Saturday, August 29, 2015

Incoming Books: Last Friday

I'm neglecting this blog horribly, but if there's one thing I can still do, it's post lightly-annotated lists of books once in a while! (No, that really isn't much.)

As I wrote last week, I went to the Strand last Friday, and these were the books I got then. They're all recommended in the sense that I spent my own money on them, though in most cases I obviously haven't read them.

The Old Devils is one of the Kingsley Amis books everyone says is great -- along with Lucky Jim, which I read a long time ago and didn't click with -- so I'm giving Amis pere another chance. (I've been reading Amis fils since London Fields, and thought pretty much everything he did in the 20th century was brilliant and since then not always so.) This is the one about a bunch of rural middle-aged people thrown into a tizzy by a returning couple known of old, and the pub they frequent.

Started Early, Took My Dog is the fourth novel by Kate Atkinson with Jackson Brodie in it, after Case Histories and One Good Turn and When Will There Be Good News? (Brodie is, or at least was at the time of the first book, a private investigator, but these books aren't PI mysteries in any normal way, nor does Brodie act like a fictional detective much at all.) I've read the first two -- links above lead to my reviews, such as they are -- and they're both excellent multi-threaded social novels, which were glommed onto by the mystery-reading audience because they also have murders in them somewhere. (And good for mystery readers for that: any community that claims great novels for their genre, even on relatively thin evidence, is a healthy community.)

Exquisite Corpse is a graphic novel by French illustrator (and graphic novelist, obviously) Penelope Bagieu, about a feckless young woman who wanders into an explosive literary secret. This has gotten some good reviews, and it's from First Second, an outfit with so-far dependably good taste.

Borderline is a really old pulpy Lawrence Block novel brought back by the masters of pulp at Hard Case Crime -- and I mean "pulp" and "pulpy" in only the best ways -- and I intermittently think I'm going to collect all of Block's books. (I have a lot of them, but he has even more. He's a quick writer who's been working a long time.)

Collected Fictions is that big Jorge Luis Borges book that made such a big splash longer ago than I want to check. I had copies of it and the matching volumes (Essays, I think, and maybe one of Poetry, too?) back before the flood, but had only dipped into them. (I've read Borges here and there, but never ran right through the big book.)

Someone recommended Kai Lung's Golden Hoursmany years ago -- or maybe just Ernest Bramah's Kai Lung books in general -- but I'd never actually bought one. But those public-domain wizards at Dover reissued this one some time this century, so now I have a shot at actually reading it. These are Orientalist short stories from around a hundred years ago, and I suspect they are not inoffensive, at least to some audiences.

Nancy Is Happy collects all of Ernie Bushmiller's daily minimalist newspaper-strip masterpieces from 1943 to 1945. And what more needs to be said than that!

Two more of George Macdonald Fraser's books about the 19th century's greatest rogue, Harry Flashman: Royal Flashand Flashman in the Great Game. It's definitely Quixotic of me to think I'll have time to read the whole series through, but I seem to be heading in that direction. So now the only question is whether to do in in the order Fraser wrote them or according to internal chronology?

The Beast of Chicago is one of the middle books in Rick Gear's long-running "Treasury of Victorian Murder" series, focusing on the first known serial killer, the infamous H.H. Holmes of Chicago World's Fair fame. I'm still rebuilding this series post-flood, and maybe I'll read all of these through once I get them all -- though that will be easier, since they're all pretty short graphic novels.

I think I'm going to read through John Le Carre's spy novels -- at least the Smiley ones -- in order, more or less. But I found a copy of Our Kind of Traitor(from 2010, and not a Smiley book) in the classy new Penguin look, and I figured what harm could come from having another Le Carre around the house?

I want to read more books by Stewart O'Nan, because everything I've read by him has been exceptional and deeply powerful -- from A Prayer for the Dying to The Speed Queen to something relatively light like Last Night at the Lobster -- but I find an O'Nan mood doesn't hit often enough. But I keep grabbing his books as I find them -- this time A World Away, a family-saga-esque novel about WWII that he wrote in the late '90s.

You Don't Say is a new collection, with a bunch of shorter comics from Nate Powell -- author of the amazing Swallow Me Whole and the only slightly less amazing Any Empire -- and I don't know how much it overlaps with the older Powell collection Sounds of Your Name, if any. But Nate Powell is great and worth checking out, either way.

And last is Amazing Facts and Beyond!, a collection of supposedly true facts by the also supposedly real Leon Beyond -- something like The Straight Dope in comics form, if Cecil Adams was more of a performance art piece -- by Dan Zettwoch and Kevin Huizenga. I've looked at this a few times, mostly because I like Huizenga's work, and finally pulled the trigger -- it looks like it pushes a lot of my buttons (fake facts, baroquely complex art layouts, and so on).

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