Recent reading

by Tom Ingram

Troy and Homer by Joachim Latacz (translated from the German). An overview of research that has been done at the site of Troy in the latter half of the 20th century, bringing the average person’s knowledge up to date. Contains some tantalizing historical details, a broad and eclectic knowledge base, and ingenious speculation. Incidentally teaches a lot about how archaeology and historical reconstruction actually work in practice to those enthusiasts without much experience in the field. An easier read if you have at least a fuzzy knowledge of ancient Greek history.

Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell. A hilarious observant novel packed with well-drawn characters. A welcome break from Orwell’s gloomy political fare. Rather hard to find, but well worth it.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck. My second Steinbeck novel, the first being The Grapes of Wrath. Contains many of the same Steinbeck fixations—long digressions describing California landscapes, overt Biblical references, characters with significant initials, synecdoche. Extraordinarily beautiful but perhaps a little too long, especially given that it spoils the ending less than halfway through so there’s a few hundred pages of waiting for the inevitable.

A Concise History of Avant-Garde Music from Debussy to Boulez by Paul Griffiths. Very informative, especially for those of us who are tempted to dismiss all avant-garde music after Schoenberg. Takes an inside view of this kind of music, describing it the way its proponents would like it described. The result is that people like me have a clearer picture of what we’re up against, but Griffiths comes off like a raving partisan because he never takes a moment to situate this music in a larger context or note how bizarre some of the theory behind it actually is.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. A very useful and easy read, as it promises. Contains advice that is practically vital for people like me whose instinct is to shun their fellow man as much as possible. Also occasionally gives you the feeling that you’re looking into the depraved inane mind of capitalism. A very good read if you are socially isolated and into Lovecraft.

Awareness Through Movement by Moshe Feldenkrais and Singing With Your Whole Self: The Feldenkrais Method and Voice by Samuel H. Nelson and Elizabeth Blades-Zeller. I’ve been taking Feldenkrais classes for a while now to alleviate some postural problems and improve my clarinet playing. These two books contain exercises that you can do by yourself away from the group classes. They’re both excellent, but the Nelson-Blades-Zeller book has a few advantages over Feldenkrais’s own. Its theoretical discussions are written with a practical use in mind, which is especially helpful if you are a musician. Its explanations are generally clearer than Feldenkrais’s, and the instructions in the lessons are easier to read and understand. There are also more lessons, and each lesson has a substantial introduction explaining what it does and why. The lessons really do work amazingly well, but the way Nelson and Blades-Zeller present them is preferable. Much of what they say applies to wind players as much as it does to singers.

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