Sunday, February 22, 2015

Incoming Books: Week of 2/20

I may not be reading as much as I'd like, but, by God, I can keep buying books! (Yes, that doesn't make any sense at all, but I'm sure there are many, many book-lovers nodding along as I say it.)

So last week, spurred by the thought that I wasn't re-acquiring the wonderful series of small hardcovers of P.G. Wodehouse's books from Overlook as quickly as I should, I placed an order with the excellent remainder firm of HamiltonBook [1] including several Wodehouses as well as a bunch of other things at low, low prices.

And those things were:

Life After Life, the somewhat SFnal most recent novel by literary/mystery novelist Kate Atkinson, in what turned out to be the QPB book-club edition. (Even seven-plus years later, it's amusing and pleasant to see those slightly-smaller format books when they turn up. I am of course not a member of any of those clubs at this point, and don't expect to ever be again, but I do still have a soft spot in my heart for that publishing model. And it's encouraging to see that they're still out there, and still using decent paper.) I read the first two of what we probably shouldn't call a series of mysteries about private eye Jackson Brodie -- he's in them all, but they're not traditional mystery novels in any way -- and reviewed them here: Case Histories and One Good Turn.

John Baxter's biography of J.G. Ballard, The Inner Man, which was never published in the US and probably never will be. (I'd half-given up on actually finding it on this side of the pond, so this Widenfeld & Nicolson hardcover was a happy discovery.) Ballard has long been one of my favorite writers.

Another book-club paperback: Michael Chabon's 2012 novel Telegraph Avenue. Chabon's another writer that I know I will enjoy if I read more of his books, but finding time is always the issue. Still, I can't read it if I don't have it, right?

The Complete McAuslan, collecting three books of short stories about the worst Scottish soldier in the history of the world. (The word "Scottish" might be slightly misplaced in that sentence.) It's by George MacDonald Fraser, author of the nastily wonderful "Flashman" books, and probably based at least somewhat on his own service during WWII. I read one of the three books -- I think the first one, but I could be wrong -- sometime in the '90s, and had been vaguely looking for the rest since then. An omnibus is a great solution.

The Looking Glass War, an early John Le Carre spy novel in a classy Penguin paperback. I'm vaguely trying to get at least the Le Carres in this current Penguin look -- he has a big backlist, across several publishers, so there's no unified dress for everything (much to my annoyance). I'm also happy to see that not only is this one short, but it also was the immediate follow-up to The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, which I read in 2013. So it's the natural next one in a Le Carre read, which is convenient.

Known to Evil, second in Walter Mosley's semi-new mystery series about New York PI Leonid McGill. I read the first one a couple of years ago, but didn't have anything to say about it. Mosley's many things, but he started out as a great mystery writer, and all signs show that he still is one.

My abrupt departure from the SF world meant there were a lot of writers I used to enjoy that I've just not had time to read for the past few years, which is sad. One of them is Alastair Reynolds, whose books are just fat enough to look like they'll take more time than I have available. But I keep hoping to get back to him, and now I have a copy of his well-reviewed Blue Remembered Earth. It's also a book-club edition, which I think means it was a SFBC Selection, so good for Al on that one.

And now I come to the pile of Wodehouse, which I'll bullet out, just because. You all do know that Wodehouse is one of the few perfect humorous writers in the history of the world, right? (Another: S.J. Perelman.)
  • The Small Bachelor, a 1926 novel about a young man in love (what else?) adapted from a 1917 musical written with Guy Bolton
  • If I Were You, a 1931 novel about two boys -- the son of an Earl, and the son of a barber (and, more importantly, of the earl's son's nanny) -- who may have been switched at birth
  • If I Were You, Wodehouse's memoirs, as adapted by his friend and correspondent William Townend from Wodehouse's letters over the years
  • Bring on the Girls, another book of memoirs, this one by Wodehouse and Guy Bolton about their theatrical adventures
  • And French Leave, a mid-50s book in which three chicken-farming American ladies meet a penniless aristocrat in a tony French resort
Another wonderful discovery: The Art of Jaime Hernandez by Todd Hignite at less than a third of cover price. This is an oversized art book about one of the brothers behind the long-running and consistently excellent Love and Rockets series, including one L&R story that doesn't appear anywhere else.

And last is another big art book in a somewhat different style: The Art of Doug Sneyd. Sneyd's gorgeously painted full-page cartoons have been appearing in Playboy for decades, and this book collects a lot (all? most?) of them. Looking quickly at this, I realize that I remembered his voluptuously beautiful women (the point, of course) but not how openly predatory and rat-like his men look: it's sexist humor, obviously, but there's at least an undertone of knowledge there, too.

[1] I've been ordering from them for at least twenty years -- I have a firm memory of getting big boxes from Hamilton in the early '90s -- and they have excellent prices, fast service, and a big, quirky collection of whatever they can offer cheap at the time. If you like books in general, as opposed to some tiny niche, they're full of wonders.

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