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What I'm reading

August 24th, 2003

The Glass Bead Game by Herman Hesse. Hesse had a huge vogue in the late 60s – along with Charles Dickens and Aldous Huxley, he’s one of a handful of writers to have been the inspiration for the naming of a well known rock group – but he seems to have slipped into obscurity nowadays. Rereading The Glass Bead Game, there’s an obvious similarity with Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea books, which in turn are reflected in Harry Potter. I’m tempted to say that this is a line of descent in more ways than one, but actually Le Guin stands up pretty well to comparison with Hesse and I’m not going to bag JK Rowling for writing readable massmarket kids books rather than great literature.

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  1. August 24th, 2003 at 20:42 | #1

    Mate, next thing you know you’ll be getting out the old hippy beads …

  2. Stephen Hill
    August 25th, 2003 at 03:25 | #2

    Nothing wrong with Hesse, I think he’s a fantastic writer, who thorougly deserved the Noble Prize. His novels have an almost Nietzchean fascination with the struggle of the will and the efforts to find a more essential meaning.

    I think ‘Stepping Wolf’ is the perfect antidote for my occasionally excessively abstruse nature. It will probably serve me well if I ever enter a grumble old man phase. So there you have, if I’m getting too grouchy, remind me to re-read ‘Stepping Wolf’ and we can test the book’s curative powers.

    Unfortunately, ‘Glass Bead Game’ remains unread on my shelf, and until the uni assignments will be staying there. But when November rolls by I’m going to have an overdose of ecstasy (the totally legal one I’m referred to) when November rolls by and I can read what I want to read. I have now shelves full of books waiting for consumption.

    Also, books that inspired bands sound like a good topic for a post.

    What about
    Augie March – Saul Bellow ‘Adventures of Augie March
    Steely Dan – the dildo in William S. Burroughs ‘Naked Lunch’
    Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – any one help me with the author of ‘The Bad Seed’ I only remember the movie.

  3. Stephen Hill
    August 25th, 2003 at 03:27 | #3

    Note to self: check grammar and coherence before posting.

  4. Stephen Hill
    August 25th, 2003 at 03:28 | #4


  5. John Quiggin
    August 25th, 2003 at 11:08 | #5

    I’d never heard of Augie March until the weekend, when I saw a poster for them. It struck me as a surprising choice of name at the time, and may perhaps have had a subconscious influence on my post.

  6. August 25th, 2003 at 11:29 | #6

    Hesse is good reading for the moderately advanced student of the German language. His writing is totally grammatical unlike certain other German authors of the 20th century and has a nice moderate rhythm to it that lets you read steadily without going too fast. “Demian” is the first novel I ever read from beginning to end in German. Also liked “Narziss und Goldmund” and “Siddhartha” and “Steppenwolf” though I couldn’t really understand the latter in the original. “Glasperlenspiel” I never really got past the anti-crosswordpuzzle screed at the beginning — I like crosswords! It felt like a personal attack!

  7. August 25th, 2003 at 13:23 | #7

    Personally, I think Potter owes a lot more to the Bunter tradition.

  8. August 25th, 2003 at 17:12 | #8

    N&G was always my favourite, although The Glass Bead Game is second on my list … there was one I didn’t like, but can’t rememembr the title, even though they made a (confusing) movie about it … I think I read them all … but a long, long, time ago now.

  9. August 25th, 2003 at 17:14 | #9

    Yeah, Steppenwolf was the one I couldn’t figure … what the hell was that all about again … and what about that movie?

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