Sunday, March 05, 2006

Reading Into the Past: Week of 3/5

As I do every Sunday evening, I roll a few dice to choose a random year in the past decade-and-a-half, dig out my list of what I read this week in that year, and see if I can remember anything at all about those books. This week I rolled a 13, so we're going back to the heady days of grunge and Clinton I:
  • Medusa by Chris Achilleos (2/26)
    Art book by a Greek-born British artist, with a lot of "fighting fantasy" and various media ties. I never warmed up to his style as much I'd have liked, but he does very good warrior women, and we sold lots of copies of this book in the SFBC for many years.
  • The Fantastic Art of Frank Frazetta, Book Three edited by Betty Ballantine (2/26)
    As far as I can remember, this had no text, or maybe just a short into by Ballantine. The art is swell, of course, but this and the others in the series have since been superseded by the three big Underwood collections.
  • The Fantastic Art of Frank Frazetta, Book Four edited by Betty Ballantine (2/26)
    Just like the above, with different pieces of art.
  • Let's Go 1993: The Budget Guide to Britain & Ireland edited by Carolyn McKee (2/26)
    I was preparing for my honeymoon, which we spent in London and Edinburgh. (There were vague plans for day trips from London, but we didn't even see everything there that we wanted to get to.) I think this book was useful, so if you are also planning a trip to London in mid-1993, I recommend this guidebook.
  • Fodor's Scotland '92 (2/26)
    Ditto. Note that I read five books in one day. Men were capable of that in those pre-Web days. Oh for the glory of our youth!
  • Heroic Dreams by Nigel Suckling (2/27)
    It's possible that this should really be cited as edited by Suckling, but that's how I wrote it down back then. I know he wrote the text for a collection of fantasy art, mostly featuring women in shiny metal trinkets that only barely cover their assets. I don't remember it well, but I'm pretty sure it's still on my shelves. (But, then, I've only gotten rid of art books if they're really lousy.)
  • Golden Trillium by Andre Norton (2/27)
    Does anyone remember the "Trillium" series these days? It started with Black Trillium, which was quite a big seller in 1990 or so, and had the novelty of being a three-way collaboration between Marion Zimmer Bradley, Julian May and Norton. Then each of the individual writers wrote their own sequels -- as I recall, Bradley was first, and changed everything, then May tried to write a sequel to Bradley's book (even though Bradley may have killed off or completely changed her viewpoint character), then Norton wrote this book, which ignored the first two sequels. Further sequels followed, proving that each author was writing an entirely separate series that were only joined in origin. As I remember it, a decade and more later, May's was the best of the bunch, but none of them seemed terribly inspired.
  • Dream Makers edited by Martyn Dean (2/28)
    More various SF/Fantasy art. Mostly British artists, as I recall.
  • "...And Then We'll Get Him!" by Gahan Wilson (3/1)
    Great, great cartoons by the true heir to Gorey and Addams. This book has some of his best stuff, too.
  • The Book of the Damned by Tanith Lee (3/1)
    Probably book three of "The Secret Books of Paradys." Various unpleasant things happen in brooding, ominous ways to damaged characters in an odd city. I've liked the Lee books I've read, but none of them have really compelled me to read more, for whatever reason.
  • Ultraterranium by Bruce Pennington (3/1)
    Art book by a British artist, part of my general haul of Paper Tiger books that you may have noticed I was working through.
  • The Book of the Beast by Tanith Lee (3/2)
    The last of the "Secret Books of Paradys," with more as above.
  • The Unconquered Country by Geoff Ryman (3/2)
    The award-winning novella, something like an allegory of the Vietnam War, as published as a book. I am generally allergic to allegory, and tend to be a mild right-winger, so this must be awfully damn good for me to have liked it as much as I did.
  • British English A To Zed by Norman W. Schur (3/2)
    A great reference and dictionary (probably now superseded by a dozen websites) of the idiosyncrasies of the language as spoken by British people, with particular emphasis on the words mostly likely to cause trouble or distress for Americans.
  • The Fantastic World of Gervasio Callardo edited by Betty Ballantine (3/2)
    I remember this being very '60s surrealism, and that it felt like the visual equivalent of magical realism. I appreciated it, but didn't particularly like it.
  • Perfume by Patrick Suskind (3/3)
    A literary horror novel, loosely based on the legend of Bluebeard, that I think won the World Fantasy Award. It's quite good, and very creepy, and I don't think the author has ever been heard from in our parts since.
  • The Silver Arm by Jim Fitzpatrick (3/3)
    An art book, by an artist from somewhere in the British Isles (I want to say Ireland, but I'm not sure), that re-told some myths reasonably well. I think it was mostly Cu Chullain.
  • Jeeves in the Morning by P.G. Wodehouse (3/4)
    An absolutely sublime book, though these days it's more easily found under the British title, Joy in the Morning. Rural policemen's lives have never been the same. It also features one of the greatest first sentences in all of literature:
    After the thing was all done, when peril had ceased to loom and happy endings had been distributed in heaping handfuls and we were driving home with our hats on the sides of our heads, having shaken the dust of Steeple Bumpleigh from our tyres, I confessed to Jeeves that there had been moments during the recent proceedings when Bertram Wooster, though no weakling, had come very near to despair.
    If you've never read it, turn off your computer right now and go find a copy.
  • Howard Pyle
    This is an art book, and it was probably edited by someone, but I didn't note that at the time. I don't remember it well, and I don't think I still have it, so it's safe to say I didn't love Pyle's work.
Nineteen books in seven days! Yes, there were only five novels, and (on the other side) nine art books, but that was still a lot of stuff.

That was the start of a streak of at least two books a days from 2/26 (except the 28th) through 3/17. I only read one book on 3/18, 3/20, 3/25, and 3/28, but otherwise read at least two a day through 4/1. I didn't hit a day without finishing at least one book until 4/17. (And that was before my modern tricks; I was pretty much just reading things straight through then.)

Of course, as you can see from the selection above, these were mostly short books, and there were a lot of art books (which don't take much time). The SFBC and our sister clubs were preparing to move offices for the second time in a year (and, this time, it wasn't just up a floor in the same building but across town to the newly christened Bertelsmann Building). So there was a lot of house-cleaning, and giant piles of books that had been kept for years for various odd reasons were being disposed of. I grabbed them with both hands and lugged them home in bulk, complicated slightly by the fact that I was also moving, into my first (and, so far, only) apartment, in Lodi, NJ. I lived alone there in bachelor splendor for about a month and a half, from the beginning of April until my wedding day, May 22nd. And it looks like I prepared for marriage in the way I prepared for just about everything in the early '90s: I read a whole lot of completely unrelated books. There's probably a lesson there, but I'm damned if I can figure out what it is.

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