelling which really brought those voices alive for me. For in the nyght there are manie and divers dangers. Sinfulle menne and darke spirits alike do form in league to fright the goodmen of the parishe. Many are the murthers and robberies that do occurre in the darke of night and all manner of obsceene and wanton harlots do ply their filthie vices under the shade of nightes cover.

One thing that really struck me was the effects of light pollution in cities which render the night skies a black expanse without stars or galaxies. Here in Osaka only the major constellations are visible on cloudless and moonless nights. When I do find myself in rural areas and see the night skies in all their splendor I am always taken aback and overawed.

A fantastic, monomaniacal book, capturing the spirit of times past in an evocative way.

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